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De Lima removed as justice panel chair

The Senate voted to oust Sen. Leila M. de Lima as chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights last night.

Acting on a motion by Sen. Manny Pacquiao after Sen. Alan Peter S. Cayetano delivered a privilege speech criticizing De Lima for using the Senate probe on extrajudicial killings to destroy the country’s image in the international community, the Senate voted 16-4-3 (yes-no-abstain) to declare the entire nine-member committee vacant.

The motion was objected to by Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin M. Drilon, prompting a suspension of the session and a caucus was held.

Senators emerged after a closed-door meeting presided over by Senate President Koko Pimentel and the voting was held.

Named by Pimentel to replace De Lima, based on the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III, was Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, chairperson of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee, was tapped as Gordon’s deputy.

New members of the panel were Pacquiao and Senators Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Grace Poe, Francis N. Pangilinan, De Lima, Cayetano, and one from the Senate Minority Bloc.

The Senate Minority Bloc – Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto and Senators Francis Joseph “Chiz” G. Escudero, and Antonio F. Trillanes IV – abstained while De Lima’s Liberal Party mates Drilon, Bam Aquino IV, Pangilinan, and Risa Hontiveros voted no.

De Lima did not participate in the voting.

Her removal as chairperson of the panel came days after she presented hitman Edgar Matobato, who testified on the existence of the Davao Death Squad and President Duterte’s hand in extrajudicial killings in Davao City.
(Hannah L. Torregoza and Mario B. Casayuran)

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