Koko Pimentel dares UNA to make a choice between him and Zubiri
Former President Joseph Estrada said the United Nationalist Alliance will tackle Monday the letter-request to him of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III for the Binay-led UNA to drop former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri from the senatorial slate of the coalition for 2013.Pimentel, who will seek reelection, said he cannot share the campaign stage with Zubiri, who he said clearly enjoyed the fruits of election fraud and had even once accused the then-opposition alliance of Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay of having perpetrated it.
In a letter to Estrada dated May 21, 2012 and obtained by www.interaksyon.com on Thursday, Pimentel said he cannot run with Zubiri in the same senatorial ticket for various strong reasons and cited his basis for seeking the exclusion of Zubiri—who sat for four years on the Senate seat that Pimentel should have had for six years— from the UNA ticket.
Zubiri had resigned last year from the Senate, citing “principles” after it became clear that Pimentel was about to be upheld as rightful winner by the electoral tribunal.
However, political pundits said he had cleverly timed his resignation, leaving him with two years to campaign with an image of a principled politician, and touting his reputation as an environmentalist.
Estrada recently drafted him into his party, the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), which more or less assures Zubiri of a seat in the coalition slate of the Binay-led UNA, where PMP is linked with the PDP-Laban party. Binay is titular chairman of PDP Laban and Pimentel III is president.
Reached for comment, Estrada said the executive committee of UNA—where he sits with Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—will decide on Monday on what to do with Pimentel’s threat to bolt the alliance.
Estrada did not hide his dismay over the Pimentel letter, saying he does not see the alliance collapsing over the issue, adding “baka siya lang ang aalis [maybe he’s the only one who will leave],” referring to Pimentel.
Binay, apparently caught in a dilemma—he is very close to PDP Laban original Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Koko’s father—has gingerly avoided the issue of Zubiri, explaining that under his alliance with Estrada, the latter can nominate any one from his party to the slate.
Migs ‘enjoyed’ fruits of fraud, tagged Erap-Binay bloc as ‘cheats’
In his letter to Estrada, Pimentel said, “I cannot run with Migz in the same senatorial ticket for the following reasons:
“One, I am the complainant in the electoral sabotage cases against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benjamin Abalos. Migz is the biggest beneficiary of the fraud perpetuated in the 2007 elections, which is the subject matter of these electoral sabotage cases.
“Two, I have received death threats because of my filing of those electoral sabotage cases. In short, I have put my life on the line in the fight against electoral fraud. What has Migz done in this regard? Well, he enjoyed tremendously the benefits of a stolen office. He held on to the proceeds of the crime of electoral fraud for four long years and two months.
“Three, this is the same Migz who, in his pleadings filed with the Senate Electoral Tribunal, at first accused me of electoral fraud, and when the public did not buy this, shifted to accusing the “opposition” of having perpetrated the electoral fraud against him in 2007 elections. The ‘opposition’ in the 2007 was led by you and then Makati Mayor, now Vice President, Jejomar Binay.”
Pimentel said Zubiri even put Makati City as number one in the list of places where he claimed to have been cheated by the “opposition”. “If you still remember, our campaign manager in 2007 was then San Juan City Mayor JV Ejercito. The real cheater called all of us ‘cheats.’”
The senator continued: “Four, Migz is not a team player. He junks his party-mates which can be magnified in the result in the province of Bukidnon in the 2007 senatorial elections.
“Five, there is already a sworn statement that fake election documents and ballots were stored in a compound in Maramag, Bukidnon owned by the Zubiris. In short, the evidence for the crime of electoral fraud is already at the doorstep of Migz Zubiri. Does UNA really want to be tainted with this heinous crime?
“Six, I am very passionate about electoral fraud. There is no way, during the campaign of 2013, that I can avoid attacking election cheaters. We will be on the same stage and I will be attacking him? This is the scenario I am avoiding.”
Pimentel admitted to Estrada that he needs the help of UNA in order to win in 2013 because of scarcity of funds, logistics and campaigners.
“But if UNA requires me to run with an election cheat before help is extended to me, then I am prepared to lose, for as long as I remain true to what I passionately believe in,” he concluded.
He also thanked the former chief executive, his ninong (godfather), for all the help he extended to his political career.
Erap says Migs deserves benefit of doubt
“Eh, bahala na siya (Pimentel),” a dismayed Estrada told mediamen in a phone interview Thursday.
According to Estrada, the “benefit of the doubt” should be afforded to Zubiri, who, he pointed out, was never implicated as principal and participant of the alleged election cheating committed by the past administration.
“Kung kasama sa nandaya si Migz, dapat kasama siya sa kinasuhan, eh, hindi naman eh,” Estrada said. “Everyone should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”