Zubiri bloc may join Senate minority

Janvic Mateo, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Zubiri bloc may join Senate minority
Photo posted on X by Sen. JV Ejercito shows the allies of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri called the ‘Solid 7’ – from left, Senators Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, Ejercito, Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara and Sherwin Gatchalian.

MANILA, Philippines — The “Solid 7” group of former Senate chief Juan Miguel Zubiri is thinking of creating a more formidable minority bloc under the Senate presidency of Francis Escudero.

In an interview on “Storycon” over One News, Sen. JV Ejercito said he and the five other senators who sided with Zubiri – Joel Villanueva, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara and Sherwin Gatchalian – call themselves the Solid 7 composed of “independent senators” who were not part of Escudero’s ouster move.

“We agreed to remain independent at this time and to make sure that we will always fight for the independence of the Senate. We will let our emotions simmer down a bit… we will have enough time to think about the direction we will take,” Ejercito said, noting the upcoming two-month adjournment of Congress.

“But if the black propaganda continues, we will have no choice but to join the minority,” he added, referring to the two-member minority bloc composed of Senators Koko Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros.

Ejercito clarified, however, that being in the minority would not mean they would be part of the opposition, noting Zubiri and the former leadership’s support for the Marcos administration.

Should they decide to go through that route, he said they will be “fiscalizers” and not “obstructionists.”

“Senate being the last bastion of democracy, it is the character of the Senate to be independent and we would want to keep the Senate’s independence a priority,” said Ejercito.

Zubiri had said they would think over the break if they would join the two-member minority, or maintain their clique as “seatmates” who would be an “independent bloc” in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Escudero shrugged off fears there would be a more powerful minority bloc under his leadership.

During the Kapihan sa Senado yesterday, he said the minority is still composed of Pimentel and Hontiveros because only the two of them abstained from the Senate presidency elections.

As for the Solid 7, Escudero said “they are free to manifest during session if they decide to join the minority. But for now, they are still part of the majority. Regardless, I consider them all members of the Senate.”

‘External forces’

Ejercito lamented the decision of 14 senators to replace Zubiri with Escudero, despite the Mindanao senator being loyal to and supporting the common executive-legislative agenda of President Marcos.

“That’s the sad part about it – having that good performance, keeping the Senate’s integrity, and fighting for its independence, cost us our jobs,” Ejercito said.

Seeing no reason for their colleagues to instigate the leadership change, Ejercito said that “external forces” may have had a hand in the removal of Zubiri.

“There was no scandal, no corruption issues. Everybody was satisfied,” he said, referring to Zubiri’s leadership. “I would say that there was an external factor that really caused him to step down from the Senate presidency.”

Ejercito, who resigned as deputy majority leader, admitted that he felt bad over what happened.

“To all our colleagues… Senate president Migz Zubiri did not do anything wrong against any of you. He granted all your wishes and requests. He allowed us to handle our own chairmanships,” he said.

“The (Senate’s) independence has to be upheld at all times. For some to change their support, I believe that they have a different intention. I think there are external forces that moved to have this leadership changed,” he added.

Ejercito did not provide additional details regarding these supposed external factors, but he noted that rumors of a leadership change started early this year amid issues regarding the people’s initiative to change the Constitution.

He also cited the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs hearing on the alleged “PDEA leaks,” which linked President Marcos to illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, Escudero vowed to be a Senate leader who would bridge the differences among the senators, seen as 24 different “republics” because of their nationally elected mandate.

Escudero said he will serve as a bridge to mend severed ties, and apologized to the people he hurt in the power grab.

The Bicolano senator had denied rumors he mustered the majority support of 14 senators to wrest the Senate presidency from Zubiri with the help of Speaker Martin Romualdez and First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos.

Escudero also said that discussions on the amendment of the 1987 Constitution have yet to be begin under his leadership. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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