MEMBERS of the Senate majority on Tuesday maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with the ouster of Liberal Party (LP) senators from their respective posts.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao admitted that the plan to reorganize the Senate was discussed by senators at his house in Makati City.
He and 15 other senators, including Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, met on Sunday night to find ways to solidify the majority bloc.
“The President had no hand in this. We can’t perform our duties in the Senate if we will not do it [revamp]. I don’t like politics,” Pacquiao told reporters.
Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said the majority bloc came up with such a move to make sure that objectives and goals are clear.
He said the situation in the chamber before the reorganization was like having teammates in a basketball game who scored points for the opposing team.
“That is why we in the majority agreed that we need to do something. We are not pro-Duterte but we are also not anti-Duterte,” Sotto said.
“We agreed in the majority that we will be called pro-people and pro-country,” he added.
Pacquiao on Monday declared vacant the position of Senate president pro-tempore which was occupied by Sen. Franklin Drilon. He nominated Sen. Ralph Recto to the post.
Malacañang also denied that the President had anything to do with the removal of LP senators from their posts.
But Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte will now have “better working relationship” with the senators following the shake-up.
“The stripping off of the committee chairmanships happens every Congress. What happened yesterday is majority rules and, as we all know, Senate decisions have always been a consensus,” Abella told reporters.
“So, Malacañang respects the independence of the Senate and does not interfere in its internal affairs. The Senate is composed of 24 senators. So each senator has a mind of his own. So that’s equivalent to, as somebody said, 24 republics which no President can control.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan was replaced by Sen. Cynthia Villar as head Senate committee on agriculture while Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th was replaced by Sen. Francis Escudero as chairman of Senate committee on education.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who ran under LP during the May 9, 2016 elections, was replaced by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito as head of the Senate committee on health.
Pimentel earlier said that the work in the Senate has been hampered by blurring lines between the majority and the minority to the detriment of public interest.
He cited instances where the majority, instead of closing ranks, ended up divided.
“The majority of senators decided that to best achieve the Senate legislative agenda, clear lines have to be drawn,” said Pimentel.
But Pangilinan dismissed claims that LP senators hampered the legislative agenda.
“The only instances we were divided in the majority were on the issues of the Marcos burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the extra-judicial killings, the investigation of corruption in the Bureau of Immigration (BI), and the testimony of former police officer Arturo Lascañas,” Pangilinan said.
Drilon took over the leadership of the Senate minority bloc during the plenary session yesterday.
Aquino nominated Drilon as minority leader. Drilon then nominated Aquino as the deputy minority leader.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima informed the Senate leadership of her intention to join the minority bloc.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE