UNA keeps waiting game on Senator Pimentel’s next moveBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Leaders of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) are playing the waiting game, as Senator Aquilino Pimentel III has imposed on himself a two-week deadline to decide his next step following the inclusion of political rival Juan Miguel Zubiri on the list of the coalition’s senatorial candidates for 2013.
“We do not want (Pimentel) to leave but we cannot force him to stay. That would be his personal decision,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, one of UNA’s stalwarts, said on Sunday.
Pimentel earlier indicated his displeasure over Zubiri’s inclusion in UNA’s senatorial lineup, insisting that his political rival was privy to the fraud committed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, her cohorts in Lakas-NUCD and the Commission on Elections in the 2007 senatorial race.
The cheating prevented Pimentel from getting into the winners’ circle of top 12 senatorial candidates.
Zubiri narrowly defeated Pimentel for the 12th slot in the 2007 senatorial slate, according to the Comelec tally.
In 2011, the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruled that Pimentel placed 12th, a day after Zubiri announced his resignation.
An option for Pimentel is to withdraw from UNA, even if he is president of PDP-Laban that coalesced with the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) to form the group.
Pimentel said he could not “in principle” run alongside Zubiri in view of their complicated history.
In a radio interview, Enrile said that senatorial wannabes have been making a beeline for UNA’s 2013 slate.
“Many (outsiders) want to join while others are asking for an endorsement,” the Senate President said.
Enrile said that in the case of Pimentel and Zubiri, UNA leaders could not simply weed out one to accommodate the other.
“Migz (Zubiri’s nickname) is a member of the PMP while Koko (Pimentel’s nickname) is a member of the PDP. Their memberships in their individual tickets are internal issues that we cannot meddle with,” the Senate President explained.
“The agreement in our alliance provides that if a member of either party wants to become a (senatorial) candidate and is deemed qualified, it becomes automatic that he becomes part of the ticket,” Enrile said.
“As far as I recall, Koko accepted this agreement (tinanggap niya ang kasunduan),” he added.
Enrile said that in the last meeting among UNA leaders, it was agreed upon that the accord Pimentel signed as PDP-Laban president would be honored.
“We will not remove him from our list of candidates as senators and we expect him to join us. If he does not wish to join, that’s up to him to say so,” he pointed out.
The Senate President also dismissed charges made by Pimentel’s father, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., that Zubiri was included in UNA’s Senate lineup for monetary reasons.
“I have not heard of any information that Migz came in because of money. We do not require monetary contributions in accepting senatorial candidates. I am not aware whether Migz is that rich as to be able to attract the PMP,” Enrile explained.