Malacañang distances from Senate reshuffle

Malacañang on Monday maintained that it has nothing to do with the reorganization in the Senate where Liberal Party senators were stripped of their key positions.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing to do with the reshuffle in the Upper Chamber adding that “the policy of the President is not to interfere with the other branch of the government.”

Panelo clarified that the senators who replaced the LP members in their respective committees in the Senate are not allies of the President.

“If I hear right, those who replaced the current senators are belonging to the same party so it’s far from the claim that Malacañang is behind that. Otherwise, the allies of Malacañang should have been placed there,”

Panelo told reporters.

At the same time, Panelo denied that Duterte’s meeting with some senators at the Palace last week has something to do with the ouster of LP senators from their committee chairmanships.

“I don’t think there’s an agenda. I don’t think this is an offshoot of any serious meeting,” he said.

At the Senate’s session on Wednesday afternoon, Senator Manny Pacquiao moved that Senator Ralph Recto be installed as Senate President Pro-Tempore replacing LP stalwart Franklin Drilon.

Asid from Drilon, Senator Francis Pangilinan was replaced by Senator Cynthia Villar, head of Nacionalista Party (NP) to chair the Senate committee on agriculture.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, on the other hand, was replaced by Senator Francis Escudero as chair of Senate committee on education.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who ran under LP during the May 9, 2016 elections, was replaced by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito as head of Senate committee on health.

Drilon, Pangilinan, Aquino, and Hontiveros manifested to join Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes in the minority bloc.

The four senators are actively supporting De Lima who was arrested and detained for drug trading and receiving drug payoffs from Bilibid convicts.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, the lone PDP-Laban member in the upper chamber, was elected head of the Senate last year after gaining the support of most of his colleagues, including the LP senators.

They then formed the majority bloc in the Senate, while Trillanes, Recto, and Escudero formed the minority bloc.


Nasampolan kami!

This was how Senator Bam Aquino described the move to replace him as chairman of the Committee on Education.

“This is really a political move – a partisan move. Palagay ko nasampolan kami because we’ve been speaking out against certain policies like the death penalty. Tutol kami doon,” Sen. Aquino said in a radio interview.

“Iyong pagbaba ng age of criminal liability, iyong pagsuporta kay Senador De Lima at iyong pagpunta namin sa EDSA,” he added.

During the session, Sen. Bam manifested that “if this is the price to pay to show up on the streets of EDSA, talking about democracy, talking about the issues of violence on our streets, I gladly pay that price”.

After he was removed as committee chairman, Sen. Aquino manifested that the move had nothing to do with the performance of the Committee on Education, to which no senator objected to.