LOOK: Majority senators in full force at ‘intimate dinner’ with Duterte

Camille Elemia
LOOK: Majority senators in full force at ‘intimate dinner’ with Duterte
Senator JV Ejercito says they 'discussed the proposed tax reform measure,' one of the priority bills of the Duterte administration

Two weeks after a major Senate reorganization, President Rodrigo Duterte hosted a dinner in Malacañang for members of the majority bloc on Tuesday, March 14.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito posted a photo on his official Facebook account, with the caption “Intimate dinner between President Duterte and my colleagues in the Senate.”

Present were the 3 highest leaders of the chamber: Senate President Koko Pimentel, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, and Majority Leader Tito Sotto.

Fifteen of the 18-member majority bloc were there, too. Besides the 3 leaders, Duterte’s presidential rival Senator Grace Poe joined the dinner, as did Senators JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara, Manny Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Alan Peter Cayetano, Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, and Dick Gordon.

Ejercito said they discussed the “proposed tax reform measure,” one of the priority bills of the administration.

They also discussed other “vital legislation” that the Senate needs to pass after the break, Gatchalian told Rappler in a text message.

The dinner comes a month after the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima, Duterte’s fiercest critic, and weeks after Liberal Party senators were ousted from key Senate posts, prompting them to join the minority.

Senators and Malacañang both denied the Palace had a hand in the reorganization, even as Duterte has repeatedly slammed the LP for leading “destabilization” plots against his government.

Who missed the “intimate” dinner? Senators Ping Lacson, Chiz Escudero, and Gringo Honasan, who celebrated his birthday Tuesday. Goes without saying the minority bloc was unwelcome company.

Days before the dinner, the Senate committees on public order and justice also released a joint report, saying the death of the late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr was premeditated by police forces. (READ: Why Senate thinks CIDG 8 planned Espinosa killing)

The panels also advised the President against “micromanaging” the affairs of the Philippine National Police, citing Duterte’s order to PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa to reinstate Superintendent Marvin Marcos who led Espinosa’s killing.

Duterte, in response, said he does not care about the committee report, as he would continue to defend the PNP. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, 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