Bato backs Chiz, says sorry to Migz

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Bato backs Chiz, says sorry to Migz
Photos show Sen. Ronald dela Rosa breaking down into tears while listening to the farewell speech of Juan Miguel Zubiri as Senate president the other day.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The drug probe by the panel headed by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa was cited as a key reason for the ouster of Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri as Senate president.

Yesterday, it was revealed that Dela Rosa was one of the 15 senators who supported Zubiri’s replacement with Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

Dela Rosa apologized to Zubiri yesterday, saying he failed to defend the latter from the plot to unseat him.

Dela Rosa admitted signing the document that endorsed Escudero’s Senate presidency, correcting reports that he was among the seven senators who stood by Zubiri.

“Being a good soldier, I wanted to tell him, ‘My commander, sorry, boss, I failed to win the war for you,’” Dela Rosa said at a press briefing yesterday.

Dela Rosa said he had no choice but to join his three other Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) colleagues – Senators Francis Tolentino, Bong Go and Robin Padilla – in voting Zubiri out, saying that it is a party deal to abide with the majority decision.

Tolentino was elected as Escudero’s majority leader, replacing Zubiri’s ally Joel Villanueva.

Dela Rosa said he was also flattered that he was approached by Escudero’s camp to convince him to join them in the majority.

“I was close to joining the minority, but I was persuaded otherwise into joining the majority,” Dela Rosa said.

“Senate president Chiz is a magnanimous victor. Even though he did not need my vote anymore because the battle was won, he still convinced me to join the majority,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa was perceived as backing Zubiri because the former PNP chief was among the seven senators that Zubiri thanked in his valedictory speech during the Monday session.

Dela Rosa cried at the mention in Zubiri’s tearful farewell speech and saluted him.

Asked about his breakdown, Dela Rosa said he was just overwhelmed by emotion when Zubiri thanked him for standing by him. Zubiri thanked Dela Rosa in his speech because he had thought Dela Rosa was with him.

“When Senator Migz saluted me in his speech, I could not help but cry. I felt ashamed. If he is heartbroken, I am also heartbroken. He is a good leader,” Dela Rosa said.

He also denied crying for feeling guilty that he had contributed to Zubiri’s downfall because of his motu proprio inquiry into an alleged leaked 2012 Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) pre-operation report targeting then senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“I was told that that was not the reason he was replaced,” Dela Rosa said, adding that he would continue with his “PDEA leaks” investigation.

Dela Rosa said he was also assured by Escudero that he would not be stripped of his post as public order and dangerous drugs committee chair.

Zubiri had hinted that Dela Rosa’s investigation – which Zubiri allowed in deference to the independent committee chairmanship – “ruffled the feathers” of the “powers that be” and led to his demotion.

“I failed to follow instructions from the powers that be…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,” Zubiri said in his speech before stepping down.

Those who backed Zubiri were Senators Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva, Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian.

The two-member minority of Aquilino Pimentel III and Risa Hontiveros abstained.

The remaining 14 others voted to replace Zubiri with Escudero – Dela Rosa, Tolentino, Go, Padilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, Bong Revilla, Raffy Tulfo, Cynthia Villar and Mark Villar.

Estrada was elected Senate president pro tempore, replacing Legarda.

‘Respect his feelings’

Newly elected Senate majority leader Francis Tolentino said he respected the feelings of former Senate president Zubiri, who said that he was a victim of the growing Marcos-Duterte rift.

“Let’s respect his feelings. Let’s just leave it at that. We want everyone to be in a reconciliatory mode, and we don’t want to add to the heat from what happened,” Tolentino said yesterday.

“I cannot comment on that, but we respect the opinions of the former Senate president and we still consider him in high esteem,” he added.

In television interviews on Monday, Zubiri said he had to give way to the new Senate president Francis Escudero because of pressure from the factions of President Marcos and of Vice President Sara Duterte.

He said he drew the Marcos camp’s ire for allowing Dela Rosa’s motu proprio inquiry into an alleged leaked anti-drug operation report that implicated the then senator Marcos in illegal drugs.

Zubiri said he also angered the Duterte camp when he signed the arrest order against Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder Apollo Quiboloy, after Hontiveros cited the fugitive pastor in contempt for snubbing her hearings on alleged sexual abuses in his church.

“I was caught in the middle of the Duterte and Marcos factions. I’m caught in between, but I just did my job, and did it well. This is the consequences of my action,” Zubiri said on TV Patrol on Monday night.

“Why did it have to happen? I’m a loyalist. I am one of those who felt bad about the rift in the UniTeam. I was caught in the middle of the growing fight between the Duterte and Marcos factions. But we move on. We’re politicians. I am not a crybaby,” Zubiri said.

At a separate press briefing yesterday, new Senate president pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada said he would rather not fan speculation that Malacañang had a hand in removing Zubiri as Senate president.

“I don’t need to tell the whole story. It’s already water under the bridge. They have nothing to do with the change of leadership here in the Senate,” Estrada said.

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