REORGANIZATION in the Senate committee memberships and even the seating arrangements will follow immediately after Liberal Party (LP) senators were stripped off of their key positions on Monday, February 27.
Consequently, all hearings may be put on hold as the memberships of each committee will have to be reconfigured by the majority.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III cited the "blurring lines" between the majority and minority as the reason for the chamber's reorganization.
"There have been instances where the majority, instead of closing ranks, ended up divided. The majority of senators decided that to best achieve the Senate legislative agenda, clear lines have to be drawn," he said.
In the opening of the session, Senator Manny Pacquiao, a staunch supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, motioned that the Senate President Pro Tempore position occupied by Senator Franklin Drilon be declared vacant.
Immediately, Pacquiao formally endorsed Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto as the new Senate President Pro Tempore, which was seconded by Senator Francis Escudero and was supported by at least 17 senators.
Pacquiao also moved that various committee chairmanship occupied by LP senators be declared vacant.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who chaired the committee on health, was replaced by Senator JV Ejercito Estrada.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, who used to chair the committee on education, was replaced by Escudero.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, who chaired the committee on agriculture, was replaced by Senator Cynthia Villar.
Before the reorganization, a closed-door meeting without members of the LP took place.
Pangilinan said what happened was not a surprise for him, citing the fact that LP has been adamant on many policies the Duterte government is pushing, including death penalty, the lowering of criminal liability, among others.
Meanwhile, Aquino said he has no doubt that Malacañang was behind the move, adding that the Senate independence under the leadership of Pimentel is now in question.
"If [our removal] is based on performance, I guess no one can question us. But I think this is really a political move...When we voted for Senator Pimentel, what we asked him is just for the Senate and each senator be given the right to maintain its independence...The hands of Malacanang is obviously behind but if this is the price of true independence that we have to pay. So be it." Aquino said.
Last Saturday, the LP senators along with former President Benigno Aquino III echoed their opposition against the present government as they celebrated the anniversary of Edsa Peoples Power revolution.
Now with the minority bloc, Pangilinan, Aquino, and Hontiveros will be joining Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. However, Senator Leila De Lima will have to make a formal manifestation that she will be joining the minority bloc officially, Senate President Pimentel said.
De Lima is also expected to be removed from her present committee chairmanship, the electoral reforms.
It is not clear whether Escudero will stay with the minority bloc or will formally join the majority in the Senate.
Drilon said they will have to sit down and vote formally who will now lead the new minority bloc in the Senate. But for the time being, Recto said Trillanes will be recognized as the Minority Leader as his replacement. (SunStar Philippines)