Rumors of Senate coup to unseat Migz swirl; Jinggoy, Loren deny it

(MANILA STANDARD) Rumors continued to swirl Monday about an alleged leadership coup at the Senate, which came as Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri was still in Washington DC, on an official visit.

The persistent speculation in the upper chamber was that Zubiri would be ousted during the opening of the 2nd Regular Session of the 19th Congress on July 24 and that he would be replaced by Senator Jinggoy Estrada or Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.

Zubiri, who has yet to return from the United States, said previously: “I serve at the pleasure of my colleagues.”

Both Legarda and Estrada denied the rumors, calling them mere gossip.

Estrada on Monday said there was no such thing as a coup against Zubiri.

In a media briefing, Estrada said he does not know where the rumor came from. He said the “supermajority” in the Senate is very supportive of Zubiri.

He also described Zubiri’s leadership as “good.”

As the rating (performance) of Zubiri is high, Estrada said this has a huge positive impact on the Senate.

In fact, he said the Senate ranked No. 2 when it comes to performance rating among government institutions.

Estrada admitted that somebody told him about the rumor and that he would replace Zubiri. However, he declined to say who it was.

Asked if he is ready to be the Senate President, Estrada replied, “I’m not thinking of it.”

Estrada, who has served as Senate Pro Tempore for six years, said he is prepared to work and file more bills.

He also strongly denied rumors that he was aiming for a higher position and challenged reporters to ask every single senator if he had ever talked to them about the Senate leadership.

“You can ask the senators here,” he said.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader JV Ejercito, Estrada’s half-brother, also denied the rumor, saying the senators are very satisfied with Zubiri’s leadership.

“In all honesty, SP Migz, 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.

He said the performance of the Senate under Zubiri speaks for itself.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the finance committee, also denied any move to oust Zubiri, who he said was “well-liked.”

He added that Zubiri leads in a very professional and consultative manner.

Senator Robinhood Padilla said nothing is lacking in the leadership of Zubiri. In fact, he sees him as strict with his fellow senators, especially if there are laws that need to be discussed and passed.

Although many see Zubiri as very kind and diplomatic, Padilla said he is somehow “authoritative” as Senate President when it comes to their job as senators.

“So he gains the respect of all of us,” he added.

Senator Nancy Binay said intrigues such as these should not be entertained because they won’t help the Senate.

“All I can say is that we are all happy and pleased with the current leadership, and we all attest that SP Migz has the trust and confidence of the members of the Senate,” Binay said.

Three days ago, Zubiri dismissed the rumors of a coup to replace him at the Senate, saying that “no senator ever confirmed such rumors.”

Zubiri has maintained that he is willing to step down and give up his position anytime “if they can show the numbers.”

He said he will gladly give up his leadership to any senator who will obtain 13 votes to gain the top seat in the Senate.

In a statement, Zubiri said that the rumor is “nothing but tabloid gossip rubbish” and “a figment of someone’s boredom and in their between lucid intervals.”

He emphasized that his style of consensus-building leadership involves all members of the Senate discussing issues and bills.

Zubiri said he feels this arrangement “is ideal for this institution.”