From Zubiri to Escudero, independence to collaboration?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

The Senate blitzkrieg that saw the ouster of Senate President Migz Zubiri and the rise of Senator Chiz Escudero was a political coup that has been waiting to happen. Zubiri's hold on the number three post of the land, started to become untenable to Malacañang when he asserted Senate independence and refused to dance to the cadence dictated by the House speaker on the so-called Peoples' Initiative to tinker with the Constitution.

The immediate triggering act that accelerated the pace of Zubiri's political demise was the continuing Senate investigation conducted by Senator Bato de la Rosa on the so-called PDEA leaks of certain highly-controversial video and other alleged documents, supposedly linking the president and actress Maricel Soriano to the drug problem. Zubiri was blamed for not stopping Bato's committee from putting the name of the president in bad light. Well, with Bato's investigation, Malacañang must have seen the hand of the former president Duterte behind it. It can be deduced then that the ouster of Zubiri was collateral damage resulting from the breakup of the UniTeam.

In his valedictory speech, Zubiri declared that he was leaving the Senate presidency with his head up and he has nothing to apologize for. He did his part well, played his role with a sense of integrity and maintained the independence of the Senate. He said that his "demise" was directly caused by the so-called "powers-that-be" when he refused to surrender the independence of the Upper Chamber. And so, with his resignation, followed the voluntary bowing out of the majority leader Joel Villanueva, the senate pro tempore Loren Legarda, and the chairpersons of the most important committees like Finance and Accounts, and those were Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, and JV Ejercito.

The ultimate politician, Alan Peter Cayetano, stood up to nominate Chiz Escudero, who immediately took his oath before the youngest member of the chamber, Mark Villar. Soon to replace Loren Legarda is Senator Jinggoy Estrada, the more politically astute half-brother of the "good one", JV, who remained loyal to Zubiri. Taking over the post of Joel Villanueva is another Duterte boy turned pro-BBM, Francis "Tol" Tolentino (he was a wedding godson of BBM's dad). By the way, BBM was also the godfather of Chiz Escuero in his first marriage, and the father of Chiz was Marcos Sr.'s long-time Agriculture secretary. And so, many "historical déjà vu” all converged in the political stars of Senator Chiz.

The new team that "conspired" against Zubiri includes Grace Poe who will now head the powerful Finance Committee, taking over from a very hardworking and competent Sonny Angara. And the ultimate political operator Alan Peter Cayetano is rewarded with the Committee on Accounts. Those who supported Escudero, aside from Tolentino, Estrada, and Poe, included the brother and sister from Taguig, Pia and Alan Peter; the mother and son tandem from Las Piñas, Cynthia and Mark; and, of course, the presidential sister, Imee. It was purely a family matter, except for the sons of Erap. One was Mark Antony, who was JV, the good one, and the other one was Brutus, who was Jinggoy.

Of course, we cannot expect the likes of Robinhood Padilla, Bong Revilla, and Lito Lapid to be on the side of Zubiri. Bong Go might have been recruited by Tolentino, leaving their comrade Bato "wounded" behind. That is how the cookie crumbles and that is Philippine politics for you. If you do not dance to the music of the Palace, you will find yourself marginalized and soon relegated to the footnotes of history.

But, for once, we have seen the last independent Senate president. With his ouster, both Houses are now consolidated with the powers-that-be. At the end of the day, national interest is set aside. The peoples' interests have nothing to do with it. Bad and sad.

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