MANILA – In his Forbes Park residence on Sunday, Senator Manny Pacquiao hosted the meeting at which certain senators planned the ouster of Liberal Party members from key posts, led by Senator Franklin Drilon as Senate President Pro Tempore.
Senator Panfilo Lacson disclosed this on Tuesday in an interview before the Senate session began, stressing that the senators had deliberated at length on the untenable situation of an LP bloc holding key posts in the Majority while repeatedly voting with the Minority. There was “absolutely no pressure” from Malacañang and the decision to strip the LP of their posts was entirely made the senators.
Lacson said he and Senators Loren Legarda and Gregorio Honasan initiated the ouster move.
According to him, 18 members of the super majority in the Senate met at the house of Pacquiao, who on Monday made the motions that declared vacant the posts of Drilon and the LP senators’ committee chairmanships.
Lacson explained that the situation had become untenable: “Awkward situation. We are not able to hold a caucus as a majority in the Senate where we [can] talk freely because a colleague would have reservations about the legislative agenda, which includes members of the so-called super majority who almost always vote with the minority, especially with Sen. (Antonio) Trillanes.”
He noted that whenever the majority voted on a particular motion, issue or manifestation, the group of Drilon would invariably vote with Trillanes – with the latest example being the referral of the investigation on the P50-million immigration scandal.
“When we voted on it, they [LP bloc] all voted that it be referred to the civil service committee instead of going along with the majority to have it referred to the Blue Ribbon,” Lacson noted.
He added that there were so many instances they voted as a group.
“We noticed that whenever an issue was being tackled on the floor, Sen. Trillanes would always go to them and consult, instead of consulting the members of the minority. Why would he consult certain members of the majority?” Lacson explained.
Lacson said the move to oust the LP members from he Majority was not decided overnight, but based “on the observations of the other members, including myself. How could we even hold a caucus? In fact we have not held a caucus as a super majority.”
He stressed that the LP senators’ attendance at the EDSA anniversary celebration last Feb. 25 has nothing to do with the decision to oust them from the majority.
“All of us, we are free to express our sentiments on issues, national issues, especially if the issue would involve another branch of government. Pero kapag tinatamaan kapwa senador na, we also had to act,” he said.
“So ‘yan ang reason; when we held that meeting Sunday evening sa magandang bahay ni Sen. Pacquiao, that’s when the decision was firmed up,” Lacson added.
Lacson said there were reservations as to the timing of the move to oust the LP senators.
“And I myself was the one who pushed. We already decided on this, we voted on this, it was unanimous. What’s the reason for postponing the action? Chances are it might leak and may ibang mangyari [the outcome might be different],” Lacson recalled stressing to his colleagues.
No pressure from Palace
In fact, Lacson noted the LP senators were not stripped of all committee posts, only the major ones such as education, health and agriculture. On Monday, LP Sens. Kiko Pangilinan (agriculture), Risa Hontiveros (Health) and Bam Aquino (Education) lost their committee chairmanship
Lacson also brushed aside fears that the legislative agenda would be affected by the changes in chairmanship.
“That’s one reason na inaano nila. But ang usapan dito, it’s always political. When we reorganize the Senate, it’s always political. When we say political reason, it doesn’t involve politics na kasama ang Malacañang,” Lacson said.
“I for one will not agree to any move by the Majority [that is driven by] pressure from Malacanang. Absolutely no pressure. We decided on this among ourselves. Sabi ko na-firm up ang aming decision Sunday evening,” he added.
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