Senators allied with the Liberal Party (LP) were stripped off their leadership position and chairmanship of major committees on Monday, February 27, barely two days after the nation commemorated the 31st anniversary of the 1986 Edsa ‘people power’ revolution.
Senator Manny Pacquiao, the youngest member of the Senate, moved that the position of Senate president pro tempore be declared vacant, consequently ousting Franklin Drilon, chairman of LP.
With a vote of 17 senators, Sen. Ralph Recto, who ran and won under the LP-led Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid in the 2016 elections, took over Drilon’s position as the second ranking Senate leader.
In an obviously scripted proceedings, Drilon seconded Pacquiao’s motion.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the LP president, was removed as chairman of the agriculture committee. He was replaced by Sen.Cynthia Villar, whose party, the Nacionalista Party, is allied with President Duterte..
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, another LP member, was replaced as education committee chairman by Sen. Francis Escudero, who ran and won in the 2016 election as a common candidate of the LP and PDP-Laban coalition that carried Duterte’s presidential campaign.
“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,” Aquino said in a radio interview.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, an ally of LP, was replaced by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, a Duterte ally, as health committee chairman.
Aquino said he was replaced not because of his performance as a legislator but because of his stand on political issues. He said most of the bills he had filed were already nearing approval.
He said that if his replacement was the price to pay for joining the street protest on Edsa over the weekend, then he was willing to pay the price.
Aquino assured Escudero of his support in pushing for the enactment of bills he had started as chairman of the education committee.
Drilon, Pangilinan, Aquino, and Hontiveros joined former President Benigno Aquino on Saturday, February 25 at the People Power Monument (PPM) in Quezon City to commemorate the 31st Edsa People Power anniversary. They also stood behind Sen. Leila de Lima who was arrested and detained last Friday for her alleged links to the illegal drug trade at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. — with report from Marlo Cueto