‘Macho bloc’ initiated talks on Senate shakeup
It was the members of the so-called “macho bloc” in the Senate who initiated the talks among senators that later resulted in the removal of Liberal Party (LP) senators and allies from their key posts in the chamber.
The “macho bloc” is composed of Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Gringo Honasan.
“Kaming apat ang nag-start. Senators Honasan, Sotto, partly Sen. (Loren) Legarda. Kami ang nakaka-observe na bakit ganito ang situation namin? Yan ang story,” Lacson told reporters on Tuesday.
On Senator Manny Pacquiao’s motion on Monday, the LP senators were stripped of their key posts in the Senate.
“There are currently four LP members in the Senate, including its party president, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Senator Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, and Leila De Lima, who is detained over drug charges. Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros, who ran with LP during the last May polls, was also removed as chair of the committee on health.
Lacson said the decision did not happen overnight, citing the many instances where they noticed the LP senators and allies voting against the so-called “supermajority” bloc.
“Awkward ang situation. Hindi kami maka-caucus as a majority in the Senate nang nakapagusap nang libre because may kasamahan kami may mga reservations tungkol sa legislative agenda, na may mga kasama members of the so-called super majority who almost always vote with the minority, especially with Sen. Trillanes. I’m referring to committee referrals,” Lacson said when asked why they moved against the LP senators.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is part of the minority bloc.
Lacson cited, for instance, how the LP senators, and Hontiveros voted to refer the investigation on the P50 million bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration to Trillanes’ committee on civil, service and government reorganization, instead of going along with the majority, who wanted to have it referred to the Senate blue ribbon committee.
“And there were so many instances na napansin ng grupo namin, na pagdating sa botohan, laging naroon sila. Na-notice din namin pag may issue na tina-tackle sa floor, Sen. Trillanes would always go to them and consult, instead of consulting the members of the minority, why would he consult certain members of the majority?”
“So hindi ito one-shot deal o na-decide overnight,” Lacson added.
So on Sunday night, Lacson said, 17 or 18 senators met at Senator Manny Pacquiao’s house in Makati City and “firmed up” their decision.
“There were reservations as to the timing. And I myself was the one who pushed. We already decided on this, we voted on this, it was unanimous. What’s the reason for postponing the action? Chances are it might leak and may ibang mangyari,” he said.
After deliberations, Lacson said the majority decided to retain some committee chairmanships to the LP senators and its allies.
“Kung wala kaming mercy at kami talagang malupit, dapat walang naiwang committee sa kanila. Hahawakan namin ang lahat na committees. But we deliberated on it, we wanted to be fair. We just wanted to make a statement and we wanted to make ourselves comfortable pagka nagho-hold kami ng caucus on issues pertaining to the Senate,” he said.
Drilon was ousted as Senate President Pro Tempore but he kept the chairmanship of the committee on constitutional amendments. Pangilinan, who was removed as chair of the committee on agriculture, later took over the chairmanship of the committee after Drilon was elected new Senate Minority Leader.
Aquino was also removed as chair of the committee on education but he keeps the chairmanship of the committee on science and technology. Hontiveros also stays as chair of the committee on women, even after she was stripped of the chairmanship of committee on health.
After they were stripped of their posts, the four LP senators as well as Hontiveros bolted to the minority group with Trillanes.
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