Senator Leila de Lima. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES ALLOWING a self-described hit man to implicate President Duterte in the killing of some 1,000 people, mostly criminals and political opponents, in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was its mayor cost Sen. Leila de Lima the chairmanship of the committee on justice and human rights. De Lima lost the leadership after just 54 days and three committee hearings on the extrajudicial killings of more than 3,000 drug suspects in the administration’s war on drugs. The carnage has drawn condemnation from the international community. In an unprecedented move, the Senate last night kicked out De Lima as chair of the committee and its eight members after the chamber voted 16-4-2 to declare all committee positions vacant. The Senate then voted to elect Sen. Richard Gordon the new chair of the committee and Sen. Panfilo Lacson its vice chair. Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III assured the public that the justice committee “will continue” with its investigation of the alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects. De Lima was elected member of the committee, along with Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Miguel Zubiri and Francis Pangilinan. Two more minority senators will be elected members of the committee soon, according to Minority Leader Ralph Recto.
Cayetano speech The drama unfolded after Cayetano stood up to deliver a privilege speech at the start of on Monday’s Senate session, accusing De Lima of painting a negative picture of the administration’s war on drugs. Cayetano, running mate of Mr. Duterte, said De Lima was among those misleading the people and the international media to destroy the image of the chamber as an institution and to distract senators from the much-needed work to be done. He also said “long-honored traditions of collegiality and civility” among senators were being destroyed, following last week’s Senate hearing in which De Lima presented confessed hit man Edgar Matobato who linked the President to Davao Death Squad (DDS) execution of criminals when Mr. Duterte was mayor. Matobato, 57, said about 1,000 people were killed on orders of then Mayor Duterte. He said he himself killed at least 50 people as a member of the DDS. “We have to save our nation from the efforts of a few people not only politicians, Filipinos but some in the international community from destroying the image of country, economy and future of the next generation,” Cayetano said.
Walkout De Lima walked out of the session as Cayetano delivered his speech, saying she did so because she “need not hear the baseless accusations against me, as well as the bad mouthing against me.” “I stood up and left to protest the plan to silence me and continue the search for truth amid the killings being done in the campaign against drugs,” she said in a statement. De Lima said it was not her but the killings that were destroying the country’s image. From the start, she noted, there were attempts to block her inquiry. “This became worse because of the actions and words of the top leader who seemed to be encouraging to set aside human rights in the war against illegal drugs,” she said, alluding to Mr. Duterte. De Lima vowed to continue to stand for truth and her duty as senator. Pacquiao motion After Cayetano delivered his speech which was mainly to defend Mr. Duterte’s efforts to crack down on crime, Pacquiao stood up to declare vacant the chairmanship and membership of the justice committee. Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon opposed Pacquiao’s motion as without basis, prompting Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to suspend the session and to call for a caucus of senators to discuss the matter. After the hourlong meet, the senators returned with Pimentel, acting on Pacquiao’s motion, declaring vacant all positions in the justice committee. Recto stood up to say the issue should be resolved by the majority. The vote to declare the committee positions vacant resulted in 16 senators agreeing to it, four voted against, while two abstained.
Almost blocked Cayetano’s bid to deliver the privilege speech was almost blocked after Drilon stood up to move for the suspension of the session so that senators could have a caucus. But his motion failed after a majority of the senators voted against it and allowed Cayetano to give his speech. The 16 senators who voted to declare the committee positions vacant were Pimentel, Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Cayetano, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II, Gordon, Lacson, Loren Legarda, Pacquiao, Poe, Sotto, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Zubiri. The four against it were Drilon, Pangilinan, Bam Aquino and Risa Hontiveros. Abstaining from the vote were Antonio Trillanes IV and Recto. Cayetano did not say anything against Trillanes, after the latter sent him a letter of apology early in the day for his “demeanor” at last week’s Senate hearing.