MANILA - Two of President Rodrigo Duterte's closest allies who have clinched seats in the Senate on Wednesday said they would not become the chief executive's rubber stamp in the chamber.
Senators-elect Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, among 12 incoming senators proclaimed Wednesday, made the assurance as critics have raised concerns about the Senate’s independence following the election of 9 of Duterte’s allies.
Go and Dela Rosa, both political neophytes, are considered the most loyal to the President among the newly elected senators, having worked with the long-time Davao City mayor for decades.
The two are, thus, expected to back all of Duterte’s legislative priorities, such as the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability.
Even while he is expected to give all-out support for Duterte, Go assured the public that the President only has the interests of Filipinos in mind.
“Mukha ba akong rubber stamp? Senador po ako. Wala pong rubber stamp sa Senado,” Go told reporters after his proclamation as senator at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
(Do I look like a rubber stamp? I am a senator. There is no rubber stamp in the Senate.)
“Susuportahan ko si Pangulong Duterte at lahat ng kaniyang magiging agenda. Kilala ko si Pangulong Duterte, for the past 21 years wala siyang inuutos sa amin na mali.”
(I will support President Duterte and his agenda. I know President Duterte. For the past 21 years, he did not ask us to do something wrong.)
Dela Rosa, for his part, said Duterte himself told him on Tuesday evening to put the welfare of Filipinos above all else.
“The other night, tinawagan ko si presidente. Tinanong ko siya, ‘Sir, any advice, any guidance bago ako papasok sa Senado?’” Dela Rosa told reporters after the proclamation rites.
(The other night, I called him and asked him, “Sir, any advice, any guidance before I enter the Senate?)
“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.”
(The other night, I called him and asked him, “Sir, any advice, any guidance before I enter the Senate? He said, “Bato, you are already a senator of the Filipino people; you are not a senator of Duterte. I will not meddle in your work and you should do your job for the benefit of the Filipino people.”)
Dela Rosa had served as Duterte's police chief when he was Davao City mayor and was later appointed as Philippine National Police chief when the latter became President.
As PNP chief, he spearheaded Duterte’s war on drugs on a national scale, earning him countless criticism for the thousands of deaths linked to the campaign.
Meanwhile, other elected senators gave similar assurances about the Senate’s future under Duterte, noting that the upper chamber has traditionally been independent.
“Most senators I think are independent-minded. We want to help the President succeed. We want to help the people but they also expect independence from the senators,” said Sen. Sonny Angara, who succeeded in his reelection bid after placing 6th with 18.16 million votes.
Angara is part of the Senate majority and was backed by the President in his reelection bid.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, for her part, said members of the Senate and House of Representatives must set aside their political differences.
“The Senate or the entire Congress, after all, is a collegial body, [and] our legislative powers are vested in all the members as a collegial body. The laws we craft or legislate must consider all interests. A strong and independent Senate has always been our goal ever since,” Cynthia said in a speech after the proclamation rites.
She topped the polls with more than 25 million votes.
Sen. Nancy Binay, who is neither allied nor opposed to the Duterte administration, said that ultimately, the Senate’s decisions will be based on the interests of the country and not benefit just one political party or individual.