Cracks in Senate ‘supermajority’ showing after Zubiri ouster

Cracks in Senate ‘supermajority’ showing after Zubiri ouster

With the real reason for Sen. Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ Zubiri’s ouster still unclear, the Senate’s proadministration supermajority of 22 may be headed for a split as his backers contemplate joining the minority bloc. New Senate President Francis Escudero concedes a possible one-year term with realignment expected when 12 new and reelected senators come in after next year’s polls.
By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:41 AM May 26, 2024

Cracks in Senate ‘supermajority’ showing after Zubiri ouster

Former Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri resigned from his post last May 20, 2024. —Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — The fallout from Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri’s ouster has driven a wedge among the 22 supermajority proadministration senators as allies of the deposed Senate chief contemplated joining the minority bloc.

Nearly a week after Zubiri lost the Senate presidency to Sen. Francis Escudero, his backers, who call themselves “Solid 7,” still found it hard to accept that their “amiable” leader was given the boot.


On Saturday, Sen. Nancy Binay challenged the 14 senators who backed the Escudero-led coup to come clean with their real reason for removing Zubiri and then asking for his forgiveness and praising his leadership.


“I really don’t understand why they don’t want to talk about it,” Binay told the “Usapang Senado” program on dwIZ radio.

Over an injured foot?

“What happened to our oath that we should put the interest of the people above all else? Is an (injured) foot a good reason to replace the leadership of the Senate?” she asked.

Binay had disparaged Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s claim that Zubiri’s refusal to allow Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., who was recuperating from his Achilles tendon injury, to participate in the last five plenary session days via videoconference prompted their withdrawal of support for the former Senate president.

Zubiri, she stressed, was right in pointing out that the rules, which Dela Rosa and Revilla had both agreed to adopt, explicitly stated that senators may only be excused from physically attending sessions if they were infected with COVID-19 or other similar highly communicable diseases.

She noted that it wasn’t the first challenge to Zubiri’s leadership.

“But we really need to know the real reason why they have to ask for Zubiri’s forgiveness. It seems they have committed something wrong,” Binay said. “I was seated next to Zubiri and I saw my colleagues last Tuesday approaching him to explain and ask for forgiveness.”


Zubiri said his decision to protect the chamber’s independence, such as allowing Dela Rosa to continue investigating President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s supposed link to illegal drugs, had “ruffled some feathers” and “upset the powers that be,” without naming Marcos or Malacañang.

‘Come on, guys’

“It’s an insult to the people to cite the foot injury of an actor-senator to replace a capable and dedicated leadership in the Senate,” Sen. Joel Villanueva told reporters.

“Come on, guys, you can do better than that, please,” he said. “And by the way, you should have objected to the passage of the resolution commending the ousted Senate leadership if you really feel that way.”

Villanueva, who was dislodged as majority leader and chair of the powerful committee on rules, was referring to Senate Resolution No. 1036, which Escudero filed two days after his power grab.

The resolution, which the senators unanimously approved, read in part: “Zubiri performed his duties and responsibilities as Senate president with utmost competence, dedication, fairness and independence.”

“Under his watch, the Senate received some of its best approval and satisfaction ratings, perceived by the Filipino people as the last bastion of democracy, a resolute and independent institution always ready to protect democracy at any cost,” it said.

It commended Zubiri for being “at the forefront in the united and courageous efforts of the members of the Senate to protect and defend the Constitution and the institution from all threats and attacks.”

What hurt them most

Binay said what hurt Solid 7 most was the decision of Sen. Grace Poe to leave the so-called “Seatmates” bloc to join Escudero in plotting against Zubiri.

According to her, they would have understood Poe’s predicament had she informed their group, which they formed in 2019, ahead of last Monday’s takeover.

“I don’t want to lie. We were really hurt,” Binay said. “After being together for the past five years, I really thought our relationship will go beyond politics because we have really become close friends.”

Poe, who ran for president in 2016 with Escudero as her running mate, “could have handled it better,” Binay said.

“We need more time to heal. This would have been easier to accept if we committed wrongdoings,” she said.

Reacting to calls from Escudero and Revilla to “move on,” the senator said it would have been easier to do that if they knew the truth behind Zubiri’s removal.

“It’s hard to have a closure if you don’t know the real reason why it happened,” Binay said.

Senators JV Ejercito and Villanueva also doubted that Revilla’s condition led to the sudden shake-up in the 24-member chamber.

Koko: All welcome

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Zubiri and his allies were welcome to join him and Sen. Risa Hontiveros in the opposition group.

He said it would be better for the minority bloc to have more members to scrutinize proposed bills and to provide checks and balances in the Senate.

But what if Zubiri’s group decides to eject him as minority leader?

“As they say, be careful what you wish for,” Pimentel said, but he acknowledged that “that’s life and part of our rules.”

“If you wish for more members, it’s possible that there would be a different minority leader,” he said.

As Zubiri and Villanueva had previously mentioned, Ejercito said they were looking at the possibility of joining Pimentel and Hontiveros.

‘Emotions still high’

Other members of the Solid 7 are Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian and Loren Legarda, who lost her post as Senate president pro tempore to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

“Emotions are still high. It’s good that we will have a two-month break. We will decide as a group,” Ejercito said. “What I’m looking at is the possibility that we will be fiscalizers in the Senate.”

Escudero has said it was possible that he would helm the Senate for just one year as the chamber would have 12 new senators after the midterm elections in May 2025.

Of the 14 senators who supported him, seven are up for reelection—Dela Rosa, Revilla, Imee Marcos, Christoper “Bong” Go, Lito Lapid, Francis Tolentino and Pia Cayetano.

Two other Zubiri supporters, Poe and Sen. Cynthia Villar, are ending their terms next year.

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Of the Solid 7, Senators Binay and Angara are ending their terms in 2025. It is also Pimentel’s last term.

TAGS: Francis Escudero, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate

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