Estrada, other majority senators deny coup vs. Zubiri

(CNN) Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) — Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Monday dismissed rumors tagging him in a supposed coup to oust Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri.

“May mga tsismis, may nagma-Marites sa akin na ako raw ang papalit. Walang katotohanan ‘yun,”Estrada said during the Kapihan sa Senado press conference.

“You can ask every single senator here kung meron akong kinausap, wala akong kinakausap dito,” he added.

[Translation: There are rumors, gossip has reached me that I would take that position. There is no truth to it. You can ask every single senator here if I have talked to anyone — I have not spoken to anyone here.]

Estrada refused to name where he heard the rumors from, but said these “have been circulating” even before Congress went on break on June 2. Coup plots are usually hatched overnight, Estrada noted. 

He said he’s “not thinking about” the Senate presidency and expressed full support for Zubiri.

Over the past weeks, the Senate came under fire for allegedly tampering with the Maharlika Investment Fund bill and for the supposed lack of decorum among some of its members.

Estrada disagrees with the changes made to the version of the Maharlika bill passed by the Senate and adopted by the House, but said he trusts that Zubiri knows how to handle the issue. 

“If you may call me a veteran senator, what I understand sa tagal ko dito you cannot alter, not even a period, not even a comma, yun ang aking pagkakaintindi,” Estrada said.

[Translation: If you may call me a veteran senator, what I understand from the time I’ve spent here you cannot alter, not even a period, not even a comma, that’s what I understand.]

He agrees with former Senate President Franklin Drilon that the chamber should have sent the third reading copy of the bill to the Palace and once signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., pass another measure amending it to make the corrections.

“If he asks my advice, why not, but of course the Senate President is very knowledgeable and very talented,” Estrada added.

Meanwhile, Senator Robin Padilla, a first-time lawmaker, said Zubiri did not lack in reminding colleagues to observe decorum. 

“Hindi naman siya, very kind kasi pagdating naman sa lounge mahigpit si Sen. Migz,” Padilla said.

“Napaka-diplomatic niya na tao. Pero pag kami-kami lang nandoon talaga yung, lumalabas yung pagkamaestro, pagka-lakan, pagka-martial artist niya. Pag kami-kami lang sa lounge talagang yungorder binibigay niya,” he added.

[Translation: Sen. Migz can be very strict, but he is kind. He is very diplomatic. But when it’s just us, he becomes a leader. When we are together in the lounge, he really gives the orders.]

Padilla said no one has talked to him about any attempt to change the Senate leadership, adding that if this is ever put to a vote, he would support Zubiri. 

Other members of the majority bloc also came to Zubiri’s defense. 

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva called Zubiri “an effective leader” who has consistently built consensus among colleagues. 

“A good leader knows how to listen to his peers and this makes SP Migz the most fit to lead the Senate. He really is Zubiri-good. It’s not just a play on his name, but an apt description of how he is as a Senate president,” Villanueva said in a text message shared with reporters. 

Deputy Majority Leader JV Ejercito said Zubiri’s shoes “will be too big to fill.” 

“That’s why I don’t think anyone will even attempt to wrest the Senate’s leadership from him,” Ejercito said. 

Senator Sonny Angara also does not see any imminent leadership change, saying Zubiri is “well-liked” for leading the chamber “in a very professional and consultative manner.”

Senator Imee Marcos, for her part, called for a stop to these rumors. “Ang daming trabaho, tigilan na ang intriga,” she said.

[Translation: There is a lot of work to be done, these rumors should stop.]

Senator Nancy Binay likewise said these “intrigues” should not be entertained, but stressed that the majority of senators “are all happy and pleased with the current leadership.” 

Senator Win Gatchalian also said there was no truth to any talk of a change.

“There’s no such thing. The members are very satisfied with the leadership of SP Zubiri. We have accomplished a lot under his guidance,” he said.

Senator Bong Go said he was unaware that there was any talk of change, adding he trusts and supports the present leadership.

“We currently have a working and independent Senate with a very energetic and consultative leadership which has always made sure that every member is treated fairly and given the opportunity to be heard on matters regarding our function as senators of the Republic,” he said.

In a media interview last Thursday, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda also sang praises for a “very amiable” Zubiri. 

“Why would you fix something that’s not broken?” Legarda said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Zubiri is in Washington, D.C. on official business. “I serve at the pleasure of my colleagues,” he said in a text message.