Senators bicker over 'exclusion' from resolution vs killing of minors

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senators on Wednesday, September 27, nearly came to blows over the supposed exclusion of 7 administration senators from the resolution against the killings of minors.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III delivered a privilege speech and called for an investigation into the "fake news" propagated by the "Silent No More PH" blog, a known critic of the administration. Sotto's motion was referred to Senator Grace Poe's committee on public information.

The 7 senators also condemned the non-routing to them of Resolution 516, which was prepared by minority Senator Francis Pangilinan. 

Aside from Sotto, the others who were unable to sign the resolution were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao, and Gregorio Honasan. 

Sotto, who was called a "rapist" and "plagiarist" in the blog, denied the allegations and said he would resign if there is proof that he committed rape. He maintained that the plagiarism accusations were used against him during the debates on the reproductive health bill.

"Ginamit ito ng kung sino para sirain kami (Somebody used this to put us in a bad light). I will request you to direct [the] Senate secretariat to investigate who's behind prostituting this resolution," Sotto said, addressing Pimentel.

"Ang katangahan nila, hindi nakarating sa amin 'yan. Walang nagpapirma sa akin niyan kaya hindi puwedeng sabihin na I did not sign. Now the offensive part is this: pagsunod niyan iniisa-isa kaming pito at ang sasama ng sinabi," he added.

(It shows how stupid they are: that [document] didn't reach us. Nobody asked me to sign that, so they cannot say I did not sign. Now the offensive part is this: after that, they lambasted the 7 of us one by one, and they said really nasty things.)

Villar also named senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros as those who are supposedly intent on destroying the majority.

At first, Villar said she kept quiet and did not believe that. But with the recent blog, Villar said it could be the "beginning of the warning." Aquino and Hontiveros both stood up to deny such accusations.

"It's really somebody from social media saying two senators are going to destroy us. I did not believe it. When I saw that blog, it was really true. Bam and Risa will try to destroy us. I did not believe it. It did not come from me," Villar said.

"I kept quiet, I did not believe it. Maybe this is the beginning of that warning, that is my manifestation," she said.

Gordon, for his part, called the people behind the blog "cowards."

"Mr President, it is a cowardly blog. 'Di naglalagay ng pangalan (It prefers to be anonymous). It strikes to the very heart of the Senate," he said.

Intentional?

The 7 senators said they did not refuse to sign the resolution, as claimed by the blog entry entitled "Malacañang dogs in the Senate."

They said they were not asked by Pangilinan to sign it, insinuating that it was deliberately done.

"I, together with other senators, were not asked to sign. We did not refuse," Villar said.

"I'm one of those mentioned. I've never seen the shadow of this resolution. 'Di umikot sa 'kin 'yan (It was not routed to me), I did not sign. I take offense with the resolution," Sotto said.

Gordon directly blamed Pangilinan for the issue.

"It's the failure of Pangilinan to take the time and address this very controversial [issue]. This is something we could have all signed. The fact that we were not allowed to sign a resolution na (that is) very motherhood," Gordon said.

Pangilinan apologized and denied there was any intention to exclude the 7 senators, known to be allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Pangilinan also said it is not in the Senate rules that resolutions should be routed to all senators. As long as a majority is reached, a resolution can be filed.

Case in point, he said, was the majority bloc's filing of a resolution in August seeking an investigation into the recent spate of killings involving minors, without routing it to the minority bloc. The resolution also condemned the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos.

"If I recall, on the issue of Kian's death, it was not forwarded to the minority and it was filed anyway, which is to say, the need to reroute to everyone is not covered by our rules," Pangilinan said. "As long as we get the majority, it would be fine."

He added that the issue was just aggravated by social media, which he said he could not control.

"The problem, I think, [is that it] came out, they angled it as they decided to angle it, which was not our doing. We did not intentionally exclude anyone," Pangilinan said.

The 7 majority senators then filed their own resolution calling on the government to end killings of minors. (LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte's drug war)

The resolution had the signature of 17 majority senators and excluded the 6 members of the opposition. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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