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Palace says Gordon will do 'excellent job'; denies hand in De Lima ouster

Sen. Richard Gordon has vowed to continue the probe on the drug-related killings in an “objective manner.” GEREMY PINTOLO
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang believes Sen. Richard Gordon would do an “excellent job” as chairman of the Senate justice committee as it maintained that it had nothing to do with the ouster of Sen. Leila de Lima as head of the body.
“Sen. Dick Gordon is an illustrious fellow. He has been in the Senate for 12 years. He also served as mayor of Olongapo and chairman of SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority),” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press briefing Tuesday.
“This guy is one of the brightest leaders we have so I’m pretty certain Sen. Gordon will do an excellent job,” he added.
While Andanar claimed that the executive department did not have a hand in the ouster of De Lima, he congratulated Gordon for his new post.
“The senate has its own political dynamics. All of those who voted to oust the senator are senators and not members of the executive. The same is true for those who abstained and those who voted in favor of Sen. De Lima. We congratulate also Sen. Dick Gordon,” he said.
Voting 16-4, the Senate ousted de Lima as chairperson of the justice committee last Monday, four days after she presented a witness who tagged Duterte in the killing of criminals in Davao City.
During last Thursday’s Senate hearing, Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed killer, claimed that he was a member of the Davao Death Squad and that Duterte, who was then mayor of the city, ordered the execution of several people.
Senators who favored the ouster of De Lima cited the need to remove suspicions that the investigation is biased against Duterte. Those who voted against her ouster, however, are concerned about the impact of her removal on the Senate’s independence.
Gordon has vowed to continue the probe on the drug-related killings in an “objective manner.” De Lima is convinced that Duterte was behind her ouster because she has been critical of the administration’s war on drugs.
“He (Duterte) is really angry with me right? I mean he was not concealing his anger towards me when I started this inquiry. He really disrespected me and hurled below the belt allegations. He issued statements like ‘you’re finished,’” De Lima said in an interview last Monday.
Andanar said the executive respects the independence of the Senate. He said the removal of De Lima as justice committee chair was unexpected.
“We have work to do. The Senate should be independent and the executive should mind its own business,” the presidential communications chief said.
“We don’t meddle with the affairs of the Senate but the senator is entitled to her own opinion.”
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said De Lima’s ouster showed that majority of senators would not allow the committee to be used to besmirch the president’s reputation through “unfounded and malicious imputations.”
“She (De Lima) should have voluntarily inhibited herself from chairing such committee, having previously positioned herself as a political adversary of (President Duterte) many years back,” Panelo said.
Panelo claimed that De Lima had embarked on a “biased and unsuccessful investigation” of extrajudicial killings in Davao City when she was the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights.
“De Lima’s removal as chair is a comeuppance or a deserved rebuke from her peers in the Senate,” he said.
Panelo said De Lima is just using Duterte as a scapegoat for her predicament.
“Getting a two-thirds negative vote of her own colleagues to remove her (as chairperson) is an eloquent proof of her undoing and reckless abuse of her position as senator,” the president’s chief lawyer said.
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