Senate reorganizes due to ‘blurring lines’ between majority, minority

MANILA — The Senate on Monday underwent reorganization due to “blurring lines” between the majority and minority blocs, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said Monday.

Pimentel made this statement after senators belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) were ousted from leadership posts and committee chairmanships. They LP senators also transferred from the majority bloc to the minority bloc.

“There have been instances where the majority, instead of closing ranks, ended up divided. The majority of Senators decided that to best achieve the Senate’s legislative agenda, clear lines have to be drawn,” Pimentel said.

He, however, assured that the Senate will remain independent and true to its role as “the last bastion of democracy” in the country.

On Monday’s plenary session, Sen. Manny Pacquiao voted to declare vacant the position of Senate President Pro-Tempore and committee chairmanships on the Senate Committees on Health, Agriculture and Education.

Sen. Franklin Drilon was ousted as Senate President Pro-Tempore while Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV were ousted as chairs of the Health, Agriculture and Education committees.

None of them interpellated Pacquiao’s motion.

Former Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto took Drilon’s place as Senate President Pro-Tempore after 17 out of 23 senators present voted for this change.

The 17 senators who voted for Recto as the new Senate President Pro-Tempore were Senators Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, Joseph Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan and Grace Poe.

The six senators who voted against Recto were Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Aquino, Drilon, Hontiveros, Recto and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Meanwhile, Senators Joseph Vicente Ejercito, Cynthia Villar, and Francis Escudero became the new chairs of the Senate Committees on Health, Agriculture and Education, respectively.

Recto moved to designate Trillanes the new Senate Minority Leader until the new minority decides among themselves who will be their new leader.

The new minority has five members namely Aquino, Drilon, Hontiveros, Pangilinan and Trillanes.

Drilon included detained Sen. Leila de Lima in the minority but Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel III said that it is better to await for her formal communication.

The LP senators’ transfer to the minority bloc comes two days after their party mate, De Lima, was arrested by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) for alleged drug trading charges. De Lima is currently detained in the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

In an interview, Drilon said the LP would have stayed with the majority bloc if they were not stripped off their leadership posts and committee chairmanships.

He, however, assured that even if they were “kicked out”, they would continue to do their jobs. Azer Parrocha/