Rubber stamps? Duterte allies promise Senate independence

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — With eight of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anointed candidates heading to the Senate, his fiercest allies vowed to keep the upper chamber independent.

Senator-elect and the former head of Duterte's war on drugs Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa on Wednesday said he will not be a yes-man to the President now that he is set to serve as a lawmaker.

"Rubber stamp? Definitely no. Ako ay cooperative and supportive, but not under the dictates of Malacañang," he said.

The former Philippine National Police Chief recalled a conversation with Duterte wherein he asked for guidance on how to face his new gargantuan job.

"Sabi niya sa akin, 'Bato, you are already a senator of the Filipino people. You are not a senator of Duterte. Hindi kita pakikialaman sa trabaho mo at gawin mo ang trabaho mo para sa kapakanan ng Pilipino.' Klaro iyan, hindi niya ako papakialaman," he said. He also revealed that he has previously aired his grievances to the President and said they have talked about it openly.

Staunch Duterte ally Cynthia Villar, the topnotcher in the senatorial race, said the Senate will remain focused on working for the public, not at the whims of one man.

"The laws we craft or legislate must consider all interests involved. A strong and independent Senate has always been our goal ever since," she said.

Of the newly-proclaimed senators, only Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, and Lito Lapid ran without the blessing of either the President or his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. With the entry of the 12 new senators, there will only be four opposition senators against 20 in the Senate majority bloc in the 18th Congress.

"The Senate should always be viewed as an institution, not the individual members," Senator-elect Francis Tolentino, Duterte's former political adviser, said.