MANILA, Philippines – After the resignation of Vice President Leni Robredo from the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Liberal Party is rethinking its next political plans, as it considers a separation from the majority blocs in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, acting party president, met with some LP senators, including Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, on Monday, December 5, to discuss their next steps. Senator Leila de Lima was unable to join them, as she was at a Senate probe.
“Well, this afternoon I met with the senators although we were not complete. And then tomorrow I’ll be sitting down with members of the House. There is no firmed up decision yet,” Pangilinan said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Pangilinan is set to meet with party mates in Congress and in local government units until Wednesday, December 7. The current leadership, he said, would also consult former president and LP stalwart Benigno Aquino III.
With Robredo’s resignation, Pangilinan maintained the LP bloc in the Senate would continue to be “critical” of the Duterte administration. The President earlier accused the party of plotting his ouster – an allegation that the LP denied.
“We will continue to maintain our independence as a Senate bloc. We will be critical and we will oppose positions or issues that we believe should be opposed, as we have done in the past,” Pangilinan said.
Among the issues the LP senators are opposing are the administration’s plan to lower the age of criminal responsibility, extrajudicial killings, and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, among others.
A source from the party said a meeting was held over the weekend right after they found out about the controversial text message of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr to the Vice President. (READ: How did Duterte break with Robredo? Through text message)
Pangilinan said they were surprised that the animosity had reached that level.
“Hindi namin inasahan na pinagbawalan siya pumunta. (We did not expect that she would be banned from attending Cabinet meetings.) We found out only the weekend, Saturday, when it was done. So we didn’t know na magkakaron ng kilos ‘yung Malacañang na ganoon (that Malacañang would act that way),” he said.
“Siyempre we were surprised ganito mangyayari so kailangan pagusapan din ng partido and ‘yun ang ginagawa natin ngayon,” he added. (Of course we were surprised that this happened so the party has to discuss it and that’s what we’re doing now.)
Asked what piece of advice he gave Robredo, Pangilinan said: “Advice? Follow her heart.”
Pangilinan, however, refused to give any more details when asked about his possible recommendations to his party mates.
“I don’t want to publicly state my inclinations until we have sat down, these next several days, sitting down, conferring with our members both in the House, Senate, and local government,” he said.
At least two LP lawmakers who belong to the House independent minority bloc – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr – are already urging their party mates to leave the supermajority.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, expressed confidence the LP would not leave the so-called “supermajority” in the chamber just yet.
“I don’t think so, they’re with the majority. The Senate is an independent body. We’ve always made sure that the Senate remains an independent body from Malacañang,” Sotto said.
LP members slammed Malacañang’s treatment of Robredo, with Pangilinan even urging the public to be vigilant of “forces” seeking the comeback of the Marcos family through defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Marcos Jr filed an electoral protest against Robredo last June 29. With the Supreme Court recently allowing a hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, some have expressed concern that the SC – sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal – would also vote in favor of Marcos Jr. (READ: Marcos camp: Robredo stole vice presidency) – Rappler.com