JUAN MIGUEL ZUBIRI: A true gentleman

 

JUAN MIGUEL ZUBIRI:  A true gentleman

The recent resignation as senator of Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri earned him praises not only from his family, colleagues and lawmakers but more importantly from his countrymen as well.

Historic as it was, Zubiri’s exit as a member of the Philippine Senate after four fruitful years, will always be remembered, describing him as a “true gentleman worthy to be emulated.”

            The workaholic former senator, who was the youngest-ever to be a Majority Floorleader, has done a lot of things and wanted to do more — from crafting landmark laws to initiating various projects all over the country.

            Now living as a private citizen, Zubiri has this phrase to say, “I shall return.” And for sure he is referring to running again as a senator in the May 2013 midterm elections.

            Political experts have this theory that Zubiri will be a run-away winner, if not becoming a topnotcher,  not only because he is a prolific, hardworking senator but also his act of resigning as a senator created a kind of mass sympathy among the voting populace.

            The people would ignore accusations that Zubiri’s political party cheated in the 2004 elections but they can remember in Zubiri the grit of a true gentleman.

Zubiri, an administration, landed the 12th spot for the Senate, defeating Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, an opposition in 2007 election. The difference of the votes was less than 20,000.

Pimentel has since contested Zubiri’s win but failed to get the High Court’s restraining order on Zubiri’s proclamation.

Zubiri was proclaimed Senator on July 2007 with 11,001,730 votes, a little over Pimentel’s 10,983,358. An electoral protest is pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

Praises from colleagues, lawmakers, wife

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was all praise for Zubiri: “I’m sad that we’re going to lose you but I’m sure that what you did today in this chamber, … will be remembered. And your detractors will be chastised and you will come back here again …

“We cannot stop you … because it’s a matter of honor. And as head of this chamber, … I will study your resignation and make a decision in due time. I will consult the members of the chamber about it. We are not going to do this rashly.

“Today we are witnessing the happening of a historical event. This is the first time within the reach of my memory, in my 87 years on this planet, … that a member of this chamber chose honor ahead of himself. Bayan muna bago sarili (Country first before self). That is the meaning of what you did.”

San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito said he admired Zubiri’s valor and delicadeza for yielding to public opinion.

Ejercito said it was difficult for Zubiri to give up his Senate seat, having fought for it for so long.

“More important here is that Zubiri resigned because he knew he could no longer serve the people the same way, with the public giving him a trial by publicity [and pronouncing] him guilty of massive cheating in Maguindanao even if there had been no trial of the case,” Ejercito said.

Zubiri’s fellow senators saw “courage and honor” in his decision to quit.

“I admire him for this courageous and difficult decision,” said Sen. Francis Escudero. “It must be a tough time for him and his family, and I wish them well as they go through it.”

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Teofisto Guingona III agreed that Zubiri’s action was “the honorable thing to do.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said he had discouraged Zubiri from quitting but was respecting the latter’s decision.

“You have to fight it out if you really did nothing,” Estrada recalled telling Zubiri.

Audrey Zubiri stood by her man.

“I am very proud of my husband for what he did,” she told reporters in English and Filipino. “He proved that he is a real man, a man who is not afraid to do what is right no matter how difficult.”

Profile

In 2008, Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, at age 39, became the youngest to be elected as Senate Majority Leader since the First Congress in 1946. A veteran legislator, he served the 3rd District of Bukidnon from 1998 to 2007 and was always cited as one of the most outstanding solons in the House of Representatives. He has also maintained a perfect attendance in the Plenary Sessions for the last 12 years (4 Congresses) both as Congressman and as Senator, and including this 15th Congress.

In the 14th Congress and during his stint as Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Zubiri helped steer the Senate to a record performance of around 650 bills enacted into laws.

Zubiri is the principal author and sponsor of more than 20 major laws, both in the Senate and during his stint as Congressman. As a fervent advocate of clean energy, he worked for the passage of RA 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and RA 9367 or the Biofuels Act of 2006, earning him the moniker Mr. Clean Energy.

He is also considered the “father” of the New Cooperative Code being the principal sponsor and author of RA 9520 or the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008.

Zubiri is known as a champion of environmental concerns, an advocacy he pursues in the Senate and among his top legislative agenda. In the current 15th Congress, he chairs the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. He also chairs the Committee on Cooperatives and 3 Joint Congressional Oversight Committees such as the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act; Joint Congressional Committee on Clean Air Act; and the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Cooperatives. He is also a member of 20 other Senate standing committees.

He is involved in concrete environmental programs such as being the founder of the Philippine Deer Foundation, a deer conservation project, and as President of the Palawan-based Katala Foundation which protects endangered wildlife species and their habitats. A trained first aider and certified rescue diver, he is a Governor of the Philippine Red Cross and active member of the Red Cross Youth Committee and Concerned Divers of the Philippines.

Zubiri has published two books: the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008, and Bukidnon: The Philippine Frontier. He is a graduate of Master’s in Environment and Natural Resources Management at the University of the Philippines Open University and Bachelor of Science in Agri-Business Management at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños. He has also been conferred four Honorary or Honoris Causa Doctoral degrees by various private and state universities.

He takes pride for being the husband to lovely Audrey; a loving father to Ma. Adriana and Juanmi; and a good son to Vice-Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri, Jr. of Bukidnon, and Victoria Fernandez-Zubiri of Libon, Albay.

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