This is what’s wrong with our country


The scene was surreal: the old cheat was visibly moved by the resignation of the young cheat, and praised the young man’s moral courage and sense of dignity. Apparently, there really is honor among election thieves.

For those of us with a long memory, Juan Ponce Enrile is the unlikely but altogether fitting benchmark for Juan Miguel Zubiri’s act of resignation. Even though Enrile did not lose the first dagdag-bawas case filed against him by Koko Pimentel’s father, involving allegations of cheating in the 1995 elections, Enrile did own up to massive election fraud—in 1986, during the heady four days of the Edsa revolution, when circumstance and strategic candor made him admit that he had cheated for Ferdinand Marcos in the snap election.

That made his reluctance to accept Zubiri’s resignation both an acute reflection of Philippine realpolitik, and an apt reminder of the many times our country has lost its way.

I wish to be clear: In resigning from the Senate, Migz Zubiri did the right thing. But that does not make him a hero, or turn him into the poster boy of the long-lost virtue of delicadeza. (Indeed, it does not make him worthy of colleague Neal Cruz’s vote in 2013.) When a thief finally decides to do the right thing, and returns what he stole, he remains liable for the original crime. When an adulterer finally decides to do the right thing, and ends a four-year affair, he does not erase his sin of adultery. When a plagiarist in the academe finally decides to do the right thing, and withdraws all his dilatory counter-petitions, his plagiarism continues to disqualify him for any academic honor or position.

But when a politician who stole into office on a fraudulent mandate finally decides to do the right thing, and resigns, he gets a hero’s reception. Instead of being met with outrage, he is showered with hosannahs. This is what is wrong with our country. Too many of us don’t know which side is up.

Let’s unpack the various issues that Zubiri, by resigning less than two years before the next Senate election, tried to sneak past the public discourse.

Did he cheat? He says, emphatically, that he did not. But he certainly benefited from election fraud (in his post-resignation interviews he said as much). The law, however, does not make any distinction between a fake mandate engineered with the active help of the politician, and a fake mandate manufactured without the knowledge of the politician. It is the same electoral crime. Zubiri did not qualify for the Senate; he did not cross the electoral threshold on his own two feet but negotiated the tricky passage with a backhoe.

Could Zubiri not have known? It’s possible, but that would make him an idiot, the only person who could not understand that malleable election results are by definition manufactured election results. (Chavit Singson first topped the Maguindanao vote, before election sleight of hand pushed Zubiri ahead.) The proceedings of the Senate Electoral Tribunal already proved, as early as two years ago, that massive fraud characterized the vote in Maguindanao, the very province that allowed Zubiri to pull ahead of his closest rival, Pimentel.

Did Zubiri close his eyes to the truth? He says he understands the sometimes surprising reality on the ground, but the improbabilities that riddled the Maguindanao vote in 2007 tell us that, despite his nine years in Congress, he could accept the possibility that not one of the opposition candidates made it to the winning circle in the Maguindanao vote, or that highly popular candidates could end up without a single vote.

Did Zubiri bluster his way through to a counter-protest? That is certainly how I understand it now. He said he wanted to expose an election conspiracy in Metro Manila and in about two-thirds of the country, but his resignation tells us he did not really care about these election results he called anomalous. It was merely a protective measure, designed to insulate his seat.

That Zubiri is the first senator to resign because of an election protest tells us more about the nature of politics as practiced in the Philippines, than about Zubiri himself. That is why an old hand like Enrile was visibly upset; this is not the way things are done. The ordinary rules, which apply to ordinary citizens like you and me, do not really apply to the powers that be. And that is what is wrong with our country.

* * *

A common friend of Koko’s and mine shared the following joke. Pimentel, he said, should file the following brief measure as his first bill: “An Act Renaming the Province of Maguindanao into Don Juan Miguel Zubiri.” The text of the bill can fit into the palm of Zubiri’s hand: “Whereas, Juan Miguel Zubiri was declared as senator through the electoral fraud perpetrated in Maguindanao; Whereas this fraud was proven to the Senate Electoral Tribunal; Whereas Juan Miguel Zubiri, over the past four years, has presented to the public that there was no fraud in Maguindanao; Whereas, when his political situation became untenable, Juan Miguel Zubiri resigned the seat which was not his from the very beginning; Whereas, Juan Miguel Zubiri has the gall to declare that he is resigning to uphold his honor; The province of Maguindanao is hereby renamed Don Juan Miguel Zubiri to honor his historic acts, namely, of fraudulently winning in Maguindanao, of being proven to have won through fraud in Maguindanao, and of resigning his fraudulently won seat in the Senate when he was about to be definitively exposed to the public for the fraud in Maguindanao.”

A joke, as I said—but it’s on all of us.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=9639

Tags: Aquilino Pimentel Jr. , Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III , historic cheating , Juan Miguel Zubiri , Juan Ponce Enrile , Maguindanao , massive election cheating

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZVGHK4UBNIM3J4VCOOWHJJ7HNA therese


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZVGHK4UBNIM3J4VCOOWHJJ7HNA therese


  • Anonymous

    Zubiri simply jumped out of the wagon before the Apaches arrived with their burning arrows. Admire him for his cleverness, not for his wisdom, Delicadeza? Give it to him. Integrity? He didn’t have any. But he’s a politician and politicians are called such precisely because they do not have integrity. 

  • Anonymous

    Zubiri and Enrile understand each other well because they are both cheats! SHAMELESS not honorable is a more appropriate adjective for Zubiri who stole 4 years from the people by not allowing the true winner to be proclaimed. Zubiri did not know anything about the cheating? Would the manipulators of the votes make him win for free? Come on! What do you take us for?! I pledge to campaign against Zubiri ib 2013. NEVER AGAIN!

  • Anya Laya

    drama drama drama. this is starting to be really delusional. 

  • Anonymous

    Zubiri and Enrile understand each other well because they are both cheats! SHAMELESS not honorable is a more appropriate adjective for Zubiri who stole 4 years from the people by not allowing the true winner to be proclaimed. Zubiri did not know anything about the cheating? Would the manipulators of the votes make him win for free? Come on! What do you take us for?! I pledge to campaign against Zubiri ib 2013. NEVER AGAIN!

  • Anonymous

    Zubiri and Enrile understand each other well because they are both cheats! SHAMELESS not honorable is a more appropriate adjective for Zubiri who stole 4 years from the people by doing all to prevent the true winner from being proclaimed. Zubiri did not know anything about the cheating? Do you think the manipulators of the votes would just let him win for free? Come on! What do you take us for?! Vote padding & shaving is big business here. Zubiri in 2013? NEVER AGAIN!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702468735 Jose Camano

    who said so that jose miguel  zubiri is a hero? he missed his rendezvous to greatness and remains a despicable trapo.

    i have prepared a speech for him but he would not deliver it. hheheehheee..


  • http://twitter.com/pilengr_tw alex yalung

    His counter protest can last until 2013 but he resign. that is honorable. And everyone cheats on that election even the other camp. So, what wrong with Pilipino giving praises to Zubiri,  nothing. What is wrong with this country? our news writers & column writers. 

  • Anonymous

    Zubiri’s resignation was not in any way heroic or was borne out of “delicadeza”. Except himself (???), everybody knew he won by deceit. That, to me, was both  arrogance and idiotic. Arrogance because he shamelessly occupied the position as senator manipulated at the polls by Gloria, and idiotic if everybody except himself knew he cheated (or somebody cheated for him). Were it not for the confessions of their cheating buddy in the person of Ampatuan, he would not have even re-considered his options.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Malaysia, Flight 370 relatives talk financial help
  • Celebrating Easter and creativity in New York
  • Man wins half marathon, dies in Argentina
  • Clouds to bring slight relief from summer heat
  • Canadians rally to legalize marijuana
  • Sports

  • Reigning champs Miami open playoffs with win
  • Spurs subdue Mavericks in playoff opener
  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Ageless Hopkins pitches 50-50 Mayweather deal
  • Goodbye MGM, Las Vegas for Pacquiao?
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Marketplace