Pimentel reaches out to ZubiriBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
With the senatorial elections over and done with, reelected Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III is now looking to “patch things up” with rival Juan Miguel Zubiri after their bitter quarrel during the campaign.
Pimentel also hopes to reconnect with Vice President Jejomar Binay, from whom he has been estranged following his quarrel with Zubiri.
Right after being proclaimed the eighth winner in the recent senatorial contest, Pimentel announced his plan to have lunch with Zubiri.
But three weeks after, the two gentlemen from Mindanao have yet to break bread with each other.
“It’s my fault,” Pimentel admitted. “I only announced it to media, then through Twitter, but never did I tell him directly of my plan… I should do it personally, either through text or call. But I should, I should,” the senator said in a mixture of English and Filipino.
“Maybe next week? Next week is a good time. I’ll invite (Zubiri). I will look for his number. The elders taught us to be magnanimous in victory,” he said.
The rift between the two began in 2007 when Zubiri, a Bukidnon representative and candidate of the Arroyo administration’s Lakas-NUCD, was proclaimed 12th-place winner in the senatorial elections that year, edging out Pimentel.
Pimentel claimed fraud, specifically in Maguindanao province where the Arroyo administration had supposedly concentrated its dagdag-bawas (vote-shaving and -padding) operations.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal eventually declared Pimentel the winner of the 2007 elections in 2011, but not before Zubiri had announced his resignation out of delicadeza, delivering an emotional privilege speech.
The cold war between the two lasted until the following year when Pimentel left the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) after one of the coalition leaders, deposed President Joseph Estrada, said Zubiri would be drafted as a senatorial candidate.
Pimentel told reporters then he would not be able to stand on the same stage as Zubiri, raise his hand and endorse his senatorial bid after what transpired between them.
With all the drama concluded, Pimentel said he remains optimistic that Zubiri would respond favorably to his invitation.
He recalled how Zubiri was quite amiable when they met by chance at the El Shaddai rally just before the May 13 election. The two had attended the rally at the invitation of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde who endorsed their senatorial bids.
“We had a good meeting at El Shaddai the Saturday before the election. We shook hands, we were seated next to each other and we talked,” Pimentel said.
The senator said Zubiri might bring along his wife, Audrey, to their planned reconciliation luncheon, while he himself would bring his campaign managers and closest supporters.
Obviously, Pimentel would not be bringing his estranged wife, Jewel, who became an issue during the campaign.
At one point, Zubiri revealed in a live television interview that Jewel had claimed that she was a battered wife.
He later took back the statement after Jewel e-mailed major media entities denying that she was a battered wife.
“I think that’s all water under the bridge. The (lunch) offer stands and I will pursue the offer,” Pimentel said.
He said that Zubiri had been mistakenly told that Pimentel was attacking him in the speeches he delivered during the campaign.
“(Zubiri) was misled when he… thought and said that I was attacking him in my speeches. I never mentioned him,” Pimentel explained.
He explained that what he did was sing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” changing the lyrics to convey a warning against electoral fraud.
But wouldn’t their date be awkward considering everything that has happened?
“Why should it? I have been saying for a long time that I have forgiven him, why should it be awkward? My point then was, I cannot run with him, I cannot raise his hand, I cannot endorse his candidacy. By having lunch with him, I am not doing those three things,” Pimentel said.