AS the corridors of the Senate echoed with the news of Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri’s departure, there was a palpable sense of melancholy among the Senate employees.

The sudden announcement, conveyed through a viral screenshot of Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva confirming the change in Senate leadership, left little time for shock to settle in before the beloved former Senate President bid farewell on Monday, May 20.

Reflecting on Zubiri’s tenure, it was evident that he was more than just a political figurehead; he embodied a spirit of generosity and compassion that resonated throughout the Senate halls. He was perceived to be one—perhaps even the most generous—Senate President, consistently prioritizing the welfare and well-being of the employees. One of Zubiri’s notable initiatives was his directive to regularize over 200 casual employees within the Senate, some of whom had dedicated more than three decades to the institution.

Senator Grace Poe, despite voting in favor of Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s installation, acknowledged Zubiri’s “strong and able leadership (that) has carried us through some of the most challenging times that this institution has seen.

As the mantle of leadership passed to Escudero, there loomed the perceived daunting task of filling Zubiri’s sizable shoes in the “accessibility” and “empathy” department. However,  Escudero’s magnanimity in allowing Zubiri to preside over the session on Tuesday, during which the bills that were deliberated upon under his leadership were up for Third Reading, along with the news that the Senate Secretary and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms would be retained, was the first sign that the Senate employees saw of the new Senate President’s respect and desire to maintain the status quo. Moreover, Escudero wasted no time in addressing the concerns of the Senate employees, engaging in dialogue with SENADO—the Senate Employees’ Union— regarding issues such as regularization and collective bargaining agreements.

On Thursday, he visited office after office, marking the first instance, to my recollection in the 35 years that I have worked in the Senate, of any Senate President doing so.

Ultimately, regardless of who occupies the role of Senate President, the legacy of compassion and leadership instilled by Migz Zubiri will endure. His tenure serves as a testament to the profound impact that genuine empathy and generosity can have in shaping not only political discourse but also the lives of those entrusted to our care.