Liberal Party woos hard-to-get PimentelBy Cathy Yamsuan, Christian V. Esguerra, Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Liberal Party wants Senator Aquilino “Koko’’ Pimentel III and is willing to wait for him while he irons out his problem with the United Nationalists Alliance (UNA) over the inclusion of his rival, resigned Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, on its list of senatorial candidates for next year’s elections.
Speaking to reporters before the start of Tuesday’s vin d’ honneur at Malacañang, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted the Liberal Party (LP) had been sending “feelers” to Pimentel about joining the administration party even before the controversy over Zubiri erupted.
Abad, however, made clear the LP was not interfering in the internal affairs of UNA, the coalition formed by Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada for the May 2013 elections.
“We respect the process going on there and we don’t want to intervene,” Abad said.
He said it was up to Pimentel to make a decision. “We [would] certainly welcome Senator Koko,’’ he added.
Pimentel, who was at the Palace for the Independence Day reception for the diplomatic corps hosted by President Benigno Aquino, told reporters he was not entertaining the LP feelers for now.
“If ever I would leave UNA it will not be because there’s a group waiting for me,’’ he said. “I’m going to think of what is the best thing for me to do under the circumstances.’’
Pimentel said he would make a decision after meeting with his party mates in PDP-Laban, his supporters outside the party and the Centrist Democratic Movement.
He said he was “looking for a gem of an idea” or some “earthshaking, wonderful advice’’ on how to resolve the situation he was in.
Pimentel said he was disappointed with the UNA decision to take Zubiri in when he had joined UNA first and even announced the coalition’s creation in the media.
“Kaya medyo may disappointment ako, may konti akong tampo [That’s why I’m disappointed, I feel a little resentment],’’ he said.
He said that even if he “pretended’’ Zubiri’s inclusion in the UNA ticket was all right with him, it would be hard to continue to do so once the campaign begins in February next year.
“When you speak, you might hit or hurt someone on the stage although you don’t mean to do so, but this will come out,’’ he said in Filipino.
Asked what his options were, Pimentel said he could withdraw from UNA or “de-merge’’ the PDP and Laban coalition (the parties merged in 1982) so that “Laban can stay with UNA.’’ Pimentel is a PDP (Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino) leader.
If he leaves UNA, he said he could run as an independent or make himself “available for adoption by some other group or by the people.’’
Pimentel has always contended that Zubiri knew of the Arroyo administration’s alleged plot to rig the 2007 senatorial election.
As a result, Zubiri was able to edge out Pimentel and occupy a Senate seat until last year when former election supervisor Lintang Bedol surfaced in August to say there was cheating in Maguindanao in 2007.
Zubiri stepped down and Pimentel, who had the most votes after Zubiri, took over the seat. By then Pimentel had missed the first four years of his term.
Caution from Estrada
Meanwhile, ousted President Joseph Estrada cautioned Pimentel against bolting UNA and joining the LP.
Estrada, one of UNA’s three senior leaders, said Pimentel should be “practical and realistic” and “stick it out” with the coalition.
“Baka madisgrasya siya doon [It could be his undoing],” Estrada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
Estrada cited a Pulse Asia survey that showed the influence he and Binay wielded over voters.
In the survey, 73 percent of respondents said they would vote for senatorial candidates endorsed by Binay, while 51 percent said would elect Estrada’s nominees.
Mr. Aquino emerged as the second top endorser in the survey with 66 percent of respondents saying they would vote for his candidates.
But Estrada said his and Binay’s combined endorsement would easily overwhelm Mr. Aquino’s. He noted that an endorsement by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the third UNA senior leader, would add to the votes of UNA candidates.
3 is greater than 1
“If the three of us go onstage (together), it would be a good fight,” Estrada said in Filipino.
Estrada said Pimentel should move on, pointing out that Zubiri was never indicted for election fraud. He described Zubiri as a “gentleman” for stepping down and allowing Pimentel to assume his seat.
“He can’t succumb to anger. He should be realistic. He has no proof that (Zubiri) cheated. He’s a lawyer. He knows that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Estrada said.
“The ball is now in his hands,” Estrada said.
But for LP Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan and Ralph Recto, Pimentel’s sterling track record in the Senate was reason enough for wanting him in the LP fold.
Based on principle
“I think (Pimentel’s) disagreement with UNA is based on principle and it ought to be respected by all parties,” Pangilinan said in a text message.
Drilon said he would “personally push” for Pimentel’s inclusion in the LP senatorial lineup, subject to the approval of Mr. Aquino and the party national council.
Recto said he was “witness” to Pimentel’s “honesty and diligence” for which he “deserves to be supported by both the administration and UNA.”
“Key party officials are in touch with Senator Koko, if and when he is ready to talk to the LP,” said Cavite Representative Joseph E.A. Abaya, another top LP official. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan
Originally posted: 3:35 pm | Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Tags: 2013 midterm elections , Aquilino Pimentel III , Elections , Juan Miguel Zubiri , Liberal Party , News , Political Parties , Politics , Senate , United Nationalist Alliance , United Nationallist Alliance