During dinner, Duterte sought Senate majority bloc’s support – Zubiri
President Duterte asked senators for a chance to do his job and effect real change when he had dinner with the majority bloc on Tuesday night, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Wednesday.
Zubiri, among lawmakers who share Mindanao roots with the President, said Mr. Duterte sought the senators’ support to pursue his legislative agenda, with the tax reform and federalism measures among topics for discussion.
He said the President made the plea just as the senators were about to leave. He said he and his fellow lawmakers were “touched” at how Mr. Duterte showed his human side.
“He paused and faced us and basically told us “bigyan niyo po ako ng pagkakataon na gawin ko ang aking tungkulin, and I promise we’ll do our best na sugpuin itong problema ng droga, itong kahirapan (give me a chance to do my job, and I promise we’ll do our best to address the problem of drugs and poverty),” Zubiri said.
He said the President asked time so he could “do what [he has] to do to help this country forward.”
“So that was a very sincere request from the President… And also, sincerely, that also touched our hearts. Many of us felt that we should support our President, that we should give him a chance. It hasn’t even been 10 months,” he told reporters.
Asked if the call for support was pegged on the administration’s concerns about a purported destabilization plot, Zubiri said: “He was not even worried about the destabilization issues.”
The President was referring more to his legislative agenda, he said.
“I think it’s very humanly of him. You know, our President is a tough guy but when he said that, we saw his human side,” Zubiri said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III meanwhile said the President had no particular goal in calling for the senators.
“There was no agenda, there was no expected output except that we get to have a dinner with the President and we get to know him better,” said Pimentel, who was seated beside Mr. Duterte at the dinner.
He said the group partook of a simple meal: “Everything was on one plate.”
For Sen. Grace Poe, it was a cordial first face-to-face with Mr. Duterte since the May 2016 elections, where the latter edged her out in the polls. Poe placed third in the polls, next to the Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas. The popular Mr. Duterte took a far lead.
“It was happy, very light. We have known each other for a long time. So it was comfortable, I can say it was a light, happy chat,” Poe said.
Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said she asked the President on the importance of the emergency powers bill among his legislative priorities.
Plenary discussion on the bill, which seeks to give the President expanded powers to address the traffic crisis, will continue in May when the session resumes.
Asked if she felt the President was seeking to secure the senators’ loyalty, she said: “I don’t think so… It was really a social dinner so that we can get together.”
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