Senate of the Philippines

Zubiri is out; Escudero is new Senate president

Bonz Magsambol

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Zubiri is out; Escudero is new Senate president
(4th UPDATE) 'Alam mo naman, hindi naman siguro tayo kalaban ng the powers that be. Pero dahil not following instructions kaya nadale tayo,' Zubiri tells reporters

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri stepped down as Senate president on Monday, May 20, handing over the country’s third highest post to Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

“Of course, heartbroken. Alam mo naman hindi naman siguro tayo kalaban ng (You know we’re not enemy of) the powers that be. Pero dahil not following instructions kaya nadale tayo (But because we’re not following instructions, we were targeted),” Zubiri told reporters.

The change in Senate leadership came before Congress’ sine die adjournment or when the session goes on a two-month break. Congress will commence its third regular session on July 22 when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his third State of the Nation Address.

The shift also happened as the Senate was probing alleged leaks in the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) concerning the supposed involvement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in illegal drugs. Zubiri said that the Marcos camp was angry at him for allowing the probe to happen. After four hearings, Senator Bato dela Rosa has failed to establish the alleged Marcos drug links, with his colleagues, including Escudero, saying the allegation was only based on hearsay.

Zubiri warned Dela Rosa to stop using Senate hearings for political persecution. Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed that it was former president Rodrigo Duterte who instructed Dela Rosa to conduct hearings on the alleged PDEA leaks.

At a press briefing later on Monday, Zubiri said that as early as Wednesday, May 15, he was already aware of the supposed ouster plot against him.

He believes it started when he did not agree on the proposed timeline for the approval of charter change, and when he allowed the Senate probe on PDEA leaks.

“I just felt heartbroken. I felt heartbroken not because of position…. I’m heartbroken because of those who committed to be steadfast with us. We had  the same ideals and all of a sudden, they disappeared. That’s life,” he said. 

Zubiri said that he was left with seven allies in the Senate: senators Joel Villanueva, Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Sonny Angara, and Bato dela Rosa, who broke in tears as he listened to Zubiri’s farewell speech that day.

He did not count the two members from the minority bloc: senators Koko Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros. 

Zubiri was elected Senate president unopposed in July 2022. He got the unanimous nod of 19 of his colleagues.

On Tuesday, May 21, Dela Rosa said he was among the 15 senators who voted for Escudero, contrary to Zubiri’s belief that Dela Rosa “stuck it out” with him till the end.

New leader

Escudero’s rise to the Senate’s top post was reportedly sealed when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) forged an alliance with Escudero’s political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), a year before the 2025 elections.

In 2016, Escudero ran for vice president as running mate of then-presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe. He previously served as spokesman of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) when he ran for president in 2004, one of the reasons why FPJ’s daughter stood by Escudero despite talk at the time that he was a liability. Escudero lost to Vice President Leni Robredo.

In 2019, he went back to his home province of Sorsogon and became governor after finishing his second consecutive term as senator. He first entered politics at the age of 28 and ran and won as Sorsogon 1st District Representative in 1998. He made a comeback in the Senate in 2022 after securing over 20.2 million votes, placing him at fifth spot. 

It was Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who nominated Escudero. No other nominations were made, enabling the senators to name him as the new Senate leader.

The ouster of Zubiri triggered other movements in the Senate leadership.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada was elected as the new Senate President Pro Tempore, replacing Senator Loren Legarda. Estrada previously held the position in the 14th Congress in 2007, and the 15th Congress in 2010.

Tolentino replaced Senator Joel Villanueva as Senate majority leader, while Cayetano replaced Senator Nancy Binay as chair of the Senate committee on accounts. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Noted: “Zubiri claimed that the Marcos camp was angry at him for allowing the probe to happen.” If this is true, then the Marcos camp has something to hide, something it is afraid of, or both.

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.