GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/4 August) – Sarangani and South Cotabato officials on Thursday called the resignation of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as “a big loss for Mindanao and the entire country” even as they expressed support to the beleaguered lawmaker’s efforts to protect his family and clear his name over accusations that he benefited from the alleged massive fraud in Maguindanao province in the 2007 elections.
Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao said Mindanao lost one of its most active “champions” in Congress, especially in the Senate, with the resignation of Zubiri on Wednesday.
He feared that the loss of Zubiri in the Senate may eventually derail the approval and implementation of various priority projects for the island.
“He’s one of our national officials who really look after our welfare and had been pushing hard to bring Mindanao to the national government’s attention. He will be missed,” he said in Filipino.
But Pacquiao said he admires and respects Zubiri’s decision, which “he might not have done if not for the sake of his family.”
“I don’t think he really wanted to quit but he may have seen how the controversy already affected his family. In this case, our families are really more important than our positions,” he said.
South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said he was “deeply saddened” with Zubiri’s decision to quit the Senate.
He said Zubiri had been one of the “voices of South Cotabato” in the Senate and had backed the province’s development through substantial allocations for various projects, especially on infrastructure.
Pingoy said Zubiri recently visited the province to deliver the allotment and release orders for some P6.5 million worth of classroom projects for its 10 municipalities and lone city for this year.
As Senate majority floor leader in the 14th Congress, he said Zubiri helped fast track the approval of the local government’s request for establishment of four additional court salas and the institutionalization of the province’s famed T’nalak Festival.
“It’s sad news for us but at the same time we feel very proud of his statesmanship. It’s a tough decision for him as he sacrificed his Senate seat, although it appears that he was really a beneficiary of the alleged election fraud in Maguindanao,” Pingoy said.
For Koronadal City Mayor Peter Miguel, Zubiri’s resignation set an example for “delicadeza in public service.”
“I think he made the right decision to resign so he can clear his name and maintain his dignity,” he said.
For her part, South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said she considers Zubiri’s resignation “an honorable act.”
“He showed that he really doesn’t want to be a part of the election fraud in Maguindanao although he benefited from it,” she said.
Fuentes said the alleged Maguindanao election fraud, which is being blamed on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies, and what happened to Zubiri were painful but necessary experiences for the country so it could move forward with the cleansing of the electoral process.
She hoped Zubiri’s case would serve as a lesson and spell more realistic and tangible electoral reforms.
Fuentes said it’s now up to the Commission on Elections and the Department of Justice, which were assigned by Malacañang to spearhead the probe on the alleged election fraud, to look into the matter and set the needed reforms.
“In the case of Zubiri, if it would be upheld later on that he had nothing to do with the controversy, he may gain sympathy from the people and possibly regain his post. But if proven that he was also behind it, I think it would be hard for him to make a political comeback,” she said.
In Zamboanga City, two city councilors belonging to the PDP-Laban party have expressed mixed reactions on Zubiri’s resignation.
Councilor Melchor Sadain, a PDP-Laban party member, said finally the issue on who won as the number 12 senator in the 2007 senatorial election between Zubiri and Aquilino Pimentel III will now be put to rest.
Councilor Rommel Agan, another member of the PDP-Laban, said he salutes Zubiri for his statesmanship, noting that “it is the first time in our country a senator has given up his position to protect his integrity.”
Both Zubiri and Pimentel, both from Northern Mindanao, are his good friends, Agan said.
Sadain said that Zubiri’s resignation was “an admission on his part that Pimentel won in the 2007 senatorial race.”
Agan said that PDP-Laban members in Zamboanga are relieved to learn that the fight between Zubiri and Pimentel is over and see no problem if another Mindanawon will become a senator, especially that Pimentel is their party mate. (Allen V. Estabillo, with reports)