Dela Rosa’s lament: We’re majority but we don’t get the votes

Aika Rey
Dela Rosa’s lament: We’re majority but we don’t get the votes
'So pasalamat dapat si Minority Leader [Franklin Drilon] because he belongs to the minority but he gets the majority vote,' says Senator Ronald 'Bato' dela Rosa

A piqued Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his frustration over being part of the majority yet not always having the majority vote. 

For instance, on Monday, March 2, voting 12-0-8, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 337, which in effect, questions President Rodrigo Duterte’s power to unilaterally end treaties and international agreements.

The passage of the measure gives the go-signal to the Senate leadership – led by no less than Senate President Vicente Sotto III – to file a petition asking the High Court to rule whether Senate concurrence is needed in the termination of a treaty.

Despite its passage, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was saddened by the narrow majority vote.

“This is my 21st year in this chamber and it makes me so sad that even just a simple resolution which would authorize the body to bring a matter to the Supreme Court, we could not even get a unanimous vote,” Drilon said, a 4-time Senate president.

“All that we’re asking the Supreme Court is to define our constitutional boundaries. Nothing else, nothing more,” Drilon added.

Dela Rosa, who abstained from the vote, seemed to be piqued by Drilon’s reaction, and lamented: “It’s also sad in our part dahil (because) we belong to the majority group…We are the majority coalition here in the Senate but we cannot get the majority vote. We have the minority vote,” Dela Rosa said.

“So pasalamat dapat si Minority Leader (So Minority Leader should be thankful) because he belongs to the [minority] but he gets the majority vote,” Dela Rosa said.

A couple of senators seemed to disagree with Dela Rosa’s position, saying that the issue at hand is a matter that involves protecting the Senate as an institution.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who voted in favor of the resolution, called his stand a “conscience vote” and hoped that the relationship between senators won’t turn sour.

“There are certain bills, actions, issues that need a conscience vote. On these issues, you want to be a statesman. You want to protect the institution you represent,” said Zubiri.

“There are issues that we need to protect these institutions, to assert our right as a co-equal branch of government, and where we could stand above the fray, ika nga (they say). This is what separates us from local politics. We are voted by 20 million Filipinos. And those who voted for us are from both sides of the camp, opposition or administration,” Zubiri added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said that he wants to disabuse Dela Rosa of his notion about the resolution.

“I just would like to disabuse the mind of my former comrade-in-arms in the PNP. I voted not against the President. I voted for the institution where I belong called the Senate of the Philippines,” Lacson said.

Including Dela Rosa, 7 administration senators abstained from voting on the resolution: Senators Bong Go, Aquilino Pimentel III, Imee Marcos, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino, and Cynthia Villar.

Senators Manny Pacquiao and Pia Cayetano, who both arrived right after the voting was held, were not allowed to cast their vote. Pacquiao, an ally of the President and who holds a key post in the ruling party PDP-Laban, said that he would have voted in support of the measure had he arrived early.

“The interpretation of the Constitution is the power of the executive to make, but we are a [co-equal] branch. So we will ask the Supreme Court what is their position about this issue because it is important,” Pacquiao said.

The filing of the resolution was triggered by the Philippine government’s notice to the US of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which the Senate earlier said should just be reviewed first.

The military accord is the second international agreement to be unilaterally terminated by the President, after withdrawing from the International Criminal Court. Several senators earlier said that the move raises a constitutional question and therefore must be resolved by the High Court.

In the 17th Congress, at least 14 senators co-authored a resolution declaring that the chamber has a say in treaty termination. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.