Ex-President Estrada losing his cool over Senator Pimentel IIIBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s patience is running thin, after he complained that he still could not get a meeting with disgruntled Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to thresh out the latter’s differences with Juan Miguel Zubiri.
As of Saturday, Estrada said Pimentel had yet to grant his request for a meeting, which he first made a month ago. He said he had been told by Pimentel’s camp that the senator would “defer (the private meeting) until further notice.”
Pimentel is the PDP-Laban president, while Vice President Jejomar Binay is its chair.
Estrada said the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) would drop Pimentel from its senatorial line-up if the latter eventually decided to leave the coalition.
“Of course,” he replied when asked if Pimentel would lose his Senatorial slot if he left UNA.
“We will not entertain any guest candidate.”
‘I won’t wait’
Estrada struggled to hide his dismay at Pimentel, considering that he—a former president and senior leader of UNA—was the one “seeking an audience” with the senator if only to keep him in the coalition.
“I won’t wait for him,” Estrada said in Filipino in a phone interview. “I have been seeking an audience with him for a long time. But he keeps on deferring. I don’t want to be with him if he doesn’t want to.”
He added: “We have extended all efforts to convince him. That’s why I want to talk to him one-on-one to convince him to stay with us. But he doesn’t want to talk to me.”
The Inquirer failed to reach Pimentel for comment. On June 14, he asked reporters to give him two weeks to think things over and come up with a final decision.
Pimentel is protesting the inclusion of Zubiri in the UNA senatorial lineup, saying the latter benefited from massive cheating in Maguindanao in the 2007 elections. Zubiri beat Pimentel to the 12th seat in the senatorial race that year.
Pimentel questioned the results and was eventually proclaimed the rightful winner. Zubiri stepped down in August last year after serving four years of the six-year Senate term that was rightfully Pimentel’s.
Estrada reminded Pimentel that he was a signatory to the “covenant” between the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), which gave birth to UNA.
Even if Pimentel decides to leave UNA, Estrada is confident the senator would not be able to take other members of PDP-Laban with him and break the coalition. He said UNA decisions were made by himself, Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
“It’s the three of us who decide,” he said.