Senate coup rumors float amid criticisms

(MALAYA) SENATORS who belong to the majority bloc in the Senate yesterday assured Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri of their continued support when the Second Regular Session of the 19th Congress opens next month as they dismissed rumors of a leadership change in the upper chamber.

Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said talks of a change in the Senate leadership have become common whenever Congress is on break to sow intrigue among senators.

He added that “leaks” on supposed discrete moves by some senators to oust the present leadership have always turned out to be false.

He recalled that during the 2008 “coup” against then Senate President Manny Villar caught senators by surprise and that talks about it did not circulate before the take-over actually happened.

Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile replaced Villar as Senate president at the time, which triggered a major reshuffle of key positions in the Senate due to the resignation of committee chairpersons.

“When we had a change in leadership kay SP Manny then Manong Johnny, isang gabi lang ‘yun. Biglaan lang ‘yun. Hindi pinag-planuhan (When we had a change in leadership from Senate President Manny Villar to Manong Johnny (Enrile), it happened overnight. It was sudden. It was not planned),” Estrada told the Kapihan sa Senado media forum.

Estrada said he has heard of the present “intrigue,” which he said included him replacing Sen. Loren Legarda as president pro tempore, a post which he once held for six years.

“I deny that… May nag-Marites sa akin ako raw papalit. Walang katotohanan ‘yan. Pati ako nagulat sa tsismis (Someone told me that I will replace [Sen. Legarda]. There is no truth to that. Even I was surprised with the rumor),” he said.

He said he is unaware where or how the rumors started, adding that the Senate supermajority is fully supportive of Zubiri’s leadership.

“He is okay. His rating is high which also carried the Senate due to his high rating. We are the second highest institution,” Estrada said in mixed Filipino and English.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said that changing Zubiri is unlikely to happen since the latter “is well liked because he leads in a very professional and consultative manner.”

“The same goes for his team of (Senate president) pro temp (tempore) Sen. Loren (Legarda) and majority leader Sen. Joel (Villanueva) who are very good at their jobs,” Angara said.

Sen. Nancy Binay said talks of a change in the Senate leadership should not be entertained since these will not do any good to the upper chamber.

“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.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said “senators are very much satisfied with the leadership” of Zubiri.

“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. The performance of the Senate under SP Migz speaks for itself,” he said.

Sen. Robin Padilla said he admires Zubiri for his leadership style and assured that he will fully supports the incumbent Senate president.

Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of President Marcos Jr., said that people spreading the coup rumors should stop it.

“Ang daming trabaho, tigilan na nila! (We have so much work to do, they better stop it!”) she said.

Sen. Francis Tolentino said he has not heard any rumor on the supposed change in the leadership and called it as “unnecessary distraction.”

In a message to reporters, Zubiri’s reaction was simple: “I serve at the pleasure of my colleagues.”

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the minority has no knowledge about the supposed coup.

“Minority hands off from majority matters. Also, there will only be a change if someone is interested in the top position and as far as I know there’s no one interested,” he said in a Viber message to reporters.

Talks of a possible change in the Senate leadership come amid the criticisms Senate leaders Franklin Drilon and Vicente Sotto III on the “lack of decorum” of some senators during plenary sessions and committee hearings.

Drilon, in a statement issued two weeks ago, has said that the current members of the upper chamber lack proper decorum in the way they conduct themselves during official activities.

Sotto said senators, especially neophytes, should follow Senate traditions when it comes to observing proper decorum.

Although Drilon and Sotto did not name names, Padilla reacted to their statements as he was earlier bashed on social media sites after he was seen on camera during a committee hearing combing his moustache while Sen. Raffy Tulfo was presiding over a hearing.

For his defense, Padilla said there was nothing written in the Rules of Senate which prohibits him from combing his moustache while there is an ongoing committee hearing.

The other observations that the Senate lack proper decorum include that some sessions turn out noisy as some senators speak even before a colleague finishes his or her points of discussions, that some senators are busy talking with each other while their colleague is speaking, some senators utter cuss words during committee hearings, and that some senators laugh too loud during sessions.

The supposed lack of decorum was seen by some as a handicap for Zubiri, with some critics saying he lacks control over the demeanors of members of the Senate, an allegation that has been denied by most senators.