‘Nothing but tabloid gossip, rubbish:’ Zubiri dismisses talks of leadership change
MANILA, Philippines — There has been no talk or any warnings of leadership changes in the chamber supposedly because of its low output, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri himself said on Wednesday.
“That article is a figment of someone’s boredom and in their between lucid intervals. There has been no talk of leadership changes as well as any warnings from any one on the low output of the Senate,” Zubiri said in a statement.
He was reacting to a news report, saying he nearly lost his post not only due to his alleged lack of productivity but also because of his failure to prioritize key legislative measures such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
Zubiri explained that the Senate carefully studies every measure and thoroughly debate on it to improve every draft legislation.
“With due respect, we are not a rubber stamp institution,” he said. “So this talk is nothing but tabloid gossip, rubbish.”
On the RCEP issue, Zubiri blamed the delay in the passage of RCEP “to the lack of support it got from the main sponsor herself who is the chair of the committee on foreign relations.”
The foreign relations committee happens to be Senator Imee Marcos, sister of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
“So I took it upon myself to take over and sponsor the measure on the floor,” Zubiri said.
This, he said, has never been done before where the Senate leader himself would be subject to sponsorship and interpellation.
Twenty of 24 senators voted last month to approve the RCEP measure with only one, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, voting against it. Sen. Marcos abstained from the voting.
“Does that not show real leadership in this institution?” Zubiri then asked.
Nevertheless, he expressed readiness to step down from his post if majority of senators decide to elect a new leader.
“At the end of the day I serve at the pleasure of my colleagues and if there are 13 votes to elect a new Senate President then I will gladly step down,” Zubiri said.
Several senators, in separate statements, rallied behind Zubiri all denying any discussions of replacing him.
“This is totally untrue,” Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda said, noting that all senators have been working “diligently and productively.”
“We work harmoniously too, even on some contentious issues,” she also said.
Instead of wasting time on “useless, imaginary thoughts that do not uplift lives,” Legarda called on everyone to focus on the job and to enact laws that would best serve the people especially at this crucial time.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, branded the news report as “baseless, preposterous and malicious.”
He also called it a “desperate and pathetic move” meant not just to destroy the reputation of Zubiri but to destabilize the integrity of the Senate as an institution.
“Obviously the majority of the Senators have put their full trust and confidence in SP Migz’s leadership. Being a consensus-builder, it allowed the Senate to accomplish a lot since the beginning of the 19th Congress,” Villanueva said.
Senators JV Ejercito echoed this, saying majority of the senators are satisfied and happy with Zubiri’s leadership.
“He has been supportive of the administration, but fair and allows the Senators maintain their independence on controversial issues by allowing a conscience vote,” he said.
Senator Sonny Angara meanwhile described Zubiri a “very good leader” while Senator Ronald Bato” Dela Rosa considers him the “best” Senate President.
“I’m not with his bloc. Originally, I was with (Senator Cynthia) Villar bloc but since he assumed the Senate President, I tell you, he’s the best Senate President that I served
Senators Nancy Binay and Grace Poe also belied the news against the Senate leader.
“He is one of the most progressive, hardworking and unifying Senate Presidents. In fact we just passed two priority bills this week alone,” Poe said.