Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri was at risk of losing his powerful and influential post due to his supposed lack of productivity and failure to prioritize key legislative initiatives including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
According to Politiko.com.ph sources, one factor for lack of productivity was the inefficiency of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), a branch of the executive tasked to push for legislations that are in the interest of the administration last year.
The notable bills passed by both houses of Congress last year were the national budget for 2023, SIM registration, and the cancellation of the scheduled 2022 barangay elections and their transfer to the current year.
Looking back at the combined budget of the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is possible that billions were spent for each passed bill. Other bills lapsed into law after the prescribed period, and the Palace did not veto them.
The sources said Malacañang hinted to Zubiri that he might be replaced because only three bills were passed under the current administration last year, and if he fails to be more productive this year, someone more capable will take his place.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez was also said to have been reminded by Malacañang, along with Zubiri.
Based on records, PLLO officials assigned to the legislative departments last year include Undersecretary Bernardino Sayo (Senate) and Undersecretary Agapito Guanlao (House of Representatives).
It was reported that Sayo was scolded by Senate Committee on National Defense Chairman Jinggoy Estrada late last year for rushing him to pass the bill concerning the tenure of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Ibibigay mo sa akin itong trabahong ito, one week ipapasa ko sa Senado? Bakit? Wala ba ako hearing, wala ba akong interpellation diyan?” Estrada was quoted sermoning Sayo.
PLLO Chief and former Batangas Congressman Mark Llandro Mendoza remains mum on the issues.
In addition, the sources claimed that Malacañang was also frustrated by Zubiri’s failure to prioritize the RCEP, an international trade agreement that requires ratification from the Senate. RCEP is one of the Marcos administration’s programs to help the country recover from the economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sources said Senator Pia Cayetano and Senator Cynthia Villar were being considered to replace Zubiri if he is removed from his post. However, these replacements supposedly did not sit well with Malacañang.
The sources added that Zubiri was able to save himself from ouster because of his sudden inclusion of RCEP in the calendar, even though it was not included in the previous agendas. The Senate ratified RCEP with 20 votes in favor on February 21 of this year.
Before this, Zubiri was reported to have made some blunders, such as revealing that the Philippines was on China’s red-flag list for tourists because of the prevalence of POGO, which was later contradicted by the Chinese ambassador.
Another incident was when employees were upset with him when he announced additional benefits for them that were supposed to be confidential because other institutions did not offer them.
Zubiri won his first term as a senator as a result of electoral fraud. The Senate Electoral Tribunal ruled in 2011 that vote padding and shaving was evident in the results of 2,658 precincts in Mindanao which were questioned by Aquilino Pimentel III, the 13th placer in the 2007 senatorial race.
He resigned from the Senate after concrete proof of poll fraud emerged. Pimentel, who had 258,166 more votes than Zubiri, was sworn in as senator in August 2011.