The resignation of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri from the Senate is a big loss to Negros Occidental and the sugar industry, Negrense leaders said yesterday.

Zubiri, whose father is from Kabankalan City, in a privilege speech yesterday afternoon delivered before the Senate, said he was resigning with honor and dignity, amid claims that he benefited from alleged cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections.

”I did not cheat nor ask anyone to cheat for me and my family. We would never tolerate any form of electoral fraud,” Zubiri said.

But Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said “his conscience must have bothered him”.

Zubiri said he and his family were deeply hurt by fraud allegations and trial by publicity being waged by Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who lost against him for the 12th slot in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Pimentel, who is married to Negrense Jewel Mae Lobaton, insists he was cheated of his victory in the 2007 polls and has a pending protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

”Without admitting any fault and with my vehement denial of the alleged electoral fraud hurled against me, I am submitting my resignation as a duly elected Senator of the Republic of the Philippines in the election for which I am falsely accused without mercy and compassion,” Zubiri said in his speech.

Zubiri said he has directed his lawyers to make proper and immediate representation before the Senate Electoral Tribunal about his resignation to expedite the process, and allow the tribunal to come up with a decision at the soonest possible time.

Zubiri was elected in the May 2007 elections after getting over 11 million votes and his term would have ended in 2013.

The senator said he decided to resign “not because I am exhausted from the demands of my calling as a legislator nor to evade the decision of the Senatorial Electoral Tribunal” but due to “these unfounded accusations against me.”

”These issues have systematically divided our nation and cast doubts in our electoral system, which has affected not only myself, this institution but the public as well,” he added.

”No amount of power, position or wealth is worth sacrificing one’s honor and integrity,” he said.

Zubiri also said that he resigned to spare his family from intrigues.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. lauded Zubiri for his statesmanship.

Very few Filipinos can emulate what he did, he said.

The governor said he is proud of Zubiri, who is an Ilonggo, and saddened because he has done a lot to help Negros Occidental as a senator.

Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer (Neg. Occ., 4th District) said “I many not be in total agreement with his resignation but I have to respect his decision.”

His resignation is a great loss to the Filipino people, especially to the Ilonggos, Ferrer said.

Rep. Julio Ledesma (Neg. Occ, 1st District) said “I’m kind of shocked because of all the possible ways in which his act may be construed. Flummoxed and finally angry at the source and root of all this.”

“Negros lost a great ally in the Senate. He is a cut above the rest. I’m sure he’ll be back, he’s a great statesman,” Rep. Alfredo Marañon III (Neg. Occ., 2nd District) said.

Luis Tongoy of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, said “we take our hats off to Senator Migz for his courage to uphold his honor and dignity. His resignation is a big loss to the sugar industry.”

Tongoy said Zubiri’s passion for the sugarcane farmers will surely be missed, citing his support for the causes of the industry on premix sugar, biofuels and renewable energy.

“I am saddened by his resignation because he is a staunch supporter of the sugar industry and we thank him for that,” Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said.

“I admire his decision in valuing honor more than his position,” he added.

Manuel Lamata, United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines president, said Zubiri is a big loss to the sugar industry and Negros Occidental having championed the causes of both as senator.

Zubiri, who is from Bukidnon in Mindanao and has roots in Negros, became the first senator in the Senate history to voluntarily leave his post.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who lauded Zubiri for his moral courage to uphold his honor, said he would study Zubiri’s resignation and make a decision in due time.

“We respect the decision of Mr. Zubiri to relinquish his post in the Senate. It represents a way forward to start healing the wounds of the past. We thank him for the service he has given our countrymen,” a statement from Malacañang said yesterday.

“We call on Mr. Zubiri to further demonstrate his willingness to help restore the dignity of our electoral process. Any contribution he makes can be vital in restoring the people’s mandate and in giving the Filipinos the meaningful electoral reforms they rightfully deserve,” the statement added.*CPG

source: visayandailystar

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