It took only 15 minutes on Monday for the Senate leadership to form a new majority—by kicking out President Duterte’s critics from the bloc.
Senators in the majority said their Liberal Party (LP) colleagues had it coming, as they had voted against the majority on controversial issues, to the detriment of public interest.
They underscored the need to clear the blurred line between the majority and the minority.
Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, the LP vice chair, lost his position as the No. 2 man in the chamber.
Along with Senators Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino and Risa Hontiveros, Drilon and his group became the new minority bloc, which was left with only one member—Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV—after Senators Ralph Recto and Francis Escudero joined the majority.
The new minority is expected to be joined by Sen. Leila de Lima, who is jailed at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, while awaiting trial on drug charges.
Recto was elected to replace Drilon as Senate President Pro Tempore.
Vice President Leni Robredo, the leader of the opposition to Mr. Duterte, slammed the expulsion of the LP senators from the Senate majority as a silencing of dissent that had happened before, referring to martial law during the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and warned that the reorganization in the Senate could be a portent of things to come.
Robredo said democracy demanded dissent, and that critics of the administration would “not be silenced.”
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Mr. Duterte’s right-hand man in the Senate, defended the expulsion of the LP senators, saying the majority “decided that to best achieve the legislative agenda, clear lines have to be drawn.”
But, he said in a statement, the Senate would “remain independent and true to its role as the last bastion of democracy in our country.”
Drilon said the realignment happened because it was a “numbers game.”
“They have the numbers,” he said, reminding Pimentel that the LP supported him in the race for Senate President.
Asked whether the changes had to do with the coming investigation of the confession of a hit man who linked Mr. Duterte to killings in Davao when he was the mayor of the city, Drilon said: “They are the ones who kicked us out, so you ask them.”
The formation of a new Senate majority came after most of the senators, including the LP lawmakers, voted to hear the testimony of retired police officer Arturo Lascañas, who disclosed last week that he killed people on orders from Mr. Duterte.
It was Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, an ally of Mr. Duterte, who started the move to rid the majority of the LP senators.
Shortly after the session started on Monday afternoon, Pacquiao stood up and moved to declare Drilon’s position vacant.
Drilon himself stood up to say he seconded the motion of Pacquiao, who in turn moved for Recto made new Senate President Pro Tempore.
Pimentel divided the house for a vote.
With a vote of 17-6, Recto was elected as the new Senate President Pro Tempore and he immediately took his oath before Pimentel.
The 17 who voted for Recto were Pimentel, Escudero, Pacquiao, Pangilinan and Senators Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, JV Ejercito, Win Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Vicente Sotto, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
The senators who voted against Recto were Recto himself, Drilon, Aquino, Hontiveros and Sen. Sonny Angara.
After that, Pacquiao took the floor again to make successive motions—to declare vacant the chairmanships and memberships of the committeees on health (held by Hontiveros), agriculture (Pangilinan) and education (Aquino).
Pacquiao moved for the appointment of Ejercito as health committee chair and this was seconded by Hontiveros; for Villar to be named agriculture committee chair, which Pangilinan seconded, and for Escudero to be made education chair. —WITH A REPORT FROM NIKKO DIZON
Tags: Bam Aquino, Duterte, Francis Pangilinan, last bastion of democracy in our country, Leila de Lima, Liberal Party, LP, LP members ousted from Senate majority, Philippine National Police, Philippine senate, Philippines, Risa Hontiveros, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senator Franklin Drilon