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THE BLIND MEN AND AN ELEPHANT? | Guess what Duterte, 15 senators talked about during dinner

President Rodrigo Duterte's March 14, 2017 dinner with 15 senators from the majority bloc. Photo from Sen. JV Ejercito's Facebook page.
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines – Was it like the parable of the blind men and an elephant? All attended the same dinner and were in the same table with the chief executive but had different stories of what they had talked about with him.

It appears to be so. On Tuesday night, March 14, the same day when former solicitor general Florin Hilbay was passionately defending detained Sen. Leila de Lima before the Supreme Court, 15 senators from the majority bloc went to Malacanang to dine with President Rodrigo Duterte.

[READ RELATED STORY: Hilbay: De Lima wasn't accused of drug dealing, how could she have engaged in drug trade?

The entourage was composed of Senate president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, majority leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate president pro-tempore Raplh Recto; and senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Richard Gordon; Manny Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sonny Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe.

What did the President tell them and what did they tell to him? What was the main topic during their dinner? Was it about the death penalty bill? About Gina Lopez’s confirmation? De Lima’s case or the alleged destabilization plot?

Apparently like the blind men who touched the same elephant but had different descriptions of the mammal, the senators had different accounts on what they had discussed with Duterte.

Recto said the death penalty was “briefly” discussed during the dinner. But this was denied by Sotto and Ejercito.

“Nope, more light topics,” Ejercito said in a text message to reporters. He said  Duterte made the “usual pitch for war against drugs, and partially proposed tax reform measure.”

“Nope, purely socials,” Sotto said in a separate text message to media.

Ejercito in another media interview on Wednesday said that the President told them that the allegations linking De Lima to illegal drug trade had basis because the information was from “international intelligence.

Hanggang doon lang. ‘Yon lang ang naalala ko [Only up to that. That’s the only thing I remembered],” said Ejercito.

According to Zubiri, their talk with the President centered on Legarda’s love life.

Ang light, light talaga ng dinner, as a matter of fact, he is more interested in Senator Loren Legarda’s love life. Seriously, you can ask her, we spent one fourth of the dinner time talking about her love life,” Zubiri told reporters on Wednesday.

Poe also saidtheir conversation with Duterte was “very light and comfortable” and that it wasn’t a loyalty check and they did not talk about alleged destabilization efforts.

She only shared that she told Duterte about the status of the Senate’s emergency powers and thanked him for calling her a “good person.”

Did Duterte mention about De Lima’s case? Poe refused to confirm it, saying there’s such a thing called presidential executive privilege.

Meanwhile, an official statement from the Palace on Wednesday confirmed the dinner meet and said that aside from it ,“the President and the Senators exchanged views on vital legislative agenda currently pending in the Senate.” 

“Among the pending bills they discussed were the proposed emergency powers to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila and the proposed comprehensive tax reform package, which seeks to realign the revenue collection of the government, boost the available income of the taxpayers, while guaranteeing the healthy operation of the government and the country’s inclusive development programs,” said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

“They likewise talked about the President’s war on drugs and the Senate concurrence to the Philippines’ accession to the Paris Agreement. 
In all, it was a productive evening,” added Abella.- ARCS