No rubber stamp

May 14, 2019
Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte  wants independent Senate, allies who will back or oppose him according to their conscience -- Palace
Allies can criticize but constructively.

MALACANANG yesterday said it expects the new set of senators to deliver on the reform agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte but still remain independent.

The President is set to firm up his majority in the Senate as Duterte-backed candidates are poised to clinch nine of the 12 Senate seats at stake in Monday’s midterm elections, according to partial and unofficial tally of votes coming from the transparency server of the Commission on Elections.

Several analysts said a Senate majority for Duterte would make the institution less independent and easier for the government to pass controversial proposals, including federalism and restoring the death penalty.

Both proposals failed to take off during Duterte’s first three years in office.

But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the 102-year-old Senate has never been a rubber stamp of Malacañang.

“If you will notice, the history of the Senate shows [the] members of that chamber [have been] independent ever since. No Senate has been under any president. They always rise above parties and considerations when issues involved national interest, national security and the interest of the Filipino people,” Panelo said at a news conference.

Panelo said the Palace expects the new Senate allies of the President to be independent and to speak against the government’s policies if necessary.

“Certainly, we expect them to be fealty to the duties imposed to them by the Constitution and the laws,” he said.

“They have to support the President when the agenda of the President is for the good of the people and they will have to oppose it if they feel in their conscience that it runs counter to the interest of the nation.”

Panelo said the President will not take the criticism personally.

He added the Palace will not invite the opposition to join the Senate majority, saying they are essential to a “vibrant democracy.”

As for the government’s legislative agenda in the last three years of Duterte’s term, Panelo said the Palace will push for the shift to federal form of government among its new allies in the Senate.

“The victory of the administration’s candidates and the shut out of the Otso Diretso candidates send a strong message that our people yearn for stability and continuity of the genuine reforms that the administration started,” Panelo said in a statement.

“They yearn for a constructive -- not obstructionist -- Senate which will help in crafting the President’s legislative agenda. We laud the Filipino electorate for expressing their will in the strongest and unequivocal manner,” he said.

The new senators will assume office on June 30.