MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED 6:27 p.m.) — Sixteen senators on Monday approved Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s motion to declare the Senate justice committee vacant.
Sen. Leila de Lima, the Senate panel chair, was replaced by Sen. Richard Gordon. The committee led by De Lima is conducting an investigation into the rising number of drug-related killings in recent months.
Earlier, Pacquiao asked the Senate floor to unseat the current membership of the committee.
“I move that the chairmanship and members of the Committee on Justice be declared vacant,” Pacquiao said during the Senate session.
Senate President pro-tempore Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, opposed Pacquiao’s move, saying the Senate cannot declare the chairmanship of a committee vacant.
The move came after Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s privilege speech questioning the credibility of a confessed hitman who tagged President Rodrigo Duterte in killings in Davao City. Cayetano said Sen. Leila de Lima, the committee chairperson, is using the panel to go after Duterte.
“Kitang kita po ang bias ng ilang senator sa laban sa krusada ng pangulo,” Cayetano said.
“Let someone else chair. In my past speech I said, I’m not even asking that she removed from the committee on justice only on certain hearing where we cannot expect cold neutrality,” Cayetano added.
Cayetano connected De Lima’s bias to her past initiatives to conduct a probe against alleged extrajudicial killings in Davao City when she was still a chair of Commission on Human Rights and as Justice secretary.
De Lima walked out of the hall while Cayetano was delivering his speech. According to reports, De Lima will deliver her own privilege speech this week to counter Cayetano’s.
The brief exchange prompted Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to suspend the Senate session.
De Lima walks out during Cayetano’s speech
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila De Lima on Monday walked out of the Senate hall while Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was delivering his privilege speech, criticizing her for lack of objectivity in the justice committee’s probe.
De Lima, chair of the Senate justice panel, presented the confessed hit man at the last hearing into the rising number of drug-related killings. The witness claimed President Rodrigo Duterte ordered killings of suspected criminals in Davao City as mayor.
Speaking to reporters, De Lima explained her move to go out of the hall in the middle of Cayetano’s address.
“I cannot stand it (Cayetano’s speech) because I’m also gonna deliver my privilege speech tomorrow and I cannot confront him (Cayetano) right now,” De Lima said in a televised ambush interview.
In his speech, Cayetano questioned the credibility of De Lima’s witness, Edgar Matobato, for being part of a political ploy against Duterte.
Cayetano said De Lima is using the Senate committee to pursue her investigation into extrajudicial killings in Davao City which started when she was still a chair of the Commission on Human Rights.
Claiming he does not mean to offend De Lima, Cayetano said he accepts De Lima’s decision to walk out.
“Lahat naman tayo dito tao lang e, so she didn’t want to listen and I didnt mean to offend but there’s no other way I could say it. How can I? I cannot sugarcoat,” Cayetano said.
“‘Yun ang pananaw ko,for me those are the facts I was quoting but option naman parati ng kahit sinong senador na makinig or dun siya sa kwarto niya makinig in the same manner na ‘di ako sumama sa Committee on rules para makapag-plano sila,” he added.
After Cayetano’s speech, Sen. Manny Pacquiao asked the Senate leadership to declare the position of De Lima at the Senate committee on justice vacant. The move was not immediately acted on by the Senate.
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