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MANILA (1st UPDATE) – The Senate on Monday night ousted Sen. Leila de Lima as chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and the opposition senator believes President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the plot to unseat her.
Acting on Senator Manny Pacquiao's motion to declare the chairmanship and membership of the Committee of Justice and Human Rights vacant, 16 senators voted yes, 4 voted against, and 2 abstained.
De Lima slammed the move, saying “it’s a numbers game, it’s a political move.”
“I know the president is behind this. I’ll announce my next move tomorrow in the course of my privilege speech,” she said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros took the cudgels for De Lima, saying “there was no overwhelming reason to declare the chairmanship of the committee on justice vacant.”
“If there were issues against Senator Leila’s objectivity, the proper venue for this was the committee on ethics,” she said.
Senator Richard Gordon replaced De Lima as chair of the committee, while Senator Panfilo Lacson was named as the new vice-chairman.
De Lima last week made headlines after she presented a surprise witness, Edgar Matobato, who claimed to have worked as a former hitman of Duterte, the long-time mayor of Davao City.
Duterte's spokesmen and allies have belied Matobato’s statements. The president has not spoken publicly about the allegations.
Pacquiao made the move ahead of Matobato’s second appearance before De Lima’s committee set this Thursday and in light of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s filing of a resolution seeking a separate probe by the justice committee on the Davao Death Squad.
The professional boxer-senator manifested his motion after Senator Alan Cayetano delivered a privilege speech accusing De Lima of destroying the country by pursuing the committee's probe on extrajudicial killings in the country linked to Duterte’s war on drugs.
"When she got here to the Senate and got the committee, she (De Lima) refused to be neutral... Let someone else chair. In my past speeches I'm not asking that she will be removed from the Committee on Justice, [but] only from certain hearings where we cannot expect cold neutrality,” he said.

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