OPPOSITION Senator Antonio Trillanes IV yesterday warned Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III that he will work hard to oust him if he does not get rid of Senator Richard Gordon as chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.
Pimentel later shrugged off the threat and said Trillanes can go ahead.
At Thursday’s “Kapihan sa Senado,” Trillanes told reporters he will move to replace Pimentel as Senate president if Gordon remains chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.
“I see him as passive. His leadership is very passive,” Trillanes said of Pimentel, noting that he tolerated Gordon’s moves in the committee to protect President Rodrigo Duterte and his family during Senate investigations on extrajudicial killings, smuggling and corruption.
As chairman of a committee that holds public officials accountable for wrongdoings, Gordon should have the mindset of an investigator, not a defense lawyer, Trillanes said.
He said Gordon’s leadership of the committee has hurt the independence of the Senate.
Trillanes said he had talked to Pimentel about Gordon, but the Senate president has not acted on these concerns.
Pimentel, on the other hand, did not only tolerate Gordon, he seemed to believe he was doing a good job defending the President.
“Is there nobody better than Gordon?” he asked in Filipino.
Trillanes also said he would file an ethics and plunder complaint against Gordon, who shrugged off the warning.
“He keeps on threatening. Let him do his work. I am ready to answer anything,” Gordon told reporters in a telephone interview.
When he heard that Trillanes also threatened to file criminal charges against him for misusing Red Cross funds, he shot back: “What is he? The president of the International Liars Association? I am not paid there in the Red Cross. Some of you get blood from the Red Cross. Some of you ask for ambulance [service] from the Red Cross. I mean, we serve. I don’t get any money here.”
Gordon had earlier filed an ethics complaint against Trillanes for his supposed unparliamentary acts, the latest of which, according to Gordon, was calling the Blue Ribbon committee a “comite de absuwelto” (committee to acquit).
Trillanes said he is confident the Gordon complaint will not go anywhere.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, also came under fire as Human Rights Watch called him the “denier-in-chief” for defending Duterte’s “murderous drug war.”
“Deny everything. That’s the tactic Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano deployed last week when he took the podium of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York in a bid to justify his government’s murderous ‘war on drugs’,” said Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement Thursday.
Kine said Cayetano declared that Duterte’s “drug war” was a “necessary instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of all Filipinos and was never an instrument to violate human rights.”
“That demonstrably false declaration did more than add gross insult to injury for family members of the thousands of victims, including children, killed in the anti-drug campaign over the past 15 months. It also airbrushed the fact that compelling evidence compiled by Human Rights Watch and investigative journalists has demonstrated that many of those deaths amount to extrajudicial killings by Philippine National Police personnel and their agents,” said Kine.
Kine said Cayetano appeared untroubled by those facts.
“That’s likely because he has had five months to hone his delivery of such blatant falsehoods since his role of denier-in-chief for Duterte’s drug war began during the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines’ human rights record in Geneva in May. At that time, Cayetano rejected outright reports of high death tolls linked to the drug war as alternative facts with no basis in reality,” said Kine.
He dismissed statistical evidence and well-documented accounts of a surge in killings of suspected drug users and dealers since Duterte took office in June 2016, as a baseless “political tactic” wielded by the President’s critics, he said.
“Cayetano isn’t backing down. During his UN speech he dismissed evidence of abuses linked to the drug war as nothing more than misinformation, fake news and politicization of human rights,” Kine said.
And in an apparent response to Human Rights Watch’s call for a UN-led investigation, Cayetano invoked Philippine “sovereignty” in defense of the government’s “assessment of threats and how to go about addressing them,” he said.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, however, denied that drug-related killings had become institutionalized.
“Nothing has been institutionalized,” Acosta said in Filipino at a forum in San Juan. “Otherwise we would not have any clients.”
As proof of her statement, Acosta said PAO handles more than 80,000 clients—alive, not dead—in drug-related cases.
In response to a question regarding a Senate resolution calling for an inquiry to determine whether or not the killings, especially of minors, are caused by “institutional reasons,” Acosta said the government does not bless merciless killing.