SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Statesmanship or political calculations?

MALAYBALAY CITY (04 August) – Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s decision to resign sounded like a bold sacrifice on his part. Hopefully the move will put a closure to allegations that he benefited from the cheating that marred the 2007 election, particularly in Maguindanao. Yet there are questions left hanging, questions that, if left unresolved, would make his voluntary resignation less heroic than it appears to be. Furthermore, the major reasons he cited [for his resignation] only fueled suspicions he was simply trying to avoid a bigger blow to his political career.

In his privilege speech, Zubiri appealed mainly to emotions, emphasizing how he and his family had “suffered physically and emotionally” owing to the “unfounded and baseless allegations”. He said his resignation was not an admission of fault, vehemently denied the charges of electoral fraud, and stressed that he did it to save his and his family’s honor. Who among us Filipinos would disagree that family is our top priority – including in politics?3

In an interview with ANC’s Karen Davila on Thursday, Zubiri said that aside from the fact that the charges have dragged along his family, the whole thing has become an issue of public perception in that even if he would emerge the winner in the counter-protest that he filed, questions on his legitimacy would persist. Latest reports said the resigned lawmaker had withdrawn his counter-protest.

By resigning without admitting to any participation in the reported fraud in Maguindanao and by withdrawing the counter-protest, Zubiri hopes to keep his dignity intact and at the same time deny his rival, lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the chance to prove legally that he was indeed cheated of victory, with or without Zubiri’s knowledge. It’s possible that Zubiri’s camp had come up with calculations showing the counter-protest would not give him the numbers needed to offset the votes regained by Pimentel, and so decided to give it up to save face.

I’m quite reluctant to accept Senator Zubiri’s statement that the accusations hurled by detained suspended ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol were the “last straw” that broke his political back. He was implying it was the first time that such allegations came out when these were the same issues that had confronted the elections in Maguindanao in general and his “victory” in particular since 2007. The results in that province had always been under a cloud of doubt with the improbable 12-0 beating of the opposition in which Zubiri emerged on top. It was the more opportune time then to show delicadeza.

I tend to believe however that Ampatuan and Bedol have concrete evidence pointing to poll fraud, not just “vocal chords” as stated by Zubiri in his privilege speech. As individuals accustomed to shady deals, it’s unlikely that they would not keep something as leverage just in case. This could be the “last straw” that compelled Bukidnon’s fine son to give up his seat.

Had he conceded then despite his being in a privileged position as an administration candidate, and not when his term was about to end, Zubiri would have earned much of the respect he wanted. Granting that he did not approve of the cheating, I don’t think he was totally unaware of moves by the former president [to rig the election]. But the real judgment may come in 2013. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])