It may be best to think of this piece as the middle part of a trilogy of columns; it responds to the previous column, and it is followed by a detailed counter-response. Published on January 25, 2011.
IN THE last few months and until last week, I had been more or less incommunicado, completing a book project. But I was never completely out of the loop, and when I found out that Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri had written our publisher a lengthy letter in reply to my column on Sen. Loren Legarda and Zubiri’s case at the Senate Electoral Tribunal last week, I asked for a copy. His letter, it turns out, is too long for our Letters page (we cannot accommodate anything more than 3,000 characters long). Instead of sending it back to him to cut it down to the right size, however, I thought of running it here instead. I have done exactly that in previous instances, and I am only too glad to do the same thing for him.
I will not comment on his letter this week, except for one rejoinder at the end; I will let him make his case, unedited, and respond in full next week.
To set the context, let me repeat the following from last week’s piece:
Legarda is a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal—a fitting choice, I thought then, when I voted for her last May, because of her own unfortunate experience with election fraud and her difficult decision to play by the rules and invest in the expensive electoral protest process. But on Koko Pimentel’s protest against Migz Zubiri, Legarda has unaccountably chosen to be silent … Those of us who voted for her should challenge her: Explain yourself.
Otherwise, we can guess the caption to her legacy: “There are the Loren Twins. One is a Good Loren. One is a Bad Loren. The Good Loren is a courageous reformer. The Bad Loren, alas, makes deals.”
To this column, Zubiri replied as follows:
I have always considered the Inquirer as one of the pioneers and the most credible among the print media organizations in the country. I am one in its vision that it is an institution for and of professionals through responsible, broad-based media ownership, with an editorial policy of fairness, commitment to information and the courage to stand for issues that have meaning in the lives of Filipinos.
This Representation strongly respect all opinions and criticisms as one of my advocacies is to uphold the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. However, it is my stand that the two components of democracy must be duly exercised with utmost diligence and integrity. It should not be utilized to malign a person’s reputation much more mislead the public by presenting twisted facts and biased opinions.
After being proclaimed as the winning senatorial candidate in the 2007 national election, questions as to my legitimacy have been the center of different discussions and columns in your newspaper. Moreover, for several times, I have been the favorite topic of one of your columnists, John Nery, who admittedly is a “friend from childhood” of my greatest critique Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. The attacks were basically to destroy my reputation by calling me a cheat and conditioned the mind of the public that the on-going protest in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) has been concluded or terminated as his “childhood friend” already obtained a lead of 250,000 votes. For the record, the SET has not in any way finally determined or made any pronouncement as to the number of votes each of the parties has gained until both the protest and the counter-protest are completed in accordance with its rules. The tribunal has yet to determine the remaining 75 percent of my counter-protest. Voting 6-3, including the two Supreme Court justices, the nine-member SET gave due course to proceed with my remaining counter-protest based on its own examination and appreciation of the ballots which resulted to a finding that more than 50 percent of ballots specifically cited in the revision reports were spurious and resulting to around 80,000 votes recovered. This clearly shows that, indeed, syndicates had operated in Metro Manila against my votes. Following his several columns attacking my person, integrity and my well-kept name, clearly, it can be inferred that a pattern of malicious intent is present, compelled with defamatory schemes with no other purpose but to destroy my reputation and integrity.
As a gentleman, I have kept my peace in his repeated tirades against me. However, last Jan. 18, Nery again wrote an article this time raising judgment against a member of the SET who voted in favor of “the respect of due process.” He even insinuated that deals were made. Let me clarify, for the record, I have made no deals with any of the members of the SET. In fact, there are two justices of the Supreme Court who voted in my favor, whom I have never met or talked to. Let me quote the SET Resolution No. 07-113, “…only this Tribunal has the sole prerogative and authority to declare a winner in this election contest…” As such, I therefore ask this honorable paper to wait for the completion of the process before it passes judgment upon me.
In this regard, I appeal for truthfulness and objectivity. Trial by publicity is not in any way due process. The rule of law which is the corner stone of republicanism is set aside. Kindly afford me of my day in court. Responsible journalism is what I ask—balanced news, fearless views.
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I wish to thank Senator Zubiri for his reply, and for now only want to make one thing clear. I did not insinuate that deals were made; I categorically declare that a particular deal was made. Last year, after the electoral tide became clear, Zubiri entered into a political alliance, among others, with Senators Legarda, Ed Angara and Lito Lapid—the very members of the SET hearing his case. Magnificent Seven, anyone?