PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has nothing to do with the supposed removal of Liberal Party senators from their key positions in the Senate, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Monday.
“I think the policy of the President is not to interfere with the other branch of the government,” Panelo told reporters, when sought for reaction on the reshuffling of positions in the Senate positions and committee chairmanships.
“If I hear right, those who replaced the current senators are belonging to the same party so it’s far from the claim that Malacañang is behind that. Otherwise, the allies of Malacañang should have been placed there,” he added.
At the Senate’s session on Wednesday afternoon, Senator Manny Pacquiao moved that LP stalwart Franklin Drilon be replaced by Senator Ralph Recto as the new Senate President Pro-Tempore.
Apart from Drilon, Senator Francis Pangilinan was replaced by Senator Cynthia Villar to head Senate committee on agriculture. Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, on the other hand, was replaced by Senator Francis Escudero as chair of Senate committee on education.
Pangilinan and Aquino are also LP members.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who ran under LP during the May 9, 2016 elections, was replaced by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito as head of Senate committee on health.
Drilon, Pangilinan, Aquino, and Hontiveros then manifested to become part of the Senate minority bloc.
Panelo clarified that the senators who replaced the LP members in their respective committees in the Senate are not allies of the President.
He also denied that Duterte's meeting with some senators at the Palace last week has something to do with the ouster of LP senators.
“I don’t think there’s an agenda. I don’t think this is an offshoot of any serious meeting,” he said.
Asked then if Duterte is trying to control the Senate, Panelo said, “I do not think so because right now, the senators are in support of the President on bills, that are pet bills of the President like death penalty.” (SunStar Philippines)