MANILA - The Liberal Party (LP) is "not surprised" the anti-death penalty lawmakers were booted from their House leadership posts, but it is "concerned" as the move is "a disturbing indicator of a dangerous slide toward authoritarianism."
In a statement released by LP President Francis Pangilinan, the former ruling party underscored that "in a democracy, dissent must be met with thoughtful reasoning, not political retribution."
"The Liberal Party is concerned; kicking out the 'No' voters from House leadership positions betrays the administration's intolerance to dissent, a disturbing indicator of a dangerous slide toward authoritarianism," it said.
"Nasa demokrasya tayo at hindi diktadura. Hindi dahil tumututol sa ilang mga isyu na tinutulak ng administrasyon ay ibig sabihin ay kaaway na o dapat nang pinaparusahan o tinatanggalan ng komite ang mga halal ng opisyal," the LP also said.
The party also slammed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's action as "divisive and detrimental to the character of Congress as an independent and deliberative institution."
"Sa halip na pinagkaisa ang bansa, lalo lang nagkakawatak-watak dahil pwersahan ang kilos. Pinahihina nito at hindi pinapalakas ang ating demokrasya," it said.
LP said it tried to give multi-partisan support to the Duterte administration, "but uniting behind it appears to have become more and more untenable" because of its members' inability to support a number of the government's policies, including its failure to address the thousands of extra-judicial killings, among other controversies.
The party nevertheless said its members will continue to work on important pieces of legislation, engage in debates, vote according to our values and principles, and endeavor a society free of fear and poverty, where all are able to make their dreams come true.
Prior to the shuffle in the Lower House, LP senators and ally Senator Risa Hontiveros were also stripped of their key positions.
Pangilinan, Hontiveros, Senators Bam Aquino, Franklin Drilon, and Leila de Lima have since joined the minority. They have vowed to block a similar death penalty bill in the Upper Chamber, which has yet to be scrutinized.