Zubiri out as Escudero takes Senate leadership

Zubiri out as Escudero takes Senate leadership

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:30 AM May 21, 2024

Zubiri out as Escudero takes Senate leadership

SENATE SHAKEUP Sen. Francis Escudero takes his oath as the new Senate President before Sen. Mark Villar, the youngest senator, on Monday. Escudero’s wife, actress Heart Evangelista, witnessed the rite. The former Senate leader, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, at right, greets well-wishers after he relinquished his post amid a reorganization in the upper chamber. —Senate PRIB and Lyn Rillon

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday relinquished the Senate presidency to Sen. Francis Escudero, saying his refusal to “follow instructions” in order to maintain the 24-member chamber’s independence had “ruffled some feathers” and cost him the third highest government office.

“Of course, I’m heartbroken. I was not following instructions, that’s why I got hit,” a dejected Zubiri told reporters as he emerged from a closed-door meeting with allies.


“It’s sad because I did everything to protect the independence of the Senate. But that’s politics. We can’t do anything about it,” he said.


READ: Romualdez upbeat on House partnership with Senate under Escudero

Escudero, who mustered a new 14-member majority, spoke highly of his predecessor while claiming he had no prior knowledge of the plan to oust Zubiri.

“My hats off to you. I salute you and I hope I will make you proud,” the new Senate President told Zubiri, crediting the latter for implementing reforms in the Senate and steering the passage of major pieces of legislation, such as the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund Act.

During his valedictory speech, Zubiri turned emotional as he recalled his difficulties in carrying out his role as Senate leader and in voicing his opposition to the Charter change (Cha-cha) move through a people’s initiative.

According to him, the Senate stayed as a “staunchly independent Senate” under his leadership and held its own “against all threats to our institution and against threats to the very foundation of democracy on which our nation is built.”

“God knows what I had to do to defend the Senate,” Zubiri said. “I fought the good fight. If I have ruffled some feathers in doing so, if I have upset the powers that be, then so be it.”


At the House, Speaker Martin Romualdez expressed appreciation for Zubiri’s service and leadership as he welcomed the “new partnership” between the two chambers, with Escudero leading the Senate.

“[I] am confident that we can further strengthen our legislative agenda and ensure the successful implementation of these programs,” he said.

‘Goodbye, Cha-cha’

As a result of his resignation, Zubiri said it was now clear that any amendment to the 1987 Constitution would not prosper under the new leadership.

“No more Cha-cha. Goodbye, Cha-cha. Sen. [Juan Edgardo] Angara has resigned. You know that Senator Escudero is anti-Cha-cha. Openly, he’s anti-Cha-cha. I hope the people who supported him [know] that. Strange bedfellows, isn’t it?” he told reporters shortly after stepping down.

As a courtesy to the new Senate leaders, Angara resigned his chairmanship of the Senate finance committee and subcommittee on constitutional amendments. The subcommittee was scheduled to hold its second and third “regional consultations” on the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, which proposed amendments to the Charter’s economic provisions, on May 23 and 24, in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro cities, respectively.

“We had to cancel it all… As far as we’re concerned Cha-cha is dead in the Senate this week,” said Zubiri.

But Escudero, who admitted to opposing Cha-cha, said the matter was still up for discussion. “We will discuss it on the part of the majority, but you know my position and I have no plans of changing my position,” he told reporters.

Monday’s reorganization of Senate leaders was the first during President Marcos’ administration, and the second since the Rodrigo Duterte presidency. In May 2018, then Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III stepped down to clear the way for Sen. Vicente Sotto III under a term-sharing agreement.

‘PDEA leaks’

Zubiri hinted that he might have lost Malacañang’s favor for allowing the continued hearing on the so-called Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) leaks inquiry by the Senate committee on dangerous drugs led by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa on claims made by a former PDEA agent.

The motu proprio investigation stemmed from an allegation that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., then a senator, had been the subject of an operation against high-profile drug personalities in 2012.

Zubiri received the ire of the President’s allies for allowing Dela Rosa to continue holding the hearings. “I was just being fair. I just did my job, which is to always keep the committee system strong and independent from any outside forces,” he said.

Asked if this was to blame for his ouster, Zubiri said: “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Elected along with Escudero were Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who took over Sen. Loren Legarda’s post as Senate president pro tempore, and Sen. Francis Tolentino, who replaced Sen. Joel Villanueva as majority leader and head of the committee on rules.

The rest of Zubiri’s “Seatmates” bloc—Senators JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay and Angara—also vacated their committee chairmanships.

Sen. Grace Poe, Escudero’s running mate when she ran for president in the 2016 elections, was the only member of the group to join the new majority.

It was a strange turn of events for the two men, who both came to the public eye at around the same time as freshman congressmen in 1998, when Zubiri represented Bukidnon and Escudero, Sorsogon.

‘Spice Boy,’ ‘Bright Boy’

At the height of the tumultuous Joseph Estrada presidency, Zubiri became a member of the so-called “Spice Boys,” a group of young lawmakers critical of the Chief Executive, while Escudero was part of a rival group supportive of Estrada, who called them the “Bright Boys.”

Zubiri’s rise to the Senate presidency in 2022 had been a remarkable turnaround after a fall from grace in August 2011, when he quit the chamber over allegations of electoral fraud during the 2007 elections.

Escudero, husband of actress-celebrity Heart Evangelista, had a smoother ride, serving from 2007 to 2019 in the Senate. But higher office eluded him, finishing fourth when he ran for vice president in 2016.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

He ran for governor of Sorsogon and won, serving from 2019 to 2022, and returned to the Senate after that. —with reports from Tina G. Santos, Jeannette I. Andrade and Inquirer Research

TAGS: Francis Escudero, Juan Miguel Zubiri

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.