MANILA, Philippines - Former Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri on Thursday expressed dismay at Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III's letter to former President Joseph Estrada that asked for his removal from the United Nationalist Alliance's (UNA) senatorial slate.
Zubiri, in an interview with ANC, said he will let UNA leaders Estrada and Vice-President Jejomar Binay decide on the issue.
"Hopefully, Pimentel and I can work together. We have a statistical chance of winning. I'm willing to sit down with him and work things out," he said.
Zubiri said he felt sad over Pimentel's letter to Estrada.
"The chapter, I thought it was all over. My resignation from the Senate, the dropping of the counterprotest against him, was a sincere sign that we had nothing to do, or any participation with anything that happened during the 2007 elections and the alleged fraud," he said.
"I could have stayed longer. My protest could have stayed until 2013. But right after the witnesses, the election supervisors saying that there was cheating that happened during that time and that election resuilts were manufactured, I immediately resigned," he added.
Zubiri said he would have resigned from the Senate earlier if the poll fraud witnesses surfaced sooner.
He said he worked for clean elections during his stint in the Senate by pushing for automated polls. "We really want peaceful and honest elections."
"I was hoping that I could work with the gentleman from Cagayan de Oro, unfortunately, he refuses to accept me, he refuses to accept statements of reconciliation," he said.
"I thought it was all water under the bridge and that we can work together being fellow Mindanaoans, being fellow members of the legislative branch could add weight, add voice to the people of the Mindanao and the Visayas. It's unfortunate that he does not want to move on," he added.
He thanked Estrada for the former President's support.
"He really had kind words to say for me. He defended me after that letter of Koko was leaked to the media," he said.
He added that Estrada mentioned in his interview with ANC earlier in the day that Zubiri has not been indicted of poll fraud.
"There is really no basis for the statements of Senator Koko," Zubiri said.
Pimentel's letter to Estrada
Pimentel, in his letter to Estrada, said he cannot run with Zubiri under the same ticket.
"I am the complainant in the electoral sabotage cases against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benjamin Abalos. Migz is the biggest beneficiary of the fraud perpetrated in the 2007 elections, which is the subject matter of these electoral sabotage cases," he said.
"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!" Pimentel claimed.
"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 the 2007 elections. The 'opposition' in 2007 was led by you and then Makati Mayor, now Vice-President, Jejomar Binay. Migz 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,'" he added.
He also accused Zubiri of not being a "team player."
"He junks his partymates. Attached is the result in the Province of Bukidnon in the 2007 senatorial elections," Pimentel said in his letter.
He also said he has 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 sabotage is already at the doorsteps of Migz Zubiri. Does UNA really want to be tainted with this heinous crime?" he said.
"I am very passionate about electoral reform. 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 said.
"I realize that I need UNA’s help in order to win as Senator in 2013. 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 added.