MANILA (Updated 9:05 a.m.) -- Senator Kiko Pangilinan, the Liberal Party's bet for Senate President, withdraws from the race Sunday, just a day before the Upper House elects a new leader.

In a statement released Sunday morning, Pangilinan said he decided to withdraw from the race as continuing his bid would only keep the Senate disunited.

He said his stepping aside will "pave the way for the senators to choose another from our ranks who can unite us."

Pangilinan, however, did not say who he will recommend to take his place.

He said he prayed hard and talked to his family and allies in Congress regarding his decision.

He also said that withdrawing his bid is not easy for him and his family, but "if I had to do this all over again for the cause of genuine change and reforms for our nation, I would."

Pangilinan urged his colleagues in the Senate to unite for genuine change.

His withdrawal also came just two days after incumbent Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile expressed Thursday his willingness to retain his seat.

Enrile said in Thursday's Kapihan sa Senado that senators from the Liberal Party told him at the Makati Medical Center that Pangilinan lack the numbers to assume leadership.

"They (LP senators) told me that there is a growing consensus. As far as they were concerned, there's a growing consensus that they would want me to handle the Senate. I said if that is the consensus, then so be it. But I am not going to go around and talk to all the senators to vote for me...," he said.

Enrile earlier signed a resolution supporting Pangilinan's bid for Senate President.

But with Pangilinan's stepping aside Sunday, Enrile is left with Senator Manny Villar as his contender.

Villar can count on the solid votes of senators Joker Arroyo, siblings Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (Sunnex)