Mudslinging, tasteless repartee par for the course in PH politicsBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
PAMPANGA, Philippines – One aspiring senator made a startling allegation on national TV: his bitter political enemy was a wife-beater.
In Manila, two very senior politicians vying for the mayoral seat dug up old wounds, hurling political mud toward the other direction, to the dismay of a predominantly young crowd at a university forum.
Just on Saturday, a congressional candidate made a rather tasteless “pickup line” at a campaign rally here. “Ketchup ka ba?” outgoing Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo asked comedienne Tia Pusit on stage.
Asked why, Pelayo replied with deadpan humor: “Kasi kailangan ka ng hotdog ko.” The captive crowd at the Ms. Earth Plaza covered court laughed.
So has the campaign for the May 13 senatorial election gone too low? Or is it business as usual for politics, Philippine-style?
Former Representative Juan Miguel Zubiri admitted on Saturday that the campaign was getting “frustrating,” especially with his high-profile back and forth with Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
“I’m frustrated on the way the campaigns of both sides are being run,” he said during a campaign here.
“It’s now becoming black propaganda against black propaganda. We hope we could go back to issue-oriented politics and I hope it would start from the one who has been attacking me.”
Zubiri, a regular target in Pimentel’s own campaign with the administration ticket, floated the idea of a political “ceasefire”. But he said it should come from Pimentel, who continues to accuse him of cheating in the 2007 senatorial election.
“If he wants a ceasefire, then we’ll have a ceasefire,” he said in Filipino. “But I hope he does it first because I’ve been keeping quiet.”
Zubiri held up until he dropped a bombshell during a faceoff with Pimentel in a TV program earlier this week. He accused Pimentel of being a wife-beater, the information purportedly coming straight from the senator’s estranged spouse, Jewel. Mrs. Pimentel later issued a statement denying the account of Zubiri, her cousin.
Zubiri stuck to his story on Saturday and said he would issue a formal statement by Sunday. He said Jewel had spoken of her complaints with her husband during separate visits in the houses of ex-President Joseph Estrada and Representative Toby Tiangco.
“I regret having to hurt her by making that public,” he said. “I did that because I was sick and tired of all the lies and black propaganda that her husband had been throwing at me.”
With its candidates lagging behind in surveys lately, UNA is stepping up its campaign.
Zubiri said the new strategy would break up all nine candidates into small groups to cover more ground. They were to do just that for big Baguio rally Sunday night. Before converging on the “summer capital,” UNA bets were to visit Pangasinan, Benguet, and La Union in separate sorties.
Candidates are likewise stepping up in terms of entertainment lately.
UNA aspirants have been dancing more like what happened during the mini-rally here on the occasion of Pelayo’s birthday.
Zubiri, Nancy Binay, and former Senator Ernesto Maceda all danced to the Korean dance hit “Gangnam Style.” Tia Pusit was also more aggressive in her comic intermission, providing more toilet humor and sexual undertones.