MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said he and politician-turned-environment advocate Juan Manuel Zubiri were “friends”… on Facebook.
“Friends,” Pimentel said when asked to describe Zubiri during an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM Friday.
“But there’s [a disclaimer], ‘in the Facebook sense’,” he added.
Pimentel and Zubiri have been caught in a word war ever since Pimentel opposed Zubiri’s candidacy in the 2013 senatorial slate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
UNA is a coalition party between Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).
Pimentel said he did not want to run with Zubiri who he claimed was allegedly involved in cheating during the 2007 senatorial election.
Zubiri resigned from the Senate before a decision on Pimentel’s protest could be handed down by its electoral tribunal.
Binay found Zubiri’s action admirable and personally invited him to run with UNA.
Zubiri said in a previous interview with Inquirer Bandera, the tabloid publication of the Inquirer Group of Companies (IGC), he felt that Pimentel was taking his candidacy under UNA too personally.
He also said that he was unanimously chosen and was supported by everyone from UNA except Pimentel.
But Pimentel denied that he was “getting too personal”.
“I don’t think I’m getting too personal, maybe because he got hurt with what I said. When you get hurt, the feeling is personal to you, that’s why he thought that I was getting personal,” Pimentel said in a separate interview with Bandera. “All my commentaries were limited to the 2007 election fraud.”
Pimentel said the primary reason he objected to Zubiri’s candidacy was because the former legislator from Bukidnonwas the biggest beneficiary of the 2007 election cheating.
“He is the biggest benificiary of the 2007 election fraud. He did not dispute the findings of the Senate electoral tribunal,” Pimentel said.
He said that he had filed his objections with the UNA leadership and stated that he was avoiding the scenario where they were together under one senatorial slate.
“I’m not saying [Zubiri] cannot run. What I’m saying is I cannot run with him,” he said.
Pimentel said that he was open to the option of leaving UNA. “I want to be happy in [where O am].”
“Separation from UNA is still on the table,” Pimentel said, adding that it will be hard for him to leave the group he has been with for a long time.
He said, however, that he was “ready to face the consequences [of leaving UNA],” he said.