Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.
And good morning to my esteemed colleagues, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
As we open today the 19th Congress, our people expect us members of this upper chamber to keep the role of the Senate as the last bastion of democracy, a revered institution that consistently upholds the national interest, protects civil, political and human rights, and promotes transparency and accountability in public service.
The last national election was probably the most divisive in recent years. More than two months has since passed, we now have to buckle down and perform our respective mandates as elected officials of this country. And as we navigate a challenging recovery from the pandemic, amid the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the Senate needs to steer needed pieces of legislation to build back a better economy. To get things done, there’s no one in my mind that could lead the present composition of the Senate but Senator Juan Miguel Fernandez Zubiri or Senator Migz as we fondly call him.
However, if you were to ask me two decades ago what my impressions are about of Senator Migz, my answer would probably be not the most glowing. After all, we were then at the opposite ends of the political spectrum – I was part of the first family, while then neophyte Congressman Zubiri was with the opposition, who was among the most critical of my father’s administration.
Ngunit bilog ang mundo. At gaya ng mga bagay sa ating buhay gayundin sa larangan ng pulitika, marami na ang nagbago. Ang ilang bumabatikos sa atin noon ay kaalyado at mabuting kaibigan na natin ngayon. To borrow the very witty but wise words of my father — weather-weather lang ‘yan.
As I came to know him, up close and personal, in the four years that we were seatmates in the Senate, I came to admire the man.
When I was honored to be your Senate President Pro Tempore during the 14th Congress, he was our hardworking Majority Leader. As Majority Leader, Senator Migz demonstrated competence and expertise on parliamentary rules and procedures and was able to steer and guide floor deliberations on pending measures with utmost fairness and direction, effectively creating an atmosphere of cooperation and understanding from both the majority and minority members. Indeed, I saw first-hand how this gentleman works. Totoong trabahador ng Senado. He was a true consensus-builder, finding ways and means to shepherd the passage of important measures and effectively navigated the so-called 24 republics that is this Institution.
His recognition as a consensus leader in the upper chamber was the reason why he regained his majority leadership, first bestowed upon him during the 14th Congress, in the 17th and in the last 18th Congresses. And as the Majority Leader during the 18th Congress, he dutifully stood on this august floor, sometimes until the wee hours of the night, and even during the dangerous times when Covid emptied it of warm bodies.
On a personal note, nang ako’y nalugmok, hindi sya sumama sa mga taong sumipa sa akin ng ako’y dapang-dapa na. This shows his decency and respect for a fellow public servant. And I thank him for that. A true gentleman. Totoong tao. Patas na kausap.
Ngunit hindi tayo naghahanap ng pinuno na mabait. O malambing o may pakikisama lamang.
Ang hanap nati’y lider na masipag. Magaling. At may alam.
To quote Martin Luther King, “a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
In several instances in the past, Sen. Zubiri displayed his ability to diffuse the tension on the Senate floor through his “ice cream diplomacy.”
His amiable personality coupled with good looks – aminin na natin na artistahin gaya ko ang kasama nating Senador – are not all that he has. Minsan na rin siyang nagpakita ng tapang nang ipagtanggol niya ang integridad ng Senado mula sa akusasyong pag-whitewash ng isasagawang imbestigasyon sa isang bribery/extortion scandal na kinasasangkutan ng ilang opisyal ng Bureau of Immigration.
“I didn’t become world champion in arnis for nothing” ika niya sa kanyang katunggaling senador noon. Ngunit sa huli, pinairal pa rin ni Senator Migz ang pagiging maginoo. Pagpapamalas ito ng isang mabuting lider na hindi hahayaang madungisan ang institusyong kinabibilangan natin ngayon.
As we face our future with the pandemic still in the midst, we can depend on a Senate leader who can exercise his best judgement, sound prudence and wisdom, one who can help chart the destiny of our nation.
Sa kanyang mahabang taon ng karanasan bilang mambabatas sa dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso, nagsimula siyang itim ang kanyang buhok hanggang sa naging puti nang lahat – masasabi kong buong-buo na ang kanyang kaalaman at kakayahan upang pangunahan ang pagsasakatuparan ng mabigat na papel ng Senado sa pagbangon ng bayan mula sa dagok ng pandemya.
I am voting for Senator Migz because his consultative approach in bringing together the best ideas that 24 of us can offer is best vaccine against gridlock which has plagued us so many times in the past.
He is the Senate President we should have in these times when we are under immense pressure to deliver to the people what they need. He is the Senate President that we want to ensure that this institution will be a true work horse – efficient, productive in terms of legislating the urgent policies to revive the economy, and truly responsive to the needs of the Filipinos.
In closing, I would like to borrow a line from the 1957 inaugural speech of former Pres. Carlos P. Garcia, “together we will meet our common problems and difficulties. With the singleness of purpose together we will overcome them.”
To continue to preserve the independence and integrity of the Senate, I respectfully nominate Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri as Senate President.