Integrity comes first: Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri waves to the gallery after announcing his resignation during a Senate session while his wife Audrey looks on.

MANILA — Long bedeviled by accusations that his was an election victory won through fraud, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri surprised the nation Wednesday by announcing his resignation.

In a privilege speech that turned out to be his last, Zubiri said he had to quit to protect his honor and integrity, as well as spare his family from further anguish.

“I am resigning not because I am exhausted from the demands of my calling as legislator. Hindi po ako napagod sa paglilingkod sa inyo (I’m not tired of serving you),” he said.

“I am resigning not because I wish to evade the decision of SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal). Handa ko pong tanggapin ang anumang hatol mula sa nasabing hukuman (I’m ready to face whatever verdict that court will impose). Rather, I am resigning because of these unfounded accusations versus me, and these issues have systematically divided our nation and have cast doubts on our electoral system, which has affected not only myself, this institution but the public as well,” he said.

At the Commission on Elections (Comelec), chairman Sixto Brillantes said Zubiri’s closest contender for the 12th Senate seat, Aquilino Pimentel III, could not automatically take the resigned senator’s place.

The SET is deliberating on an electoral protest filed by Pimentel.

It was alleged in his election protest that votes in Maguindanao in the 2007 midterm elections had been manipulated to favor Zubiri and other candidates of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Zubiri won the 12th Senate slot, based on election results.

Zubiri, who comes from a powerful political clan in Bukidnon, denied he had cheated.

“I did not cheat nor ask anyone to cheat for me and my family. We would have never tolerated any form of election fraud,” Zubiri said in his 17-page speech titled “Honor and Integrity.”

“No amount of power, position or wealth is worth sacrificing one’s honor and integrity,” Zubiri said as he lamented how the controversy surrounding his election had greatly hurt his loved ones.

“I am not the only one who feels the hurt because of the personal attacks against me and my family. I could feel how my wife has had sleepless nights, my father, my mother,” he said.

He said his mother Vicky underwent two major brain operations due to effects of deep anguish.

“(She) is now constantly suffering physically and emotionally, together with my siblings who have been hurt and affected by such unfounded and baseless accusations,” he added.

His mother was in the gallery, along with his wife Audrey; father Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri; and siblings Joey and Manuel.

Also present were Bukidnon mayors and other local officials and other supporters.

Zubiri submitted his irrevocable resignation to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who praised the senator’s decision.

The Senate went into a caucus after Zubiri’s speech.

Senators took turns embracing and shaking hands with Zubiri after his speech.

The Senate will notify the executive branch of Zubiri’s resignation through a resolution, Sen. Franklin Drilon said.

Zubiri’s resignation was the first time a sitting senator quit his post due to a controversy.

Trial by publicity

Zubiri bewailed that he had been made to stand trial by publicity even though the allegations against him were still being discussed by SET.

“The trial by publicity has begun. The trial at the Senate Electoral Tribunal where this issue could have been properly ventilated and resolved has been practically set aside,” Zubiri said.

He also said it was “highly suspect” that witnesses recently surfaced to claim there was massive fraud in the 2007 elections.

Zubiri was apparently referring to the team of policemen who claimed to have been part of special operations in 2005 to steal election returns at the Batasang Pambansa building and replace them with tampered ones showing pro-Arroyo candidates — including Zubiri — winning in the elections.

Former elections supervisor Lintang Bedol and even detained former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan had also claimed massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

“Armed merely with their vocal chords and without any supporting documents to prove their allegations, these alleged witnesses are now shouting out loud and, as if with full orchestration, that my election was marred with irregularities,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri noted that his rival, Pimentel, took advantage of the situation by calling for his resignation “despite the pendency of his (Pimentel) election protest at the Senate Electoral Tribunal.”

“While my counter-protest is still pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the revision and recounting of the ballots are going on smoothly to find out the truth on the parties’ allegations, a number of highly suspect ‘personalities’ suddenly cropped up recently, claiming that they were allegedly ‘witnesses’ to the alleged frauds and irregularities during the 2007 elections,” he said.


In his speech, the senator also enumerated his accomplishments, which included passage of the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008; Renewable Energy Act of 2008; Organic Agriculture Act of 2010; Home Development Mutual Fund Act of 2009; and the Rent Control Act of 2009 among others.

He said he was instrumental in the creation of more than 400 high schools.

“I fulfilled my job responsibly with honesty, integrity and dignity, and I could proudly look in the eyes of every Filipino who put me in this position, that the trust and confidence they had given me were not put to naught,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri said he could not afford to be half-hearted in fulfilling his mandate as senator.

He also said he has directed his lawyers to make proper representation with the SET and expressed hope it would “come up with a decision at the soonest possible time.”

Not so fast

At the Comelec, Brillantes said Pimentel cannot automatically take over Zubiri’s position without SET’s blessing.

“The resignation will help Koko’s electoral protest. The resolution of the case will be sped up and there is a chance that he will assume office sooner,” he said.

Brillantes said the SET has to rule first in Pimentel’s favor before he can take Zubiri’s place.

Zubiri’s resignation came as Comelec and the Department of Justice are set to begin their joint investigation into allegations of massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 polls.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal also said that SET still has to “evaluate the evidence” first and decide if Pimentel can assume the Senate post.

Macalintal was the legal counsel of the Genuine Opposition, to which Pimentel belonged, during the 2007 polls.

Macalintal added that in the event SET finds out that Zubiri really won the senatorial race, it would only affirm his proclamation but would not allow him to continue his term.

Brillantes also said that if SET rules in Zubiri’s favor, “there will be vacancy in the Senate and a special election” may be held to fill the slot.

“The protest case is not yet over (even with Zubiri’s resignation). The protest is still ongoing until it has been resolved by SET,” Brillantes maintained.

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