PASAY CITY (MindaNews / 01 March ) — Senators are now “more productive” after lines were “clearly drawn” between the majority and the minority on Monday, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said.
“The lines had to be clearly drawn and once you do that, you become more productive because when you now talk to your fellow senator, you know that he is with you in the majority or that he is in the minority, so productive yung talk ninyo. You are not pretending to be somebody else or to be something, you are not hiding anything from the person you are talking to,” Pimentel told MindaNews in his office Tuesday afternoon, during an interview on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Federalism (see other story).
Members of the Liberal Party (LP) on Monday were stripped of their posts on motion of Mindanawon Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao: Senator Franklin Drilon was removed as Senate President Pro-Tempore and was replaced by former minority, now majority member Senator Ralph Recto; Senator Francis Pangilinan was replaced by Senator Cynthia Villar as Agriculture Committee chair, Senator Bam Aquino was replaced by Sen. Francis Escudero as Education Committee chair, and Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros who is allied with the LP, was replaced as chair of the Health and Demography committee by Senator JV Ejercito.
No one objected to Pacquiao’s motions and the four senators in fact seconded his motions to replace them.
Drilon, Aquino, Pangilinan and Hontiveros are now members of the Senate Minority, joining Senator Antonio Trillanes. Recto and Escudero, formerly with the Senate Minority (Recto was Senate Minority Floorleader) and Escudero are now with the majority. Detained Senator Leila de Lima, another LP member, is set to join the new minority.
Pimentel explained what happened on Monday “was only the action but the murmuring, November-December pa eh. Noon pa yan.”
“Some would tell me, ‘do they really belong with us?’ etc etc. Alam ko yan November-December but the action was only yesterday nga but it does not mean that’s because of some immediate past incident,” Pimentel said.
Reports have indicated that the ruling party was not happy with the moves of the LP members in the majority coalition on various issues, the vote on the probe on the testimony of self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) leader, retired policeman Arthur Lascanas and the appearance of their supposed party mates at the EDSA commemoration over the weekend, among the more immediate reasons.
But Pimentel brushed these aside, maintaining that Monday’s reorganzation was “the result or the culmination of seven to eight months of relationship where the greater majority, the greater number thought that a smaller number who were with them were not acting as it they were one group. Ganon lang po yun. It’s as basic as that.”
He said the new majority is now “happy” because this time “when we’re in a caucus, they can speak their minds.”
He said in the past, there was “that awkward feeling” shared by majority members, “(like) ‘should I speak my mind here? I will be quoted outside by this person because maybe he’s not with us.’ Yung ganon na feeling. We eliminated that feeling.”
He said their move to reorganize should not be likened to the time of the dictator Marcos as some critics are saying.
“It was just there’s a table with pebbles or stones and then there’s a line. We just transferred two to the right side, we transferred five to the left side. So they’re still there on the table,” Pimentel said. It would have been a different story, he added, “if they were expelled from the Senate. That’s different. Iba po yun because that’s totally silencing them from the forum.”
“When they speak out, when they will raise their hands, they will be recognized,” Pimentel vowed.
In a statement Wednesday, Senator Pangilinan, LP President said they joined the “super majority” last year because “every incoming President deserves chance to prove himself and also deserves to be supported at the beginning of his term because if he succeeds in fulfilling what is required of him in his oath of office then his success will be our success as a nation.”
He said records will show that of the 29 bills/committee reports being tackled on second reading on the floor at the time of the reorganization, “20 or over 2/3 were bills being defended by the LP, Senator Trillanes and Senator Hontiveros.”
“After less than seven months, we have come to a point wherein a number of events have made it untenable and unacceptable for us to stay with the supermajority in the Senate. The writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of time and the time did come. Hence when we are asked to leave the Supermajority, we did not resist and did so willingly and without debate.”
Pangilinan added that while they were part of the majority coalition and supported a number of initiatives of the government, “we did not shirk from what we believed to be our constitutional duty and responsibility to oppose policies and pronouncements that we believed to be inimical to the national interest. These included our opposition to the excesses of the war on drugs and extra judicial killings, the Marcos burial, corruption in the Bureau of Immigrations, the death penalty and the lowering of the game of criminal liability of minors among others.”
It was Drilon, then outgoing Senate President, who announced in a press conference on June 8 last year that Pimentel would be the next Senate President, after an agreement was reached evening of June 7 among some 16 to 17 senators from various political parties to support Pimentel’s bid.
A simple majority of 13 was needed to elect a Senate President.
Drilon also announced that based on the agreement, he would be the Senate President Pro Tempore while Senator Vicente Sotto III, who had earlier announced his bid for the Senate Presidency, would be Majority Leader.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’ running mate in the May 2016 elections had earlier signified his intent to run for the Senate’s top post. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)