After De Lima ouster, LP to become ‘independent bloc’ of Senate majority

(UPDATED) 'We will criticize if there is basis or need to criticize. We will cooperate where we believe that what is being presented to the Senate is for the benefit of our country,' says Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon

INDEPENDENT MAJORITY. The Liberal Party in the Senate has decided to stick it out with the majority bloc but says they will be and 'independent' group in the majority.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Following the ouster of neophyte Senator Leila De Lima as justice committee chairperson, Liberal Party senators have decided to stick it out with the majority bloc.

After a meeting on Tuesday, September 20, the 5 senators – Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Leila De Lima, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Francis Pangilinan – said the removal of De Lima is a “political reality.”

“Our alliance with the majority has always been based on the reforms that we believe will propel our nation to greater economic, political and social heights. We will continue to pursue these agenda,” the LP group said in a joint statement.

“As long as we believe that these reforms can be achieved, we will remain with the majority,” they added.

Drilon, for his part, said the LP would be an “independent bloc in the majority.”

Ngunit nangyari na ang nangyari at ito ay tanggap namin. Kami po ay magpapatuloy bilang independent bloc in the majority (This happened and we accept it. We will continue as an independent bloc in the majority),” Drilon said.

Drilon said they would continue to be “vigilant” in guarding the Senate’s independence so as not to become a rubberstamp body.

“We will criticize if there is basis or need to criticize. We will cooperate where we believe that what is being presented to the Senate is for the benefit of our country. We will not criticize simply for the sake of criticizing,” he said.

The LP senators expressed disappointment over De Lima’s ouster, saying they were not consulted even if they are part of the majority.

The concerns over De Lima’s handling of the probe into the spate of extrajudicial killings would have been addressed through a dialogue.

“We are deeply saddened by the events that transpired yesterday. Elementary courtesy dictates that we as members of the majority bloc of the Senate should have been consulted. The concerns of our colleagues could have been addressed if there was an opportunity for a dialogue,” the LP senators said.

De Lima: Shift to minority ‘crossed my mind’

After her ouster, De Lima admitted that she thought about moving to the minority bloc.

“It crossed my mind. Of course, we talked about it and I agree with their collective decision,” De Lima said.

On Monday, September 19, 16 of 24 members of the majority voted to strip her of the chairmanship. (READ: Senators: De Lima ousted for being ‘biased,’ anti-Duterte)

But De Lima, a neophyte senator, said she decided to follow the decision of the bloc.

“I’m staying with them, that’s the collective decision and I believe in the collective wisdom of the bloc that we are staying with the majority but we shall continue to assert the independence of the Senate,” De Lima said.

In a privilege speech on Tuesday, September 20, De Lima called her ouster “unimaginable,” adding she now can imagine what the President’s allies are capable of doing. (READ: FULL TEXT: De Lima’s privilege speech on her ouster)

“But for this body to strip me of my Committee in an unprecedented fashion at this point when we have categorical testimony establishing an uncanny similarity between the current phenomenon of the nationwide EJKs and the Davao City EJKs as perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad, was unimaginable. I now resolve to imagine more of what the President’s allies are capable of,” De Lima said.

Despite this, Drilon said the LP would still be “active” in the Senate investigation into the summary executions, under the chairmanship of Senator Richard Gordon. –