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Position on Cha-cha reason behind ‘coup’ rumors against him, Zubiri says

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday said he was informed that his position on Charter change (Cha-cha) is the reason behind rumors of a Senate leadership shake-up.

"May source din ako na nagsabi na dahil sa position ko nga on Charter Change. Ginagamit nila 'yung mabagal daw na output ng Senado for a unicameral parliament. May mga ganoong usapin," Zubiri said in an interview at the National Museum.

The Senate president explained that it is the tradition of the chamber to "take time" in passing and approving measures.

He refuted allegations of low productivity under his leadership by citing recently passed legislations, particularly the bill limiting the coverage of fixed terms in the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the bill condoning the loan amortization of agrarian reform beneficiaries; and the bill creating the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning Program.

"Kung may black propaganda man sa akin, that's part of the game. Ako naman pag may 13 signatures, I'm willing to step down any time. 'Yan ay prerogative ng ating peers. We serve at the pleasure of our peers. Ang akin diyan is, we are doing our best and we have been passing a lot of legislation," he said.

Zubiri also maintained that amending the 1987 Constitution is not a priority of the Senate.

"It is not the priority of the President, it is also not our priority. Binabatikos na nga kami na hindi namin natatapos yung aming legislative agenda tapos Charter Change pa ang pag-uusapan? Aabot ng taon-taon iyan. Ang debate napakatindi, napaka-divisive na issue," Zubiri said.

"Let us focus on the job at hand. Post-pandemic recovery, a Senate of national reconstruction. We will continue that agenda. We will continue to be focused on that," he added.

Asked if he knows where the coup plot rumor is coming from, Zubiri said: "I have no clue. Your guess is as good as mine."

In the 19th Congress, Senator Robin Padilla is actively pushing for amendments to the 1987 Constitution, particularly to its so-called restrictive economic provisions.

In a press conference after his public hearing on the measures proposing constitutional amendments in Baguio City, Padilla denied that he had anything to do with the rumored coup plot.

"Aba, pangit na balita 'yan kasi ako'y satisfied naman kay Senator Migz. Katunayan e wala naman akong alam na nagrereklamo, napakagaling na leader ni Senator Migz," Padilla said.

"Na-timing pa ngayon. Wala akong kinalaman diyan. Hindi ako ganun trumabaho. Artista pa lang ako, hindi ako marunong bumanat nang pailalim. Hindi ako traydor e. Sasabihin ko kung hindi kita gusto. Sasabihin ko kung di kita gusto. Sasabihin ko nang harapan 'yon. Hindi po ako ganun at sino ba naman ako para mag-tanggal ng Senate president. My goodness gracious," he added.

Zubiri believes that  any plan to change the leadership in the chamber is "par for the course" and part of being the top leader of the Senate.

"There always have been talks of 'coup' rumors and black propaganda is all around. Ang importante, let us remain focused on the job at hand," he said.

On Tuesday, Politiko reported that Zubiri nearly lost his position due to his supposed low output and alleged failure to prioritize key legislative measures.

Apart from Padilla, nine senators denied the coup rumors and most of them expressed full support for Zubiri.

Among the nine senators was Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who also claimed that this rumor is linked to the current push to amend the 1987 Constitution.

"This is absolutely untrue! Senate President Zubiri enjoys the full trust and support of the majority...I am 100% sure that the fake news is connected to the talks about constitutional amendments wherein the Senate as body, will play a key role to its success," Gatchalian said.

In an interview Thursday, Senator Francis Tolentino said there are no talks about ousting Zubiri among his colleagues.

"Wala namang ganong usapan. Wala akong naririnig as far as im concerned...wala akong naririnig na rumblings," he said.

Tolentino said Zubiri is very proactive and that he is "satisfied" with the Senate president's performance. — BM, GMA Integrated News