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(UPDATED - 5:04 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III has formally announced his decision to bolt the United Nationalist Alliance over the coalition's decision to keep Juan Miguel Zubiri on its 2013 Senate slate, but the LP is still eyeing to have him on its slate.
Pimentel announced his departure after the coalition, which former President Joseph Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) formed with Vice President Jejomar Binay's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), decided to keep Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri on its senatorial slate for the 2013 elections.
Pimentel said that he had told Estrada of his decision and that the former president did not stop him from leaving UNA.
“Galing ako sa bahay ni Erap [I came from Erap's residence], and I said, 'Sorry Ninong,' and we talked a little. But the former president did not make any effort to stop me,” Pimentel told reporters on Thursday.
Pimentel said that he could not stomach running with Zubiri because the latter was allegedly the biggest beneficiary of the fraud perpetuated in the 2007 polls.
“Hindi ko talaga masikmura na tumakbo kasama ang kalaban ko. It is my personal decision,” he said.
Pimentel said he would run as an independent senatorial candidate under PDP-Laban.
Despite Pimentel's decision to leave UNA, PDP-Laban's alliance with Estrada's PMP "will remain," according to the senator.
Pimentel filed an election protest against the proclamation of Zubiri as senator in the 2007 polls wherein President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's senatorial candidates won in a 12-0 sweep in Maguindanao.
In July 2011, former Maguindanao elections supervisor Lintang Bedol and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan bared that a massive election fraud took place in the province during the 2007 polls and that Arroyo had a hand in the alleged cheating in Maguindanao. Arroyo was later on placed under hospital arrest after she was slapped with the nonbailable offense of electoral sabotage by the Commission on Elections.
After Bedol and Ampatuan's revelations, Zubiri resigned as senator on August 3, 2011. He admitted that his resignation was triggered by Bedol and Ampatuan's claim that no election was held or cheating was massive in Maguindanao where Zubiri got a lot of votes.
On August 11, 2011, the Senate Electoral Tribunal proclaimed Pimentel as among the winners in the 2007 senatorial polls and confirmed allegations that there was cheating in the said elections. Pimentel garnered 10,898,786 votes while Zubiri only got 10,640,620 votes.
JPE to ‘personally campaign’ for godson
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile assured Senator Pimentel III he will personally campaign for the latter in his re-election bid in 2013 despite the latter’s having bolted the UNA.
“I wish him the best. If he will ask for my support, I will help him as much as I can do so without abandoning my obligation to my party and to the coalition,” Enrile said during a brief break in the presentation of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines at the Senate Thursday.
Enrile said UNA now cannot endorse Pimentel’s candidacy because he had left the coalition for personal reasons. He did not want to elaborate on, nor question the latter, on these.
“I am just bidding him goodbye and we are sad that he is leaving UNA, but that is his personal decision, we cannot argue with him about that,” Enrile said.
LP open to giving Koko a slot
The Liberal Party (LP) is open to giving Pimentel III a slot in the 2013 senatorial ticket of the administration now that he has officially bolted the UNA, a high-ranking party official said.
Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, LP spokesman, said Pimentel remains one of the “priorities” for the slate that the administration will field in next year’s midterm elections.
“His name was earlier mentioned as a candidate for the administration. I believe he is one of the priorities for the slate,” Tanada said in a phone interview.
Tanada, who is himself planning to run for senator, said Pimentel would be a “good addition” to the administration slate, adding that the senator need not leave the PDP-Laban to run under the LP-led ticket.
“LP and PDP-Laban have worker together. In 1992, the two parties were in a coalition when then Senator (Jovito) Salonga of LP and Koko’s father, then Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., ran for president and vice president, respectively,” Tanada said.
“LP and PDP-Laban are not strange bedfellows,” he added.
Earlier, Budget Secretary and LP secretary general Florencio “Butch” Abad identified Pimentel as one of the prospective candidates in the senatorial line-up of the administration party, together with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Tanada and reelectionist senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano, among others.