MANILA - United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri urged rival and re-electionist Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III not to “lead a double life,” as he maintained that the latter’s estranged wife was “a battered wife.”
In a statement, Zubiri apologized to Pimentel's wife, Jewel May Lobaton, but maintained it was she who discussed her family problems with him.
He said he was merely quoting her that she was a “battered wife.”
“Let me assure the family that I did not say that she was physically abused by her husband. I merely quoted her statement that she was a battered wife," he said.
He noted that a battered wife could also be subjected to psychological, mental and verbal abuse.
Zubiri said he received a call on July 12, 2012 from a mutual friend who requested a meeting with Lobaton to discuss some pressing concerns. “Initially I hesitated due to the fact that I was trying my best to reach out to Senator Pimentel and to make amends. Our mutual friend insisted that I hear what Jewel had to say that night. So I brought my wife Audrey along so that it would not look political but more of a social meeting,” he said.
He said they both listened and "her revelations convinced us that she deserved to be assisted in getting custody of her children."
"Being a relative, we also sought the counsel of our other relatives on how to best proceed. Several suggestions where discussed, including making the reasons behind the separation public, but such an option was discouraged. The family decided that we will help Jewel quietly," he said.
He said he even told Lobaton that his involvement may be a bad idea since it may anger Pimentel the more.
"It is also regrettable that I am being painted a liar for making up a story for political propaganda. Jewel’s concerns at that time were valid and we sincerely felt her love and devotion to her children. And that’s why I would never make up these issues for I too am devoted to my family," he said.
He said even former President Joseph Estrada noted he was approached by Lobaton’s camp.
Skeletons in the closet
In disclosing last week the story, he said it was because of a “heat of the moment” thing. He said he has been pushed to the wall by Pimentel several times.
"I have been pushed to the wall so many times by Senator Pimentel and sometimes enough is enough. I uttered those words at the heat of that moment and even before the campaign started Senator Pimentel has been besmirching my reputation and making wild accusations without even offering a single shred of evidence," he said.
Zubiri said candidates must not be over-sensitive to scrutiny.
"Those of us who are offering ourselves to the people must prove that we do not have skeletons in our closets no matter how personal it maybe. We should not lead double lives," he said.
“Our public and private conduct should be beyond reproach and should be open to scrutiny, especially by the people. And we should be willing to answer difficult questions truthfully,” he said.