SENATORS JV Ejercito and Win Gatchalian said Malacañang has no involvement in the ouster of Sen. Leila De Lima as head of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights which is investigating the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug traffickers.
Voting 16-4-2, the senators Monday night voted to remove De Lima as chairperson of the justice panel for allegedly being “incompetent” and for using the Senate probe into extrajudicial killins to attack President Rodrigo Duterte.
Ejercito, who is one of the 16 senators who voted in favor of the motion of Sen. Manny Pacquiao to declare vacant the committee’s chairmanship and membership, said that it had been a difficult decision since it involved a colleague.
Sen. Richard Gordon was voted to replace De Lima while Sen. Panfilo Lacson will be the vice chairperson of the justice panel. Gatchalian hopes that Gordon will lead the justice committee “the way it should be led -- with objectivity, dignity, and integrity.”
“It was the Senate’s collective decision. We members of the majority are concerned of the effects of the continuous efforts to destroy President Rodrigo Duterte. It is dragging the whole country down, as evidenced by the international media’s portrayal of the Philippines at present. It is also dividing our people,” said Ejercito.
Gatchalian said that to his knowledge, “President Duterte was not involved in any way in the Senate’s decision to remove De Lima as chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
“I have yet to speak to the President since he assumed office, and I certainly did not consult him or any member of his administration before casting my vote to remove Senator De Lima,” said Gatchalian.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan deplored the action of his colleagues against his fellow Liberal partymate. “Ultimately, whether we agree with it or not, it is still a numbers game in the Senate and that’s what happened yesterday.”
“Yesterday’s vote is also a stark reminder that, as senators, we must remain vigilant and ensure that the Senate, as an institution, remains independent as it performs its constitutional role and duty as a check and balance on other branches,” he added.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who voted in favor of the reorganization of the justice panel, said that he was disappointed at seeing the Senate investigations being used to push other people’s political agenda.
“If some persons want to expose certain issues about the President, their proper recourse is to impeach him. File an impeachment case. If they have an axe to grind against President Duterte, they should file a case against him instead of transforming Senate inquiries into political circus,” said Zubiri.
Ejercito said that his vote was designed to give a chance to the Duterte administration. “They’ve only been in office for three months. Any uprising or upheaval will not benefit the country at this point in time. We have had two EDSA revolts, and it did not help improve our situation.”
Gatchalian said that Senate committees are tasked with shaping policy direction and crafting legislative reforms. “Unfortunately, under the leadership of Senator De Lima, the Committee on Justice had become a hollow vehicle for the fulfillment of personal political vendettas. We simply had to put a stop to that, both for the benefit of the Senate as an institution, and for the People this august body represents.”