Senator Leila de Lima was unceremoniously ousted as the Chair of the Senate Justice Committee Monday night. De Lima’s removal came after fellow neophyte Senator Manny Pacquiao filed a motion that her position be declared vacant. Sixteen senators approved the move.
Only four of her colleagues voted in support of De Lima: Senate President pro tempore Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan. All five belong to the opposition Liberal Party. Shortly after the voting, it was announced that the Justice Committee will now be led by Senator Richard Gordon.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News, De Lima said that she wasn’t really surprised by her ouster since she has long earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies. “I kind of expected this already. I wasn’t surprised anymore. I know I will continue to be pilloried because it’s the President himself who wants that. We know what’s been happening since I initiated the inquiry into the spate of extrajudicial killings,” the former justice secretary said.
Since mid-August, De Lima has used her Senate committee to hold hearings about the government’s conduct of the War on Drugs, an initiative which has already claimed the lives of about 2,000 people. Last week, her committee presented to the public Edgar Matobato, a former employee of Davao City Hall and self-confessed assassin who worked for the Davao Death Squad.
It is not clear if Gordon will continue the Senate investigation into the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. Two weeks ago, Gordon proposed giving the President the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to enable him in the war against organized crime and terrorists.
PS: I have no love lost for Senator Leila de Lima. I find her constant tirades against President Rody Duterte‘s War on Drugs hypocritical, mainly because she served as Justice Secretary under an administration where the drug problem worsened a lot. But on the other hand, I am happy she’s there in the Senate as a fiscalizer.