MANILA - Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday said several members of the Senate majority bloc feel that they are the "new minority" after most lawmakers voted in favor of adopting a resolution that asks the Supreme Court to determine the Senate's role in the termination of treaties.
Twelve senators, including some allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, voted in favor of the resolution that was seen as the Senate's move to assert its role in the chief executive's unilateral decision to abrogate the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. Seven lawmakers abstained from voting, while 5 others were not present during the voting.
"We are the new minority," Dela Rosa told reporters a day after the vote.
It was the cancellation of Dela Rosa's US visa that prompted the President to terminate the treaty.
"Sinasabi nga na may kaniya-kaniya tayong isip pero kung doon tayo sa political side of it, majority against minority, dapat majority palagi ang mananalo but we were not able to get the majority vote," he said.
(We say we have our own minds but if you look at the political side of it, majority against minority, the majority should always win but we were not able to get the majority vote.)
Dela Rosa dismissed insinuations that abstaining from the vote meant having a "parochial mentality."
"Ang gusto daw nila para maging statesman ang dating mo, iba ang paningin mo. Sorry, I am not a statesman. Ordinaryong senador lang ako, 'di ako statesman. 'Yun lang ang makaya ko ngayon. 'Di ako statesman pa," said Dela Rosa, on his first term in the Senate after serving as police and later corrections chief under the Duterte administration.
(They say for you to appear as a statesman, you should have a different point of view. Sorry, I am not a statesman. I'm an ordinary senator, not a statesman. That's the best I can do for now. I am not a statesman yet.)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Dela Rosa's remarks show he is still a "fledgling senator."
"Minsan kasi if you’re a fledgling senator, you need more time to get the ins and outs. Hindi nase-seminar 'yun. Mas mabilis lang matutunan 'yun kung galing ka sa local legislative body," Sotto told reporters.
(Sometimes if you're a fledgling senator, you need more time to get the ins and outs. You don't learn that in seminars. It's just faster to learn if you come from a local legislative body.)
"Baka lang hindi pa nila nafi-feel 'yung mga kagawian sa Senado. Hindi porke majority ka, all the time, lahat ng gusto mo, mananalo," he said.
(They might not yet feel the ways of the Senate. Just because you're in the majority, it doesn't mean that you win all the time.)
"This is the Senate. We are open to free debate. Kumbinsihin mo 'yung mga kasamahan mo. Magdebate tayo. Hindi puwedeng bulung-bulungan tayo tapos atsaka tayo boboto. That thinking perhaps is not of an independent Senate," he said.
(Convince your colleagues. We debate. It can't be about whispering to each other and then we go to a vote.)
Sotto gave Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon as an example of an independent lawmaker.
"You can see the minority leader, kahit na 'yung boto nung mga kasamahan niya [sa minority] ay no, he votes in favor of administration bills, even taxes. Antigong senador 'yun eh. He knows how it (Senate) works," he said.
(You can see the minority leader, even if his colleagues in the minority vote no, he votes in favor of administration bills, even taxes. He's a veteran in the Senate. He knows how it works.)
The Senate President advised Dela Rosa and other senators who might have felt bad about the resolution's adoption to "review" the Senate's decisions since the 9th Congress to see that the chamber is not "subservient" to the President.
"It cannot be a Senate of the administration... Kung gusto niyo lahat nang sasabihin ng Presidente ay puwede, mag-unicameral na lang tayo (If you want that everything the President says is ok, let's just be unicameral). Otherwise, there must be checks and balance," the Sotto said.
"Probably this would be a learning curve for some of our colleagues on how the Senate works. Ibig sabihin nun, there are 17 republics pa lang (that just means there are only 17 republics as yet)," he said, referring to how senators are referred to as "24 republics" for their independence.
DELA ROSA 'NOT A POLITICIAN'
Sen. Imee Marcos, who also abstained from voting on Senate Resolution No. 337, said there were no other senators who felt bad about losing in the plenary vote.
"Alam naman natin si Sen. Ronald, hindi pulitiko 'yan (We know that Sen. Ronald, he's not a politician)... We love Sen. Bato kasi he is so transparent, he is so authentic and he is so deeply emotional," Marcos said.
"Binibiro nga namin si Sen. Bato kasi madamdamin 'yun. Sabi namin sa kaniya na talagang nangyayari 'yun, kahit sa House of Representatives... Sabi ko sa kaniya, 'Masanay ka na,'" she said.
(We are teasing Sen. Bato because he's very sensitive. We told them that really happens, even in the House of Representatives... I told him 'get used to it.')