‘I would suggest to the Senate – there are 24 sovereignties in the Senate, you cannot dictate to the senators, that’s my experience – to act in accordance with their perception of what is best for the people’
MANILA, Philippines (Jul. 26, 2017) — Former Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr has asked present senators to maintain their independence under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The veteran lawmaker, the father of Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, was reacting to criticisms against the 17th Congress for being Duterte’s lackey.
With Congress filled with Duterte allies now, the former senator said it is expected that many legislators would support the Chief Executive. He, however, said that senators should decide based on their own judgment.
“Essentially, I think that since the majority of members of both houses of Congress are affiliated with the party of the president, that adulation would stick to them,” Pimentel told Rappler in an interview on Tuesday, July 25.
Pimentel is the founder of PDP-Laban, the ruling party, but is no longer active in its affairs. His son is the party president and a staunch Duterte ally.
“Except I would suggest to the Senate – there are 24 sovereignties in the Senate, you cannot dictate to the senators, that’s my experience – to act in accordance with their perception of what is best for the people,” Pimentel said.
“It is just my impression that whatever the administration wishes to be done, the Senate should do if it’s in [accordance] to the will of the Senate. [Maintain their] independence, of course,” he added.
In his 2nd State of the Nation Address, Duterte exerted pressure on senators to pass his version of the tax reform bill in toto, even “threatening” ways and means chair Juan Edgardo Angara on his reelection bid.
But for Pimentel, no one can impose on the Senate, as it is an “independent body.” At the very least, Duterte’s statement could just be a “suggestion.”
“I think that’s a good suggestion but that is just a suggestion, it cannot be an imposition because the Senate is an independent body. Meaning to say, a proposal can come from the President – ‘This is the tax reform that I want.’ The Senate can expand on it or limit it. We are a free country and I believe that,” Pimentel said.
Senators are not keen on passing the executive version of the bill, calling it “anti-poor.” Duterte is pushing for lower income tax rates but wants to impose higher levy on sugar-sweetened beverages, housing, cars, and fuel.
There have also been precedents showing it is not good for politicians to impose new taxes before an election. Aside from Angara, there are at least 6 senators eyeing reelection in 2019, including the younger Pimentel.