Philippines: Duterte’s fiercest critic booted from committee investigating killings
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Philippines: Duterte’s fiercest critic booted from committee investigating killings

ACCUSED of bias after she allowed a self-confessed hitman to link Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to over a thousand murders, Senator Leila De Lima was on Monday unceremoniously removed from the Senate committee investigating the killings.

De Lima was not the only casualty when Senator Manny Pacquiao moved a motion against her and her team. All eight members in the justice committee headed by De Lima were also kicked out after the majority in the chamber voted aye.

A total of 20 votes were registered, with 16 voting for and four voting against. Two members abstained from voting.

The drama unfolded when Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, a known supporter of Duterte, stood up to deliver a privilege speech during the Senate session.

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Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. Pic via Facebook.

SEE ALSO: Duterte ordered critic, rival supporters killed, mosque bombed, Senate told

According to Inquirer, Cayetano singled out De Lima in his tirade, accusing the senator of painting a negative picture of the Philippine government’s fight against the drug menace.

He also accused De Lima of misleading the international media in her alleged bid to destroy the Senate’s image.

“Long-honored traditions of collegiality and civility” among senators were being destroyed, he said according to Inquirer, in reference to last week’s episode when De Lima presented former hitman Edgar Matobato as a witness to the Senate hearing.

Matobato in his testimony claimed he was formerly a member of the infamous Davao Death Squad (DDS) and that Duterte, during his time as mayor, had ordered the murder of over a thousand people, including his rival supporters, among others.

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Matobato during his testimony at the Senate hearing in the Philippines. Pic: AP.

SEE ALSO: Filipino hired gun facing heat for damning Duterte testimony

“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 was quoted saying.

An angry De Lima walked out of the chamber mid-speech, saying she no longer wanted to hear Cayetano dragging her name through the mud.

“I stood up and left to protest the plan to silence me and continue the search for the truth amid the killings being done in the campaign against drugs,” she said.

De Lima’s now-former justice committee had been leading the inquiry on the thousands of drug-related deaths that have occurred since Duterte’s ascension to presidency.

SEE ALSO: Calls for probe after hitman claims Duterte ordered Davao killings

According to The Philippine Star, it was after Cayetano’s speech that Pacquaio decided to table the motion seeking to unseat the current membership of the committee.

“I move that the chairmanship and members of the Committee on Justice be declared vacant,” he was quoted saying during the session.

The Senate has since voted to elect Senator Richard Gordon as its new chair and Senator Panfilo Lacson as vice-chair.

It is believed that De Lima will deliver her own privilege speech some time during the Senate session this week.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: Who dares investigate Duterte?

Both De Lima and Duterte have been longtime critics of one another. Under the weight of De Lima’s accusations, the Philippine president has numerous times lashed out at the senator with allegations of his own, once dubbing her an immoral woman and also accusing her of links to the drug trade.

The president recently released what he called a drug “matrix”, which he claimed proves the connection.

Duterte is currently under heavy international fire for his country’s war on drugs. Since he took office in June, over 3,000 people have been reported killed, many by vigilante groups fueled by the president’s anti-narcotics message.

It was on this message that Duterte won the presidency in May this year, along with the promise that he would, in three to six months, completely eradicate the drug menace in the Philippines.

On Sunday, however, the president admitted to the media that the task was bigger than he had imagined, and asked for a six-month extension.