By Ali G. Macabalang
TOUTED for being characterized with fastest and most accurate transmission of results, the recent national elections have equally set a historic record not only for ending a three-decade lack of Muslim representation in the Senate but also for producing a ‘Number 1’ senator from the people of the Islamic faith.
And for such amazing outcome, top Senator-elect Robin “Abdulaziz” Padilla has praised Almighty Allah, the Filipino electorates, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), all soldiers, cops and teachers deputized in the May 9, 2022 synchronized national and local political exercises.
“Mga mahal na kababayan, ako po ay nagpapasalamat unang-una sa panginoong Allah, pangalawa sa COMELEC, sa lahat po ng bumubuo sa ating commission, sa ating magigiting na kalalakihan at magagandang kababaehan (sa) kasundaluhan at kapulisan, at sa mga bayaning guro,” Padilla said at the mass proclamation of senatorial winners on Wednesday evening.
The event was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila, with the COMELEC en banc presiding. The proceedings were live-streamed in selected television networks and social media.
Proclaimed with Padilla were the 11 other winners (enumerated according to polling ranks) – Loren Legarda, Raffy Tulfo, Win Gatchalian, Chiz Escudero, Mark Villar, Alan Petrer Cayetano, MIgz Zubiri, Joel Villanueva, JV Estrada-Ejercito, Risa Hontiveros, and Jinggoy Estrada.
COMELEC Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, the Commission’s second Muslim chief, talked three times – first, to declare a quorum; second, to render a welcome address; and third, to introduce and proclaim Padilla himself.
Pangarungan deviated a bit from the usual proclamation formalities to make a brief introduction of Padilla, citing his exemplary contributions to Islamic propagation, including a successful advocacy for opening of Muslim cemeteries in Christian-dominated areas and his establishment of an Islamic school in Metro Manila for pre-schooling children.
In his turn for a two-minute message allotted for all senators-elect, Padilla said his victory symbolized an end to the three-decade absence of Muslim representation in the Senate. The country’s last Muslim senator was Nina Rasul, whose second elective term ended in 1995.
Speaking in Filipino, Padilla said the 26 million votes, the largest ever in the history of Philippine senatorial elections, he obtained in the latest elections meant “justice” in the Muslim Filipino’s dream for fair participation in national body politics, and symbolized Muslim-Christian unity in the Asia’s lone Catholic nation.
A number of Muslim personalities aspired but lost in senatorial elections after Senator Rasul. This year’s senatorial race saw five other Muslim candidates who did not make it. They were Samira Gutoc, Ibrahim Albani, Nur-Mahal Kiram, Lady Anne Sahidulla and Marieta Mindalano-Adam, who placed 39th, 47th, 52nd, 54th, and 61st in the tally.
Padilla expressed gratitude to the voting people from his former faith, particularly the Christian community in varied denominations such as the Iglesia ni Cristo led by Eduardo Manalo, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ led by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, and the El Shaddai led by Mike Velarde.
Reconciliation in action
At Wednesday’s proclamation ceremony, Padilla exemplified his strides for unity and reconciliation among Filipinos and their leaders.
He instantly instigated estranged brothers Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito to shake hands, embraced each other and raised their hands together in the presence of peace-cheering spectators including the COMELEC officials, the media, dozens of invited dignitaries, and other elected senators.
Charter Change campaign
Padilla, who embraced Islam while serving his sentence in the national penitentiary in 1990s, echoed in his speech his campaign advocacy for an amendment in the 1087 Constitution for a shift from the current bicameral setup to a unitary parliamentary system.
He said such a shift is imperative in hastening the processes of bringing just development fruits to the countryside.
He believed his consistent drive for transition to parliamentary setup could be another factor in his historic amass of 26 million votes in the latest political exercises.
Padilla capped his two-minute message with a phrase: “It’s late in the evening (and) I feel wonderful tonight.”
Padilla’s full message, commencing with Islamic prayer and greetings, is printed below.
“Isa pong karangalan sa akin ang mapabilang po sa isang halalan na nagpapakita ng isang napalinis na halalan.
Maraming salamat po. Ang aking panalo ay isang simbulo ng pagkakaisa ng mga Muslim at Kristiyano.
…sa aking pong mga pinuntahang sorty, rally ako po ay nakikiusap sa ating kababayan sa inyo na sana mabigyan niyo po ng pagkakataon ang inyong mga kapatid na Muslim (na) magkaroon ng representasyon sa Senado at inyo pong binigyan ng pagkakataon ang inyong mga kapatid.
Ako po ay nagpapasalamat sa lahat ng mga katoliko at sa lahat ng mga pare at sa lahat ng mga madre at ako ding po ay nagpapasalamat sa kapatiran ng mga Iglesia ni Cristo kay ka Eduardo Manalo sa Kingdom of Jesus Christ, kay Pastor Apollo Quiboloy at syempre kay Brother Mike Velarde ng kapatiran ng El Shaddai.
Lahat po ito naipakita po ninyo ang pagbubuklod natin bilang pilipino at inyo pong itinaas ang (antas ng) mga kapatid niyong mga Muslim (na) sa matagal nang panahon ay humihingi ng pansin, Ako ay buong pusong nagpapasalamat sa inyo.
Ngayun naman po ako po ay kumakatok sa puso ng aking mga kapatid na bagong halal at syempre po sa mga nakaupo po ngayun katulad ng aking mga kaibigan na Senador – Bong Go “Idol” kayo po ang nagdala sa akin dito at syempre po kay mahal na Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Sa akin pong pamilya, sa aking asawa isa lang po ang asawa ko si Mariel lang po at sa aking pong mga kapatid sa akin pong mga kaibigan, kuya Epe Salvador.
Ang tangi ko po hiling ngayon yoon pong 26 million na mga bumoto po sa akin naniniwala po sila sa aking plataporma at yoon po ay reporma ng ating saligang batas.
Hinihiling ko po sa inyo mga kapatid ko sa Senado, atin pong bigyan ng pagkakataon ang reporma hinihingi na po ito. Naririnig ko po na napakadaming pagtutol sa sweldo patungkol sa trabaho, patungkol sa edukasyon. Lahat po yan nakasalalay kung atin pong haharapin ang pag reporma sa saligang batas.
Bilang pang huling salita po dahil dalawang minuto lang ito, gusto ko pong malaman niyo na It’s late in the evening (and) I feel wonderful tonight. Salamat po!” (AGM with report from Noralyn Macabalang)