The bitterest reaction to the dismissal of Liberal Party senators from the committee chairmanships they held had to come from erstwhile Senate president pro tempore Franklin Drilon. Drilon admitted that while the majority had the numbers to remove them from their juicy, powerful posts, he pointed out that the LPs had contributed six votes to install Aquilino Pimentel III as head of the chamber.
Drilon is right to accuse Pimentel of being an ingrate who, in seeking to gather up the most number of allies in a traditionally independent Senate, needed the LPs to join Pimentel in that ill-fated “supermajority” that made him Senate president. But Drilon is mistaken in suggesting that the six LP votes were really necessary for control of the chamber—or that the LPs’ brand of chameleon-like collaboration was even good for the Senate, in the long run.
In the end, the Senate majority (yes, the regular kind, not the super-sized one) agreed that if their colleagues across the political aisle are going to act like the enemy, then they shouldn’t enjoy the perks that go with being allies. It’s really that simple.
But give Drilon and his fellow Yellows some credit for dreaming up this unique majority-but-still-minority solution to secure power and pelf beyond the LP’s shelf life as the affiliation in control of the Senate. It was untenable from the very beginning —and when push came to shove in the chamber as far as its legislative and oversight agenda was concerned, the ax had to fall on this misbegotten marriage of political convenience.
The tipping point, I’m told, was the caucus held recently by the Senate to determine what to do with retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas. The decision was finally made during that fateful meeting to restart the hearings where Lascañas had basically cleared President Rodrigo Duterte of any involvement with the supposed Davao Death Squad, in order to allow the ex-cop to disavow his earlier testimony.
The LPs, who were all in favor of listening to Lascañas perjure himself, won that battle. But the victory came at a terrible price, by way of a knockout blow from Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, who started the process of removing the Liberals from their chairmanships.
(It is foolish to claim that Pacquiao was the instigator of the revamp; the majority merely decided, I think, that if someone had to knock the Yellows from their chairmanships, then it had to be someone who has made a career out of delivering mighty blows with his fists. The majority, in fact, held another allies-only conference right before the Pacquiao motion on Monday, during which it was decided who would replace the double-dealing Liberals.)
I understand how difficult it was to make the decision to boot out Drilon and his gang of two-timing Liberals from their lucrative chairmanships. The Senate, after all, is a hyper-exclusive club of chummy-chummy politicians who have proven national constituencies and who consider each other the ultimate political elite.
But this club atmosphere was exploited and abused by Drilon and his LPs, who thought that by remaining nominally in the “super majority,” they no longer had any obligation to respect the majority’s agenda. And so, like the Yellows outside the Senate, they overstayed their welcome and even tried to find the higher moral ground after being exposed as the political opportunists that they really are.
Losing a powerful Senate position or chairmanship is more than just a symbolic vote of no-confidence from one’s own peers, after all. The extra staff and allowances that go with such posts, combined with the power of oversight and investigation over key vote-rich or cash-rich industries or sectors, always come in handy for senators who need that strategic edge over their colleagues.
So it did hurt, even if the LPs in the Senate can’t say that they didn’t bring it upon themselves. Especially Drilon, who knows a thing or two about remaining in power and controlling the proverbial 24 republics of the Senate.
But there is a way back, even for Drilon and his Team Liberal. If they really want their power and perks back, they can always renounce their present affiliation and join the regular majority.
They’ve been known to do that there, as well. That’s just how the Senate rolls.
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But by far the most strident outpouring of anger about the Senate revamp came not from any affected senator, but from the busiest busybody in all of government today: Vice President Leni Robredo.
Robredo warned of creeping one-man rule and all sorts of evil things that will arise after the Liberals were removed from their important positions in the Senate. I get that she’s a Liberal herself and recently crowned head of the opposition, but I can’t understand why she didn’t just keep quiet, if she truly understood what went down last Monday.
Madam Leni, your party-mates were just given the heave-ho after rafting once too often in two rivers simultaneously, as the old Tagalog saying on infidelity goes. Given your own personal experience with being neither here nor there as a former opposition member embedded in—and later thrown out of—the Cabinet, you really should just keep your trap shut on this one.