MANILA, Philippines - The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is not bent on dropping former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri from its 2013 senatorial slate amid a vehement objection from Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
In an interview with ANC, former President Joseph Estrada said “if [Koko] really wants to leave, what can we do? We will not stop him.”
He said UNA, a coalition of his Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), considers Zubiri a catch especially since he is placing in surveys.
“It means people don’t believe he’s involved [in the alleged electoral fraud]. You can’t fool the people,” Estrada said.
Pimentel has threatened to leave the coalition if Binay will not drop Zubiri from its senatorial ticket for 2013.
Pimentel has always believed that Zubiri knew of the electoral cheating in 2007, which led to Zubiri taking the last seat and sitting in the Senate for 4 years.
It was only in August 2011 when the Senate Electoral Tribunal proclaimed Pimentel the real winner in the 2007 elections after Zubiri resigned.
Zubiri has always claimed that he did not know that poll fraud would be committed.
Letter to Ninong Erap
In a last ditch effort, Pimentel wrote “Ninong Erap” a letter on May 21, saying: "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!"
Estrada said he understands the burst of emotion from Pimentel, especially since he himself was cheated when he first ran as mayor of San Juan in the late sixties. He also said: “How much more by bestfriend [Fernando Poe Jr.]?”
The late movie actor, who ran against the incumbent President Gloria Arroyo in 2004, filed an electoral protest after he lost a close race in the May 2010 elections. The 'Hello Garci' scandal, involving Arroyo's alleged conversations with Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, gave credence to Poe's allegations of fraud.
“Ikinalulungkot ko, I know that Senator Koko is an asset to the coalition. I salute him for being a Bar topnotcher. Inaanak ko pa nga. Mahal ko yan, kahit papaano,” Estrada said.
Migz innoncent until proven guilty
He noted that as a laywer, Pimentel should know that a person is “innocent until proven guilty.” He also quoted Mahatma Gandhi who said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
The quote has been his mantra while under hospital and house arrest during his plunder case.
Estrada also recalled he was “instrumental” in helping Pimentel’s father, Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., become Senate President.
“But he turned his back against me [during Arroyo’s rise to presidency]…Now, he’s against Arroyo. I have forgotten all that he did to me,” he said.
Estrada noted that including Zubiri in the UNA slate does not mean condoning fraud. “We’re accommodating him, which means we’re requiring him to join us in fight against electoral fraud.”
He said he will still try to talk to Pimentel. “I would like to appease him para mabuo ang ticket naming…Malungkot ako pag nawala sya.”
He said he hopes that Pimentel will reconsider and “be a bigger man.”