MANILA (2nd Update, 11:36 a.m.) -- Senator Juan Ponce Enrile keeps the Senate President post after getting 17 votes from his colleagues as against the three votes of rival Senator Alan Peter Cayetano during the opening of the Senate session Monday.

Former President Joseph Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay were requested to witness the oath-taking of Enrile.

In his speech, Enrile thanked all those who attended this "historic session."

"We will uphold the integrity and independence of the Senate. We must dedicate our time and energy for them and we must guard the sacred honor they have imposed on us," he said.

"I cannot reciprocate enough the honor you have done me... All I can promise and do is to be faithful to your trust," he added.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada was reinstalled as Senate President Pro Tempore, while Senator Tito Sotto was elected as the new majority floor leader.

Cayetano, meanwhile, was named as the new minority leader.

Lawyer Emma Reyes was reinstalled as Senate secretary and Retired Major General Jose Balajadia as head of Senate sergeant-at-arms.

In the House of Representatives, the election for House Speaker is still ongoing as of this posting.

Nominees for the House Speaker post are Representative (4th district, Quezon City) Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte (Liberal Party) and Representative (1st district, Albay) Edcel Lagman (Lakas-Kampi-CMD).

A total of 260 congressmen attended the first session of the Congress.

Second post-Edsa Senate leader

The 86-year-old Enrile assumed the Senate presidency for the second time, making him the second post-Edsa Senate leader to receive such overwhelming confidence vote.

Former Senate President Jovito Salonga earlier held the distinction in 1987 when allies of then President Corazon Aquino filled up the seats of the reopened Senate, an institution padlocked for 14 years under the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Enrile, a longtime defense minister of Marcos, became the lone voice of opposition alongside then Senator Joseph Estrada in the Senate when the euphoria over the newly-found democracy was at its peak.

But a change of tide ensued on Monday when senators chose him over ex-frontrunners administration bet Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan and Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar, who both failed to muster the necessary 13 votes to choose Enrile's successor.

Before this, Enrile said he is not interested in the post anymore due to the burdensome administrative work facing him each day in office.

However, upon the prodding of some senators who are convinced that either Pangilinan or Villar has the votes to replace him, Enrile acceded to their wishes to seek the Senate presidency again without preconditions.

On Sunday, Pangilinan withdrew his candidacy for Senate President to avoid a power vacuum in the Senate, culminated by the consensus of three blocs, the Liberal Party, Nacionalista Party and the seven-man reformist group to elect a Senate President come July 26.

Only 23 members

The Senate only has 23 members after Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III rose to the presidency but only 20 were present after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was not allowed to leave detention and Senator Panfilo Lacson still remained in hiding due to his involvement in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was conspicuously absent as well.

Senate Secretary Emma Reyes opened the first session of the 15th Senate while former Senate President Franklin Drilon acted as presiding officer.

Upon the recognition of Drilon, Senator Loren Legarda nominated Senator Enrile as Senate President citing his experience and for taking care of the welfare of the Senate in the past two years.

Senator Joker Arroyo, on the other hand, nominated Nacionalista Party senator Alan Peter Cayetano for the chamber's top post.

Seventeen senators voted for Enrile, while those who picked Cayetano are his sister Pia Cayetano, Arroyo, and Enrile himself.

Drilon administer the oath of Enrile, which was witnessed by his wife, former Ambassador to the Holy See Cristina Ponce-Enrile, former President Joseph Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

"It portrays your patriotism as responsible leaders of the country. It also signals the unity that is sorely needed by the country today. The senate will be strengthened no doubt...I cannot reciprocate enough the honor you have done me...," Enrile told his colleagues. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)