Duterte on De Lima ouster: I won’t intervene

Pia Ranada
President Duterte says events unfolding in Congress are not within his territory

NOT INTERVENING. President Rodrigo Duterte discusses issues on the war on drugs at the 48th anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on September 13. Photo by King Rodriguez/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – A few hours after Senator Leila De Lima was ousted from committee chairmanship at the Senate on Monday, September 19, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would stay out of events unfolding in Congress.

“I do not intervene, dwell into matters not part of my territory,” Duterte said on Monday during an ambush interview with reporters in Davao City.

“I don’t care how many hearings are there, UN, BU, U2, B2, B52, basta ako nakatutok sa aking trabaho (as long as I am focused on my job),” added the President. (READ: Duterte: Senate hearings won’t stop drug war)

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, in a text to Palace reporters, said the same thing: “It’s a separate branch of government so we leave things to its leadership.” 

On Monday, De Lima lost the chairmanship of the Senate committee on justice after 16 senators voted to declare the membership of the committee vacant.

Only 4 voted to keep De Lima as committee head: her fellow Liberal Party members Senate Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Risa Hontiveros.

Two senators abstained: Minority Leader Ralph Recto and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

The 16 senators who voted against De Lima are:

  • Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III
  • Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III
  • Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano
  • Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri
  • Sen. Panfilo Lacson
  • Sen. Cynthia Villar
  • Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
  • Sen. Gregorio Honasan
  • Sen. Sonny Angara
  • Sen. Joel Villanueva
  • Sen. Richard Gordon
  • Sen. Nancy Binay
  • Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito
  • Sen. Manny Pacquiao
  • Sen. Loren Legarda
  • Sen. Grace Poe

De Lima said Duterte was behind her ouster.

The move came after she presented in a hearing on September 15, Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad, who accused Duterte of ordering killings when he was still mayor. De Lima has scheduled another hearing this week.

In a speech before the interview, Duterte made it clear he preferred to focus on fulfilling his campaign promises on stopping drugs and criminality rather than meddle with Congress affairs.

“I will stick to my own agenda. Congress, they have their own show,” he said.

On Tuesday, September 20, the House of Representatives is set to hold a probe into De Lima’s alleged role in the proliferation of drugs inside the national penitentiary during her time as justice secretary. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.