SEVERAL senators from the Liberal Party (LP) of the Philippines were ousted from their committee chairmanships and removed from the senate majority on Monday.
According to a report by the Philstar, the chairmanships of the committees on education, agriculture and health were declared vacant.
Sen. Franklin Drilon was also replaced as Senate President Pro Tempore by Sen. Ralph Recto.
Others removed from their positions include Sen. Cynthia Villar chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a Liberal Party ally who chaired the committee on health, and Sen. Bam Aquino who has been ousted as chairman of the committee on education.
The move will prove controversial as all affected committees were chaired by LP members who have been voicing opposition to some of the administration’s policies.
Each of the ousted senators have also visited Sen. Leila de Lima prior to her arrest last week.
They also attended the 31st anniversary celebration of the EDSA revolution at the People Power Monument in Quezon City last Saturday, an event that commemorates the People Power Revolution that saw a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and electoral fraud between 1983 and 1986.
“If this is the price to pay to show up on the streets of EDSA, talking about democracy, talking about the issues of violence on our streets… If this is the price to pay, I gladly pay that price,” Aquino said on being stripped off his committee chairmanship.
The seemingly strategic removal of the LP members will likely feed opinion that President Rodrigo Duterte is taking action to silence his critics.
De Lima, a human rights lawyer before joining government, was arrested last week on drug and corruption charges. De Lima, a long-time critic of President Duterte, has maintained her innocence on all accusations and has long asserted that the charges are “politically motivated”, believing it has been Duterte’s goal to put her in jail since she publicly criticised his controversial war on drugs.
Members of the Liberal Party have also spoken out in defence of De Lima, sharing her concern that the charges are being used as a “political tool.”
She is currently detained at the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame.