Senator Leila de Lima has been ousted as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights after neophyte Senator Manny Pacquiao moved to declare vacant the entire justice committee membership.
A total of 16 senators voted in favor of Pacquiao’s motion while De Lima’s four fellow Liberal Party members opposed and two senators abstained.
As expected, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV came in defense of De Lima, saying the motion was without basis while Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto opted to vote abstention.
Senators who voted to declare the panel vacant include: Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and Senators Vicente Sotto III, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
On the other hand, Pacquiao offered no reason for his motion to declare vacant the justice committee which is investigating the alleged extra-judicial killings amid the government’s intensified anti-drug campaign.
Before Pacquiao took the podium to move to declare justice panel vacant, Cayetano delivered a privilege speech where he criticized De Lima for using the Senate probe on extra-judicial killings to destroy the country’s image in the international community.
”We have to save our nation from the efforts of a few people to destroy the image of our country, our economy, and the future of our next generation,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano delivered his privilege speech few days after the Senate probe where De Lima presented self-confessed “Davao Death Squad” (DDS) member Edgar Matobato.
“Even if the (suspected) DDS or the killings in Davao had no place in the present EJK hearings, they brought that surprise witness without informing the co-Chairman, Senator (Panfilo) Lacson, without informing the members… Our tradition is that when we have a surprise witness, we keep that identity a surprise… but we let the members know that there will be a key member… Kaya maraming hindi nag-attend eh,” Cayetano explained.
Pacquiao’s motion to declare justice panel vacant prompted Sotto to call a caucus which lasted for over an hour.
De Lima, who walked out of the session hall while Cayetano was delivering his privilege speech, said she will deliver her own privilege speech on Tuesday to express her frustration and reveal her next move.
”They ousted me. I anticipated it that’s why I walked out while Senator Cayetano was speaking,” De Lima said.
She claimed there is no doubt President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was behind the move to oust her as chairperson of the justice panel.
Gordon was elected as new chairman and Lacson as vice chairman of the justice committee while members include: De Lima, Pangilinan, Gatchalian, Cayetano and one from Senate minority bloc. /Jelly F. Musico, PNA