‘In defense of honor’: Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri resigns

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 August) – In what turned out to be his last privilege speech in the 15th Congress, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri announced this afternoon his resignation over “unfounded accusations”, referring to allegations he benefited from the fraud that reportedly marked the conduct of the 2007 elections in Maguindanao.

“I am resigning because of these unfounded accusations against me, and this issue has systematically divided our nation and has cast doubts in our electoral system which has affected not only myself, this institution but the public as well,” Zubiri said in his privilege speech.

He also said he resigned not because the allegations were true or that he was already tired [of performing his duties as legislator] but because he wanted to defend his and his family’s “honor, integrity and dignity”.

Zaldy Ampatuan, detained suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, recently said on national television that then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the 2007 election results in Maguindanao rigged in favor of Zubiri.

Ampatuan, one of the accused in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that killed 58 persons, added that Arroyo also ordered to shave the votes for Panfilo Lacson, Benigno Aquino III and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Lintang Bedol, former Maguindanao election supervisor who had gone into hiding since 2007, resurfaced and corroborated Ampatuan’s statements.

In his privilege speech, Zubiri alluded to Ampatuan and Bedol as “suspect personalities”.

Zubiri, who was running neck and neck with lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III for the twelfth and last spot for senator, was proclaimed the winner by a margin of around 20,000 votes. But Pimentel protested Zubiri’s victory, and regained some 250,000 votes in a recounting done by the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

The former Bukidnon congressman filed a counter-protest alleging that Pimentel benefited from cheating that occurred in Metro Manila.

Before a gallery audience that included his wife Audrey Tan, his father and Vice Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. and other family members, the resigned senator cited that in his family’s almost 30 years in Bukidnon as politicians they have never figured in any election controversy.

Enrile called Zubiri’s resignation a “rare show of moral courage…in defense of his and his family’s honor”.

But Pimentel said he was disappointed that Zubiri has labeled as baseless the fraud allegations.

“All the evidence is there…The election returns from Maguindanao are fake,” he said.

Zubiri said he has told his lawyers to make a proper manifestation before the Senate Electoral Tribunal “with the end in view of expediting the proceedings and with the prayer that the Tribunal come up with a decision at the soonest possible time.”

Pimentel opined that Zubiri’s counter-protest has become moot and academic with his resignation.

Zubiri served as representative of the third district of Bukidnon from 1998 to 2007. The position was previously held by his father, from 1987 to 1998, and since 2007, by his brother, Jose Ma. Zubiri III. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)