Mar, Leni hit over alleged ‘jueteng' lord endorsement
Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News
President Aquino’s candidates in the May presidential and vice presidential elections are under fire for striking a political alliance with a governor married to a suspected gambling lord.
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz described as “devious” a recent campaign sortie that brought together Pampanga Gov. Lilia “Baby” Pineda and Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas and his running mate, Rep. Leni Robredo.
Cruz, 81, was particularly disappointed over Pineda's endorsement of Robredo, noting that her late husband, former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo, was a staunch critic of the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
Pineda is the wife of Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, an alleged “jueteng” lord who had been investigated before by Congress.
Cruz recalled that his old anti-gambling group, Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, had even awarded the late Robredo for his efforts against illegal gambling.
“Frankly, this is one of those things that is a shame to the DILG secretary who passed away,” Cruz told ABS-CBN News.
“I am sad that the other half seems to have another value system. This goes to show what vice can do to people, what money can do to people, especially money that is not earned,” he added.
ABS-CBN News tried to get a comment from Robredo, but her campaign staff instead sent a statement attributed to former Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio.
Panlilio, a former Catholic priest, had run against Pineda in three gubernatorial elections. He and Robredo belong to the same civil society organization.
Panlilio won in 2007 but was unseated by Pineda in 2010 following a recount of votes. Pineda defeated him in the gubernatorial race that year, and again in the 2013 elections.
In the statement, Panlilio defended Robredo’s alliance with Pineda, saying it’s the governor “endorsing” the vice presidential candidate and not the other way around.
“I don't find anything wrong or improper with it,” he said.
“Leni has made it very clear that she is against jueteng and jueteng politics in her earlier pronouncements. I do not believe she changed that stand in the face of Baby and (the) Kabalens,” he added.
Aquino earlier accompanied Roxas and Robredo in a campaign sortie in Pampanga, where Pineda endorsed the tandem in the May election.
Pineda, a close friend of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, used to be on the other side of the political fence. Mr. Aquino had campaigned against her and instead supported Panlilio in the 2013 gubernatorial election.
But times have changed.
Cruz said he was not surprised that Mr. Aquino had struck an alliance with Pineda, noting that the President was not known to go hard against “jueteng” anyway.
“To me, that is duplicity incarnate,” Cruz said.
“I found that scene not only interesting but also devious,” Cruz said, referring to images of Aquino, Roxas, and Robredo sharing the stage with Pineda in a Pampanga campaign sortie.
“I thought people were better than that especially when the man in Malacañang shouts ‘matuwid na daan’ [righteous path].”
Panlilio said Robredo “appreciated the good Baby has been delivering to Pampanga.”
“But this does not mean that the former totally agreed with the latter's governance,” he said.
“In the 2013 campaign, I myself thanked and pointed out the positives Baby did like improving hospitals and her aid to the poor. But this did not stop me from exposing and condemning the dependency and feudalistic leadership she exhibited,” he added.
Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, a campaign spokesman for the administration, said Aquino had supported Pineda mainly because of her “record in terms of delivering services to her province.”
Gutierrez said the political alliance with the President would not shield the Pinedas in case of a wrongdoing.
“If it would be proven that there’s an illegal act, this alliance will not serve as their protection,” he said.
“And definitely, there was nothing under the table, no bribery or improprieties (behind this alliance). That will not be tolerated by (the) ’Daang Matuwid’ (coalition),” he added.