MANILA—Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday denied that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte knew about the removal of senators belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) from leadership and chairmanship posts in the Senate.
Pacquiao made this remark after confirming that 15 to 16 senators, excluding members of the LP, met in his residence in Makati City last Sunday to discuss the ouster.
Some senators said to be present in the meeting were Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Cynthia Villar among others.
“Hindi niya alam na nag-meeting nung Sunday. Wala silang kinalaman dito. Syempre we always believe in the independence of the Senate (The President did not know about the meeting on Sunday. They have nothing to do with this. We always believe in the independence of the Senate),” Pacquiao told reporters in an interview.
The neophyte senator said that his decision to oust LP Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Frank Drilon, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan was not done for political reasons but “just work”.
“Ayaw ko mamulitika rito, trabaho lang ito (I don’t want to play politics here, this is just work),” Pacquiao said.
“Maraming things to consider na makatutulong sa taumbayan. Ito ay mahihirapan ka na kung mismong kasama namin sa majority nagpapahirap (There are a lot of things to consider to help our citizens. We’ll be having a difficult time if the members of the majority made it more difficult),” he added.
He also denied that the ouster was due to their differences in conducting a Senate probe into the testimony of retired SPO3 Arturo Lascañas, self-confessed head of the so-called Davao Death Squad.
To recall, 10 out of 24 senators voted to proceed with the probe including LP senators Franklin Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan. Senators Antonio Trillanes, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, Francis Escudero and Juan Edgardo Angara also voted to proceed.
Meanwhile, seven senators who voted against proceeding with the probe were Sen. President Aquilino Pimentel III, senators Gordon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gringo Honasan, Manny Pacquiao, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Five senators abstained namely Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senators Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Panfilo Lacson and Loren Legarda. Two senators were absent — Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Grace Poe.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, pointed out that Aquino, Drilon, Hontiveros and Pangilinan still had committees left aside from the ones they were stripped off from.
Sen. Cynthia VIllar, new chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, backed Pacquiao’s statement that the decision to oust the LP senators from their key posts was because of issues they “disagreed” and not particularly Lascañas.
“Hindi si Lascañas. Matagal na ‘to (It’s not Lascañas. This has been going for a long time now),” Villar told reporters in a separate interview.
She said that it was not about LP senators joining the EDSA People Power Revolution celebrations either and that Pres. Duterte “never interfered” with the Senate decisions.
The lady senator, however, noted that being stripped off their committees should not be a hindrance to their respective advocacies.
“Nothing is permanent in this world, hindi pwedeng you hang on to something (you shouldn’t hang on to something),” she said.
Villar also said that she asked former Agriculture Committee Chair Pangilinan to continue defending his bills on the Senate floor.