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Senate removes De Lima from justice panel

In this Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Sen. Leila De Lima, chairperson of the Senate justice committee, shows a picture on a laptop as former Filipino militiaman Edgar Matobato answers questions during his testimony at the Senate in Pasay, Philippines. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED 6:27 p.m.) — Sixteen senators on Monday approved Sen. Manny Pacquiao's motion to declare the Senate justice committee vacant.

Sen. Leila de Lima, the Senate panel chair, was replaced by Sen. Richard Gordon. The committee led by De Lima is conducting an investigation into the rising number of drug-related killings in recent months.

 

Earlier, Pacquiao asked the Senate floor to unseat the current membership of the committee.

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"I move that the chairmanship and members of the Committee on Justice be declared vacant," Pacquiao said during the Senate session.

Senate President pro-tempore Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, opposed Pacquiao's move, saying the Senate cannot declare the chairmanship of a committee vacant.

The move came after Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano's privilege speech questioning the credibility of a confessed hitman who tagged President Rodrigo Duterte in killings in Davao City. Cayetano said Sen. Leila de Lima, the committee chairperson, is using the panel to go after Duterte.

"Kitang kita po ang bias ng ilang senator sa laban sa krusada ng pangulo," Cayetano said.

"Let someone else chair. In my past speech I said, I'm not even asking that she removed from  the committee on justice only on certain hearing where we cannot expect cold neutrality," Cayetano added.

Cayetano connected De Lima's bias to her past initiatives to conduct a probe against alleged extrajudicial killings in Davao City when she was still a chair of Commission on Human Rights and as Justice secretary.

De Lima walked out of the hall while Cayetano was delivering his speech. According to reports, De Lima will deliver her own privilege speech this week to counter Cayetano's.

The brief exchange prompted Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to suspend the Senate session.

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