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Zubiri’s ‘honorable’ exit


At 3:00 PM on August 3, 2011, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri tendered his resignation in an emotional privilege speech on the floor of the Senate.  Claiming that he and his family were hurt by personal attacks waged by his political adversaries, Zubiri chose an honorable exit to protect himself and his family from further attacks. 

With members of his family watching from the Senate gallery, Zubiri said, “I am not the only one who feels the hurt because of the personal attacks against me and my family. I could feel how my wife has had sleepless nights, my father, my mother, who has undergone two major brain operations and is now constantly suffering physically and emotionally, together with my siblings who have been hurt and affected by such unfounded and baseless accusations.”

And addressing his detractors directly, Zubiri paraphrased Gen. Douglas MacArthur, “I am not actually retreating; I am merely advancing in another direction,” and then he pleaded, “It is my humble prayer that this institution allows me to resign with honor and dignity.”  And with finality, he said: “I am submitting my resignation as duly elected senator of the Republic of the Philippines in the election for which I am falsely accused without mercy and compassion.”

Resignation was a bitter pill to swallow; however, it cleansed him of the stigma that he would have to carry around had he decided to stay until the end of his term in 2013.  Indeed, his resignation provided him with an easy way out of a controversy that had haunted him since he took office in 2007 amid allegations that he cheated in the election.  He was referring to the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where the senatorial candidates of  then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi party had a 12-0 victory. 

The recent revelations by former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Comelec official Lintang Bedol that Gloria engineered the election cheating in ARMM -- particularly in the Ampatuan-controlled Maguindanao --  to ensure the victory of her 12 senatorial candidates.  The opposition claimed that the alleged cheating resulted in the victory of Zubiri over Aquilino Pimentel Jr., which Pimentel protested with the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) that has yet to decide. If the SET decided in Pimentel’s favor, then he would take the Senate seat vacated by Zubiri. 

But the ramification of Zubiri’s resignation is that it sets precedence for others in a similar situation to follow.  Henceforth, elected officials who want an “honorable” exit from a similar situation could use the “Zubiri option.” And it can also apply to presidential appointees who got themselves immersed in corruption cases and other controversial anomalies and scandals.  

Zubiri must be congratulated for doing the right thing.  And if the SET decided in his favor and declared him the winner in the 2007 election, then he could run for a Senate seat or any other elective position in 2013.  It would be a sweet victory, which he could truly be proud of.  On the other hand, should he lose the electoral protest, he’ll just have to “advance in another direction” and there shouldn’t be any limit to what he could do as long as his honor and dignity are intact.

Indeed, there are times when a person must take one step back in order to be able to make a big stride in the future.

By Perry Diaz

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