Zubiri
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Senatorial Candidate Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri first officially got a taste of politics at the age of 26. In 1995, the young Zubiri worked as District Chief of Staff for his father, Jose Zubiri jr, former congressman and present governor of Bukidnon.

In 1988, Zubiri entered the Congress by winning a landslide victory. In May 2001, he won a second term, again with an overwhelming margin. He is Bukidnon’s 3rd District Representative from the 11th to the 13th Congress.

Zubiri, 37, is one of the youngest congressmen in the lower house who are dubbed in the media as ‘Spice Boys’. Prior to his recent marriage with commercial model Audrey Tan, he also received media attention during his relationship with movie star Vina Morales. For the 2007 Midterm Senatorial Elections, Zubiri’s ‘boom tarat tarat’ commercial is one of the most recognizable political jingles seen in television.

Described by some as “one of Malacanang’s favorites”, Zubiri is the secretary-general of the ruling coalition party, Lakas-Christian-Muslim-Democrats (Lakas CMD). For the Elections, Zubiri is running under the pro-administration ticket, (TEAM) Unity. The idea behind Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) Unity is to join together supporters as well as critics of the Arroyo administration.

Initially, Zubiri admits that he is uncomfortable with the concept. “At first of course, we did not like the idea. Tapos siyempre, pinaliwanag sa amin na ang concept ng Team Unity ay tama na ang pag-aaway. Kung pwede, magsama-sama na lang tayo, iba't-ibang political parties para mapa-unlad natin ang bansa. (But then of course, they explained to us the concept of TEAM Unity, which is to stop the political bickering. If possible, everyone, even those from different political parties, should be united for the progress of the nation.) And that's what we're fighting for now, I guess. We're trying to show everyone, if we can stay in one room together, and actually not just have fun but talk about issues and help each other out.” He said.

Being a supporter of the administration, he accused the enemies of President Arroyo of running a “fake CD factory” during the “Hello Garci” controversy. He also said that the Garci tapes have “as much authenticity as a Quiapo CD”. His answers were based on the findings of Barry Dikey, a forensic expert from Texas who claimed that the tapes have been spliced.

Zubiri also supported President Arroyo’s call for Charter Change. He is a member of the Movement for Federal Philippines, an interest group composed of legislators, local government officials and some academe members. The movement believes that “Federalism will be the key to economic progress and political stability in the country.”

During his nine years of being a congressman, Zubiri authored a good number of laws. He is cited as the “most prolific lawmaker among the five congressmen running for senate.” Since July 2004, he authored 61 bills; two have been passed into law: Republic Act 9341 or Rental Reform Act and Republic Act 936 or Biofuels Act, eight have been forwarded to the Senate, 15 became substitute bills and the rest (36) are pending. Other notable bills which he authored are Republic Act 9163 - Optional ROTC Act, House Bill 3858 - AFP officers/soldiers pay increase Act and Republic Act 9165 - Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

Zubiri said that the bills he authored are “of national significance (which) is not just changing the roads, either names of the roads, putting secondary national highways or national high schools.” He added that “I think the best bills that's I've offered were the Wildlife Conservation Act which shows that my advocacy is really in the environment.”

Zubiri is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Los Banos where he earned a degree of Agricultural Management in 1990. After graduating, he quickly became the general manager of Zubros Agriculture Inc, one of the biggest suppliers of banana produce based in Bukidnon. After which, he finally ventured into politics by becoming his father’s Chief of Staff.

Outside the political arena, Zubiri founded the Philippine Deer Foundation and is a governor for the Philippine National Red Cross. Zubiri is also a trained rescue diver and a member of the Concerned Divers of the Philippines. Zubiri, indeed, is an environmental advocate.

With regards to the economy, Zubiri thinks that environmental reforms can greatly contribute to economic development. Through his bio-fuels act, he believes that he can help strengthen the agricultural industry by putting ethanol and bio-diesel plants all over the country.

“We're going to provide labor to thousands of Filipinos [who] would be working in this plant. The Bio-Fuels Act was—is a catalyst for many things for many industries to grow, not just the agriculture industry. So these are now opportunities for college students who are in engineering, college students who are (in) economics, who are accountants, who are skilled in mechanical, electrical engineering, can apply for. I think this is an opportunity for them not to go abroad.” He said.

Another important bill which Zubiri co-authored is the Responsible Parenthood and Population Management Act of 2005 or House Bill HB03773. The Bill seeks to provide an “integrated and comprehensive national policy on responsible parenthood, population management and human development.” The Bill excludes abortion as part of their family planning program.

Zubiri seems to be a conservative when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriages. However, he says he has an open mind regarding issues of homosexuality which he owes to the fact that he’s young. “We have to come up with a more open mindset, and I guess that's the nice thing of being young. A lot of the younger candidates, that's how they feel. It's a free world, as long as you not hurting anyone. And you're following the laws of the land, then you're free to walk upon everybody else as equals.”

Regarding U.S.-Philippines Relations, Zubiri recognizes the need for a good relationship with the latter. “They do help us in our anti-terrorism efforts” he said. However, he maintained that the current “VFA is disadvantageous to the Filipino people.” During his term in Congress as a ‘Spice Boy’, he said that: “I wasn't for the scrapping of the VFA. I was for the renegotiations of the VFA.”

“I don't want them to reach to that point wherein we have sour relations with the Americans in terms of training within our country. But I think we should review our Visiting Forces Agreement in order to make it more advantageous to the Filipino people.” He said. He added further that “When it comes to crimes against the Filipino people, it should be the Filipinos who should have jurisdiction over these cases”.

Zubiri is also in favor of the anti-terrorism law. He suggests that the lack of a set of laws has an effect on people who decide to take the law into their own hands. “It’s happening today, if you're talking about extra judicial killings. It's happening today, left and right. It could be done by politicians. It could be done by police. It could be done by the army. It could be done by the New People's Army. What we want to happen is we want must at least come up with a legal set of laws, or set of laws that are legal in terms of dealing with, with suspected terrorists.” he said.

“They should all be prosecuted and put to jail (terrorists), but the thing is that's what I'm worried about. When you let the people down and you don't give them a legal remedy to pursue, then what happens is they take matters on their own hands.” He added further.

The youth is given prominence in Zubiri’s platform. “If elected, I'm going to push for my three most important programs. It's a— we call it KKK. Kabataan Kaunlaran at Kalikasan. We're going to focus on issues on the youth—SK [Sangguniang Kabataan] reform agenda, we're going to focus on,—I'm pushing for a PhilHealth program for all elementary and high school government sponsored students.”

Zubiri plans to improve education mainly by upgrading technological facilities, “Okay, we have classrooms and we have teachers, but they teach ABCD, ABAKADA, and alphabet and they teach basics stuff. We don't graduate our high schools to be competent enough for the real world, or to be competent enough or competitive enough for IT technology.” He said.

Zubiri believes that this can be achieved through proper budget allocation” I’d like to push for that program wherein by 2010, if it's possible, to make sure that there's a budgetary allocation for computerization in all our national high schools.” He said.

“It's simple. It doesn't actually need any more laws. We actually don't need any more laws, if you'll ask me. What we need is implementation of what we really have and the proper, efficient utilization of funds that we are earning.” He said.

Zubiri decided to forego his plans to start a family with his recently-married wife when the administration party coaxed him to run for them. He claims that the phrase “For evil to reign, it only take a few good people to do nothing” inspired him. “I really wanted to have a family and make a baby, I just got married. (But) because I'm sick and tired of complaining and saying that, you know, why are these people running, they don't have, most of them don't have the background for it, and most of them have credibility problems. Not that I'm saying that I'm credible, but I'm saying at least amongst many of the candidates there, I’ve had a clean slate in terms of credibility and morality issues so I said that's good. And if the people vote me into office, it's one for the books.”— Mary Grace A. Valencia

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