In the last several days, we were elated to read and hear reports about the resignation of Senator Migs Zubiri and the subsequent proclamation of Aquilino Pimentel III, popularly known as Koko, as the 12th winning Philippine senator.
The event has taken a historical dimension because it was the first time a Philippine senator resigned due to “delicadeza” and because his closest rival in the 2007 Senate race took over his vacated post.
The news about the resignation of Zubiri is not only historic but also incredible because the young senator from Bukidnon indeed resigned and even paved the way for the proclamation of Koko, his arch rival, as the candidate who actually won the 12th Senate seat. Zubiri did this by withdrawing his counter-election protest against Koko from the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
Zubiri’s unprecedented move of resigning from his post was an act of courage that has drawn praises from across the political spectrum. He stepped down in the wake of fresh disclosures that the election in Maguindanao in 2007 was marred by massive cheating and that he was one of the beneficiaries of the fraud.
In the eyes of traditional politicians, what Zubiri did was weird, if not foolish. But to the ordinary people, it shows that he is a man who values more his honor and that of his family than his Senate post. Unlike the traditional politicians, he does not simply have the thick skin needed to continue occupying a position he won through dubious means.
In other words, Zubiri “took the road less travelled by and that made the difference.” We are certain that if in the future he runs again in a national election, what the people would remember would not be his being a former senator but his sense of “delicadeza,” a trait that many Philippine politicians sorely lack.
But while Zubiri deserves all the praises for his act of uncommon courage, Koko and his father, former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Q. Pimentel Jr., also deserve accolades.
The father and son should be also congratulated not only because Koko finally becomes a senator after four years of contesting his loss, but also because of their relentless vigilance. This is particularly true to the older Pimentel who is noted not only for his savvy politics but also for his crusade against electoral fraud, particularly the “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) scheme.
We recall that at one time, Nene was a victim of “dagdag-bawas” and he went all-out to prosecute in court the people responsible for the election cheating that benefitted then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, now incumbent Senate President.
In his determined bid to punish those responsible, Nene had to travel a few times all the way from Manila to Laoag City to attend the hearing of a case he filed against an Ilocos Norte school official.
And when it comes to courage, Nene is a living legend. We remember his fight against former President Ferdinand Marcos in the early 1980s. Nene, who was then mayor of Cagayan de Oro City, was a bitter, vociferous critic of Marcos. During the martial-law era, Marcos jailed Nene four times in 1981-1983. (Nene’s mother, whose maiden name was Petra Quilingquing, was a native of Batac, Ilocos Norte, where the Marcos ancestral home is located.)
Nene’s unusual grit in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds endeared him to the people, and that’s the reason he was elected several times as Philippine senator. He became Senate president in 2001.
Nene is not only a brave politician, but he is also a competent legislator. He authored, among other important legislations, the Local Government Code, which has become the bible of local officials in local governance.
Now a plain citizen, he did not run for the Senate in 2007 because he had already reached the three-consecutive-term limit.
We believe though that Koko is capable of doing the role his father used to play in the Senate. We don’t know very well Koko, but we are inclined to believe that due to his pedigree, he will be an effective senator – a lawmaker the people of Mindanao can be proud of.