LP waiting on possible House realignment after death penalty vote

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines)­ — Liberal Party (LP) President Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said the party is waiting for the death penalty vote at the Lower House, as this could lead to a possibly significant party shift in Congress.

"There might be a realignment after the vote," Pangilinan told CNN Philippines' The Source.

For now, the party wants its members to focus on the debates on the death penalty first.

The LP is deciding whether it will assume the role of the minority at the House of Representatives.

The party decided in a meeting on Tuesday to wait until after the vote to see if House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez would follow through on his ultimatum to strip majority congressmen of their positions if they voted against death penalty. The move could trigger the split.

Related: LP ready to be main opposition party in Congress?

"That's why I said that we will postpone the discussions on this...then after the vote, let us sit down again," said Pangilinan.

Some congressmen have expressed that they are mulling over joining the minority, if necessary.

"Kung bigyan ng sapat na panahon na magprocess...let's say ang pasya is mag-minority, kung yun din naman ang patutunguhan, mas marami ang sasama," said Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat.

[Translation: If we are given the right time to process... let's say the decision is to go to the minority, then if that is where we are headed, a lot of us will go.]

There are at least 30 congressmen in the party, since a majority of them jumped ship after President Rodrigo Duterte's victory. Seven of them head committees.

The possibility of a move to the minority also comes after LP senators were stripped of their own posts on Monday.

Related: Liberal party senators, ally lose posts

 

Threat to independence

Pangilinan said he noticed the "shift... in posturing and positioning" as well as the "body language" of the other senators, which left him unsurprised at the turn of events on Monday.

He said that there was "a threat to (Senate) independence."

"Sa kasaysayan ng senado, kapag kinakailangan tumindig at manindigan para sa independence ng senado, to serve as a check and balance, nangyayari yan," said Pangilinan.

[Translation: Historically, if someone needs to hear and fight for the independence of the Senate, to serve as a check and balance, it happens.]

He recounted instances where the Senate dissented in administration policies, from the extension of the U.S. bases in President Corazon Aquino's term to the handling of the Mamasapano clash under President Benigno Aquino III.

He also said the Senate was critical in other controversies like the multibillion land reclamation Public Estates Authority-Amari deal under President Fidel Ramos, the jueteng scandal under President Joseph Estrada, and the ZTE broadband network deal during President Gloria Arroyo's term.

"That's why sa amin, this is a tradition of the Senate, na maging check," he added. "Walang administrasyon na perpekto."

[Translation: That why for us, this is a tradition of the Senate, to be a check. There is no such thing as a perfect administration.]

"(We feel) the direction it is taking is towards... becoming compromised, but it's not too late," Pangilinan continued. "I trust that the senators, during critical moments, will be able to rise above our differences and above the personal interests."

Pangilinan expounded on their reasons to conceding to join the minority on a Twitter thread after the CNN Philippines interview.

 

 

Senate President Koko Pimentel said on Monday that legislative work had been "hampered by the blurring of the lines between the majority and minority."

Related: Senate shakeup not about move to quell opposition dissent - Pimentel

However, Pangilinan reiterated LP members are taking the lead in backing many of the pending bills.

 

"In yesterday's session, Sen. Drilon was still defending a measure," said Pangilinan. "I also was defending the coco levy measure yesterday, answering questions from Sen. Gordon."

"I'd like to clarify, we are in the opposition, but we will not oppose for the sake of opposing. In fact we would continue to support measures that we believe would be the best for the nation, but... there are certain issues that you just have the raise dissent because this is a democracy," he added.

The Senate is set to hear the testimony of self-confessed death squad leader Arturo Lascanas on Monday.

Pangilinan says that the hearing "may be a defining moment" for the independence of the institution.

CNN Correspondent Rex Remitio contributed to this report.