PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will now have “better working relationships” with the Senate, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

This was the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella after Liberal Party (LP) senators had been stripped of leadership post and committee chairmanships and now joined the Senate minority group.

Abella, however, clarified that Duterte did not control any of the senators to come up with the ouster of LP members from key positions.

“The stripping of committee chairmanships happens every Congress. What happened [on Monday] is majority rules and as we all know, the Senate’s decision has always been a consensus. So, Malacañang respects the independence of the Senate and this does not interfere in its internal affairs,” Abella said.

On Monday, Senator Manny Pacquiao moved that Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros lose their Senate post and committee chairmanships.

Drilon was replaced as Senate President Pro Tempore by Senator Ralph Recto. Pangilinan lost his chairmanship of the Senate agriculture committee to Senator Cynthia Villar, while Aquino was replaced by Senator Francis Escudero as chair of Senate education committee.

Hontiveros, who ran under LP in the 2016 senatorial race, was replaced by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito as chair of Senate health committee.

Asked what Duterte would gain following the realignments at the Senate, Abella said, “better working relationships [with senators].” (SunStar Philippines)