Zubiri steps down as Senate president, says he disobeyed 'powers that be'


MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:26 p.m.) — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday stepped down from his post, ending his two-year term due to what he implied was dissatisfaction with him for breaking ranks.

"I failed to follow instructions from the powers that be, simple as that," Zubiri said during his privilege speech.

The outgoing Senate president, whose two-year leadership was repeatedly marked by coup rumors, was visibly emotional while addressing his colleagues, saying that he had "fought the good fight."

"If I've ruffled some feathers in doing so, then so be it," he said.

Zubiri said that he had placed himself "on the line to shield the Senate from all attacks" and strived to keep the upper chamber independent despite "threats against our institution."

"God knows what I had to do to defend the Senate," the outgoing Senate president said.

Sen. Chiz Escudero took his oath as the new Senate president following a nomination from Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano minutes after Zubiri bowed out from the position.

Zubiri's resignation is taking place after a series of politically charged hearings conducted in the Senate, most recent of which is the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee's ongoing investigation of the alleged leaked documents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that links President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to illegal drug use.

The panel investigating the alleged classified PDEA documents is chaired by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who has defended the committee's motu proprio investigation of the issue as in aid of legislation and not to attack any individual.

While he did not refer specifically to the PDEA leaks probe, Zubiri last week cautioned his colleagues from turning committee hearings into political persecution.

Zubiri also said during one of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee hearings last week that the probe has upset Marcos loyalists, but maintained that the upper chamber must stick to its committee system.

Prior to this, the Senate also issued an arrest warrant for former President Rodrigo Duterte's close ally and Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder Apollo Quiboloy, for his failure to face the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality on his alleged rights violations against women, especially minors.

In March, Sen. Imee Marcos confirmed the rumors that there was a plan to unseat Zubiri from his position, saying that the pressure to oust him "came from outside the Senate."

This, however, did not pan out after 17 out of 24 senators signed a statement of support for Zubiri. The senators who did not sign the manifesto of support were Escudero, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Sen. Cynthia Villar, Sen. Imee Marcos, Sen. Robin Padilla, and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

During his announcement of his resignation on Monday, Zubiri said that he would continue to serve "as an independent member of the Senate."

"I leave with my head held high knowing what I did what was right for the Senate," he said.

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