Monday, October 1, 2012

2013 poll race on with filing of COCs

MANILA, Philippines - Candidates running in the May 2013 elections are expected to troop to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) starting today to file their certificate of candidacy (COC). Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body is well prepared for the filing of COCs starting today until Friday, but hopes that candidates will forgo the usual fanfare that attended similar events in the past. “Everything is ready for the October 1 to 5 filing of COCs. All systems go!” Brillantes said in his Twitter account. “We appeal to candidates to dispense with all the fanfare. Let us make the filing of COCs this coming October 1 to 5 as dignified as it should be,” Brillantes noted. All those aspiring to run for senator, member of the House of Representatives, provincial, city, municipal and even those intending to become elective officials in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are mandated to file their COCs before the Comelec. The elective positions include 12 senators; 229 district members of the House; 80 governors; 80 vice governors; 766 members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial council); 138 city mayors; 138 city vice mayors; 1,532 members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council); 1,496 municipal mayors; 1,496 municipal vice mayors; and 11,972 members of the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council). In the ARMM, positions up for grab are one regional governor; one regional vice governor; and 24 regional assemblymen. Comelec said the COC shall be filed by the candidate personally or by his duly authorized representative, whose authority shall be in writing, under oath and attached. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez also urged candidates to avoid as much as possible their rivals during the COC filing in order to prevent a clash between supporters. “I would like to ask those filing their COCs to keep your supporters in check... Make sure that you keep a tight rein on them to avoid scuffles of any sort,” Jimenez said. The military, on the other hand, said they did not monitor any threat that could disrupt the start of the filing of COCs. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos, nevertheless, said they are coordinating with authorities to thwart any untoward incidents. “Active security measures are already in place in support to the PNP (Philippine National Police) and an enhanced coordination with the PNP and other law enforcement agencies is being maintained,” Burgos said. “Though there is no threat monitored, the AFP will continue to gather and collect vital intelligence information to preempt any untoward incident from happening that would disrupt the activity,” he added. Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome said security preparations for the filing of candidacies are already in place. “Our security coverage is complete. All activities of Comelec that have something to do with the filing should be properly secured,” Bartolome said. Bartolome tasked all the police field commanders to coordinate with their counterparts in the Comelec and the military. Bartolome also said they already have an initial list of election hotspots but declined to identify the areas included in them. “We already have an initial list (of poll hotspots) but it remains to be further validated and as we get nearer the election period, our assessments could change,” he said. “We can’t discuss (the list) until we validate it and we complete the additional evaluation in the ground. The political climate can change,” he added. The COC filing period will be during office hours only for five days beginning 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. source- philstar– Alexis Romero Read more...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

UNA picks Loren for 2013 polls; Gordon, Maceda 'seriously being considered'

Senator Loren Legarda has been selected to run under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in the 2013 polls while former Senate President Ernesto Maceda and Senator Richard Gordon are "seriously being considered," former President Joseph Estrada said Friday.

"As far as my knowledge, they [Maceda and Gordon] are seriously being considered. [Si Legarda] napili na yun. In fact yun ang unang-una [na napili sa batch]," Estrada told GMA News Online in a phone interview.
He issued the statement after Maceda on Thursday said that he, Legarda, and Gordon have been selected to run under UNA in the 2013 senatorial elections.

But Estrada only confirmed Legarda's selection as a senatorial candidate. "Wala pang official decision [kina Maceda and Gordon]."

This was also the statement of UNA spokesperson JV Bautista on Thursday when he was asked regarding the issue.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online on Friday, UNA secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco also said he "cannot confirm nor deny" the report because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.

"I get my instructions from the executive committee, there were no instructions," he said.

A source close to UNA, however, confirmed that Gordon has been selected by the alliance on the recommendation of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

UNA, a coalition between Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Vice President Jejomar Binay's Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban), will reportedly make the announcement soon.


Gordon's consideration as a possible UNA candidate came as a surprise since he and Estrada have had a long-standing rift.

The rift between the two politicians dates back to 1998, when Estrada was still president and Gordon was chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), considered one of the premiere economic centers in the Philippines.

When Estrada assumed the presidency, the very first administrative order he signed led to the removal of Gordon as SBMA chairman.

The spat would drag on for years and would span two national elections.

But in a phone interview with GMA News Online on Friday, Gordon said he has "outgrown" the hurt from what happened between them.

"He has always been my friend, we had our disagreements [but] we talked to each other. Even when we were quarreling, we were talking," he said.

"We don't have to quarrel with our political adversaries," he added.

Estrada, for his part, said he was a "forgiving man." "Okay naman...minsan magkausap kami," he said.

Other senatorial candidates

UNA has been releasing the names of its senatorial bets in batches. It has, so far, listed San Juan City Rep. Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito, former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, NBN-ZTE whistleblower Joey de Venecia, and incumbent senator Gregorio Honasan as its senatorial bets for 2013.

Tiangco, however, said they are "in talks" with seven other people for the five remaining spots.

"Inaayos in such a way na magbibigay na lang yung dalawa," he said.

On Thursday, Maceda said that with him, Gordon, and Legarda filling three more spots, only two more spots are left.

He said that among the candidates being considered to fill the two last spots are Senator Francis Escudero, Vice President Jejomar Binay's daughter Nancy, Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, and former Senator Kit Tatad. — RSJ, GMA News

Enrile: Escudero, Tupas pulled out of JBC for now

When the Judicial and Bar Council meets again Monday to continue the process of drawing up a short list of replacements for ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, it will be without a representative from the legislative branch.

This was after a meeting between leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Friday, where they agreed to temporarily pull out their representatives to the JBC while they consult their respective members on the matter.
"With due respect to the Supreme Court, Congress is composed of two houses. The Senate cannot represent the position of the House in the JBC, and neither can the House represent the position of the Senate in the JBC. We agreed we will have to consult our respective chambers and present the problem to them. In the meantime, we instructed the representatives of the House and Senate in the JBC not to participate in the JBC proceedings," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Enrile said those who attended the meeting at the EDSA Shangri-LA were himself, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Senator Francis Escudero, Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.

He said the temporary pullout will last until the issue "is clearly and correctly decided."

Reached for his comment, Tupas said: "We were instructed by the leadership not to participate in the JBC proceedings until the issue is finally resolved because a House member cannot represent the Senate and a senator cannot represent the House."

Last week, the high court ruled that Congress should have only one representative in the JBC. Tupas and Escudero are presently Congress' representatives to the JBC, as heads of the House and Senate justice committees, respectively.

On the other hand, Enrile questioned the present composition of the JBC, saying the 1987 Constitution was "very clear" that the Chief Justice and not any justice, "not even the acting Chief Justice," can be the ex-oficio JBC chairman.

"There's no such thing as an acting Chief Justice as far as that provision of the Constitution is concerned, in the same manner the Senate President Pro Tempore cannot substitute for the Senate President as chairman of the Commission on Appointments," he said.

"Walang Chief Justice ngayon, paano magkaroon ng JBC (There is no Chief Justice now. How can you have a JBC)?" he added.

He said it was unfair that the provision on the Chief Justice presiding over the JBC was not followed strictly, while the constitutional provision of Congress having only one representation was enforced.

"Bakit apply (it) only on Congress and not on the Supreme Court? ... What the Constitution says, the Chief Justice is the ex-oficio chairman of the JBC. Both provisions of the Constitution must be enforced," he said.

Also, he said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is also a member of the JBC by constitutional law. "Why is she being represented by someone else, which is not authorized under the Constitution?" he added.

Enrile said it is up to the rest of the JBC members to push through with Monday's deliberation and voting.

"Problema nila yan, di namin problema yan (That's their problem, not ours). We'll have to consult our respective chambers for our position, we cannot decide it by ourselves," he said.

Appoint chief justice

In the same radio interview, Enrile also suggested that Aquino break the impasse by appointing the chief justice.

"He is the appointing power. If there is a hiatus, the president, as a matter of necessity, must appoint the chief justice," he said.

"We cannot allow a hiatus to take place but we cannot allow a violation of the Constitution," he added. — with Kim Tan/RSJ, GMA News

Death toll in Basilan clash with Abu Sayyaf rises to 19

As the dust settled in the aftermath of a running gunbattle Thursday between the military and members of the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Philippine Army said Friday the death toll had risen to 10 soldiers and nine bandits.

The encounter in Mindanao's Basilan province involved at least 80 personnel from the military, regional spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang told GMA News Online in a phone interview.
He said 17 soldiers and five ASG members have been wounded in the clashes so far.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the Secretary of National Defense to go to Basilan and make sure the rebels will be pursued, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

"Of course, we condemn the attack,” she said.

“We salute our fallen for their bravery. It is a reality for those of us in government to always… when things like this happen… Mabigat po sa atin ‘yan," Valte added.

The first military encounter with the Abu Sayyaf happened around 7:30 am Thursday at Sitio Upper Cabengbeng in Basilan, which left eight soldiers dead and six others wounded.

Cabangbang explained that the military’s assault on the rebels was a counter-attack after the bandits "harassed" a military detachment at Tumahubong in the same town.

The military sent reinforcements, which encountered the bandits around 3 pm, upon reaching Brgy. Mebak. The second gunbattle killed two soldiers and left 11 others wounded, Cabangbang said.

Ramadan and peace process

The battle erupted in the course of routine counter-terrorist operations, but the military was outnumbered, Major General Ricardo Reiner Cruz of the 1st Infantry Division told reporters.

“Gusto natin na… i-counter yung activities ng Abu Sayyaf dun,” the military official said. “Matagal nang plano ito pero nauna itong nangyari kahapon,” he added.

The military was caught unawares of the terrorist group's strength, the official noted.

“Na-underestimate natin yung… capability ng kabila… Medyo mas malaki ang tropa nila,” he said.

Cruz cited two things that could have contributed to the outcome of Thursday’s gunbattle: the ongoing peace process with Muslim rebels and the Ramadan season.

These factors made the military complacent, he said.

“We respect… yung Ramadan ng mga Muslims. So, yung sa atin more of police operations,” said Cruz. — With a report from Gian Geronimo/VS, GMA News

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The ARMM new general registration: a step toward credible and clean elections?

Following the wish of the President, Congress passed a resolution nullifying the entire list of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. With this Congressional resolution, Comelec en banc ordered a new general registration for the autonomous region. Election registrars from neighboring provinces were mustered and fielded in the ARMM for the registration from July 9 to 18.
The rationale at work in the cancellation of the entire list of voters in the ARMM is the belief that the integrity of the said list is in question. It has always been alleged that the list contains ghost voters, thus in no way could there be credible elections in the ARMM. Notwithstanding the sophisticated scanning for multiple registrations, the President and the reform-minded ARMM OICs have asked for a new general registration in the ARMM.

In earlier dialogues with Comelec, we were told that what was needed in the ARMM was simply to attain a 100 percent registration of voters (which at that time stood at 69 percent). With 100 percent biometrics in the ARMM, Comelec could install a program in the PCOS machine that would interface the biometrics of the registered voters with the machine, such that it would read the voters’ biometrics before voting and during the counting. They believed then that the scanning of biometrics (thumbs, physical features, signatures and other data) would suffice in doing the job of cleansing the list of ghost voters and multiple registrants.

Moreover, our delegation was told that “cheating” in the ARMM has been elevated to a fine art such that the “results” were really very distant to the actual votes. Instances of cheating in the ARMM elections were simpler and more effective, and these consisted in the preparation of certificates of canvass.

In the Philippines, we have adopted an electoral process that is sui generic, that is truly hard to understand. This process has been invented for lawyers, because the actual proclamation of winners in the elections is really NOT based on votes cast but on the certificates of canvass duly signed by a committee chaired by the Comelec supervisor with the Department of Education (DepEd) Superintendent and Provincial/City Fiscal as members. In short, only three people are needed to “control,” to “manage,” or to get a franchise of the results of elections.

In an earlier period, cheating happened at the level of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), that is, at the precinct level. The massive cheating occurred NOT during the actual voting but in the preparation of the precinct election return. This involved only the three members of the BEI (DepEd teacher as chair and two members, usually another teacher and a clerk). Fraud happened in the actual preparation of the precinct returns independent of the actual votes cast. This was the reason why the integrity of the entire DepEd in the ARMM was put in question because of the massive electoral fraud that happened at their level.

The cheating was further refined by doing away with the precinct returns. The cheaters no longer depended on the precinct returns during the canvassing. If they did, it was only for show. The real certificates of canvass were prepared much ahead of time and already pre-signed by the members of the Board of Canvassers. One need NOT become a magician to do the substitution since the venue of canvassing and the members of the Board were “controlled.” So while there were ghost voters in the ARMM and multiple registrants, they mattered less and less, since the electoral fraud happened in the preparation of the certificates of canvass.

This was the reality of the electoral processes when we adopted the use of the PCOS machines in 2010. We believed that by becoming less dependent on human intervention, both in the counting and the preparation of the “returns” and certificates of canvass, there would be less fraud. That was the belief then.

Now with new technology, we are taught and programmed to believe that along with the ghost voters and multiple registrants, the counting and preparation of returns and actual preparation of certificates of “canvass” would be things of the past. The aim of 100 percent biometrics in registration, the scanning of the said data, the audit to be done post registration, and the use of biometrics in the actual voting during Election Day would guarantee, for the first time, credible and clean elections in the ARMM.

We can only pray and hope that the Comelec and the machines would, this time, deliver. So help us, God.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

‘Lucky 13’ In 2013

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may just proclaim the candidate who got the 13th highest votes for senator in the May, 2013 elections.

That is if Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who awaits being called to duty at the International Criminal Court (ICC), resigns her post in the Senate and effectively leaves a vacancy for a 13th elected senator next year.
“Even if Sen. Miriam does not resign up to January, we were already discussing the possibility that we will require the shading of only 12 for the 12 senators (on the ballot)… but we will proclaim 13. The number 13 we will proclaim if she resigns after the configuration of the ballot,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said in a television interview.

“We can do that by issuing a resolution that the number 13 will be the one that will fill-up the vacancy,” he added.

But Brillantes said there is a need for the Senate to declare a vacancy first before Election Day.

“The Senate should come out with a resolution that there’s a vacancy because we cannot do anything that’s the prerogative of Sen. Miriam. She was really elected for six’s her decision to leave or not to leave within the six year period,” he said.

To recall, the Comelec earlier said that they would prefer if Senator Santiago will make her decision on whether to resign or not before October 5, which is the deadline for the filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC).

This is in order for them to know whether they will program the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to read votes for 13 or just 12.

Meanwhile, Sen. Franklin M. Drilon chided the Comelec for supposedly pressuring Santiago to bare her plans ahead of her ascension to the ICC.

“To me, Comelec Chairman (Sixto) Brillantes is wrong because it is the Comelec that proclaims winners in the senatorial race not the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines,” Drilon said in Filipino in an interview over Radio DWIZ.

“They can configure the PCOS machines to accept 13 winning candidates but until Miriam resigns, they are only required to proclaim 12 senators,” Drilon said.

Drilon said the Comelec was wrong in assuming that the senator should say when she has to quit for the purpose of programming the PCOS machines accordingly to the number of senators to be voted.

“You can configure a PCOS machines to read 13 senators. But Comelec only has to proclaim the 12 and the 13th senator would be declared when Miriam assumes her post in the ICC,” he said.

“I am no IT expert but I can see that the Comelec’s problem is very easy to resolve. There really is no problem. There is no need to pressure the senator to resign,” he said. –with a report from Hannah L. Torregoza

For electoral combat against UNA, PNoy's LP enlisting Villar's NP

Malacañang on Friday said it has "moved on" from the political battles of 2010 as it prepares to forge an alliance with the Nacionalista Party of Senator Manuel Villar, President Aquino's main rival in the 2010 presidential elections.

A coalition between the ruling Liberal Party and Villar’s Nacionalista Party would be a formidable foe for the powerhouse team-up of Vice President Jojo Binay's forces with ex-President Joseph Estrada, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)
“(The NP members) recognize what’s important for the country,” Lacierda said. “They recognize what’s good for the countrymen, and so they will rise above political differences and see what’s good for all of us.”

“So we’re looking at party principles (transcending) individual differences,” he added.

The coalition has nothing to do with how senators voted in the impeachment trial, Lacierda noted, citing another NP member who voted for Corona’s acquittal, Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.

“I’m certain that the impeachment vote of each senator was done based on their individual deliberation and conscience,” Lacierda said. “So we cannot use that as a basis.”

Lacierda refused to discuss the possible coalition further, saying LP President and Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad are the best persons to discuss the matter.

On Thursday, President Aquino said coalition talks among the LP, NP and Nationalist People’s Coalition for the 2013 elections have been “very, very successful.”

“There (were) words that were exchanged during that time but we move on for the sake of the country,” Lacierda said, referring to the 2010 election campaign.

As the campaign spokesperson of then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino, he was naturally a critic of Villar, who ran against Aquino. That year, the LP accused Villar of corruption because of his role in the controversial C-5 extension project, supposedly to benefit his real estate properties.

The party also accused Villar of being the secret candidate of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But now, Lacierda said the senator has been supportive of some administration measures.

Villar was also one of the senators who voted last May to oust then-Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose impeachment Aquino strongly supported. — GCG/VS/HS, GMA News

Monday, July 2, 2012

Noy's cousin: We're not building a dynasty

- President Aquino’s first cousin has rejected insinuations of a political dynasty after he was mentioned as a senatorial candidate of the pro-administration Liberal Party in next year’s election.

In a text message, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV or Bam said dynasties protect vested interests, and the track records of his relatives show that their only interest is to serve the country.

“There is no dynasty to speak of, but there is a history of public service that I hope to be part of,” he said.
The 35-year-old Bam also disputed conjectures his candidacy and possible victory are aimed at protecting the interests of the Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

Bam told The STAR the Aquinos have no interest in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“The best people to ask about Luisita are the Cojuangcos and not the Aquinos,” he said.

“As far as I know, it is already being distributed and the government is moving as efficiently as possible.”

Bam believes his exposure in ABSCBN’s Bantay Bata program, in nongovernment organizations and in micro-finance has equipped him for the Senate post.

“But it is my work with the poor and in social enterprise in the past years that has shaped my belief that the right policies and programs can transform communities,” he said.

“We need to take this to the next level and ensure that Filipinos have the right opportunities to improve their lives.”

Bam said he headed the National Youth Commission during the time offormer President Gloria-Macapagal-Arroyo.

“My time as chairman of NYC, a national agency under the executive department, provided me experience in governance,” he said.

Bam’s face bears much resemblance to that of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. He is the son of Ninoy’s brother Paul.

He was six years old when Ninoy was slain in 1983 and nine years old during EDSA I in 1986.

The only Aquino in government now is the President himself.

His uncle and aunt, Butz Aquino and Tessie Aquino-Oreta (siblings of Ninoy), have not returned to politics, although both of them have been elected senators in the past.

Bam is the fifth candidate of the LP on record, apart from TESDA directorgeneral Joel Villanueva, Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, former lawmaker Risa Hontiveros and Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.

Bam is president of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO).

He was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) for 2010 in the category of Social Enterprise and Community Development.

Bam’s inclusion in the LP slate came in the wake of reports that Sen. Franklin Drilon, an LP stalwart, said he had recruited former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. to join them and be among next year’s administration candidates.

The second six, according to sources, include Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III.

The rest are re-electionists from the Nacionalista Party of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., with whom the LP will have a tie-up.

Among those from the NP bloc are Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, now on her third and last term, and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

The last two will be coming from the Nationalist People’s Coalition of business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. – maternal uncle of President Aquino – and they are re-electionist Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda.

Talks are also ongoing for the possible entry of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who has just left the United Nationalist Alliance.

Possibly former Surigao del Norte governor Robert Ace Barbers might be included in the LP slate.

With the 13 names, Pimentel or Barbers might still be included since Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is likely to assume her post as a member of the International Criminal Court.


Mangudadatu aide shot dead in Sultan Kudarat

An aide to Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose political challenge to the Ampatuan clan led to the country’s worst political massacre, has been shot and killed, police said yesterday.

Police said they were investigating whether the shooting of Said Salik Saturday was related to the 2009 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao, after a string of killings targeting witnesses to the murders.
Salik, 65, was with his grandchildren when he was shot by two men riding on a motorcycle in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, police said.

“The victim was a consultant to Gov. Toto Mangudadatu,” regional police spokesman Inspector Benjamin Mauricio said.

Mauricio said the motive remained unclear, but stressed they were investigating whether it was related to the massacre.

Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu had challenged the powerful Ampatuan clan’s control of the southern province in Maguindanao, leading to the massacre in 2009 of 57 people, including his wife, relatives and 32 journalists.

Mangudadatu’s wife was en route to the election body’s office to file his candidacy for governor accompanied by journalists and friends when they were seized by members of a private army controlled by the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuans had ruled Maguindanao for a decade, under the patronage of then-president Gloria Arroyo, who used the clan’s private army as a buffer against Muslim guerrillas.

The Ampatuans saw Mangudadatu as a threat to the family’s power, and ordered the massacre as a means to stop their rival’s political ambitions, prosecutors said.

The clan’s patriarch as well as several of his sons are among 196 people charged with conspiring to commit the murder, although police said over 100 suspects remained at large.

As the trial goes through the notoriously slow Philippine court system, three witnesses to the crime have been murdered.

Three relatives of other witnesses have also been killed, in what rights groups said was a clear pattern to silence anyone who dared testify against the Ampatuan clan.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Koko Pimentel leaves UNA because of Migz, may run under Liberal Party

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Thursday confirmed that he has left the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), a coalition formed by Vice President Jejomar Binay's Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban) and former President Joseph Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

In an interview with reporters Thursday, Pimentel said he met with Estrada at the former president's house in Greenhills earlier in the day to tell him that he will not run under UNA in the 2013 senatorial polls.

"Pinuntahan ko lang siya at sabi ko, ‘Ninong, patawarin mo ako,’" he said.

"Ako'y nagpaalam na ako po'y hindi ko kayang tumakbo bilang senador sa ilalim ng UNA habang nandoon si [former Senator Juan Miguel] Zubiri at since nandoon si Zubiri ako'y nagregrets na sa nominasyon [nila]. ‘Di ko po kayang makakasama ko ang taong kumuha ng apat na taon ng termino ko bilang senador. Ganun lang kasimple," he added.

"Sabi ko nga kay President Estrada, ‘This is not about you or about VP Binay. This is precisely about that issue. Hindi po kaya ng aking konsensya na ako po ay tatakbo bilang senador kasama po si Sen. Zubiri,’" he said.

Zubiri, who was proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as the 12th winning senator four years ago, resigned from the Senate last August 3 amid mounting testimonies about fraud committed during the 2007 polls.

He was replaced by Pimentel, who had filed an electoral protest against him and poll sabotage cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Pimentel said Estrada accepted his decision to leave UNA. On the other hand, he said he informed Binay about the matter through his chief of staff since the vice president is currently out of the country.

Still with PDP-Laban

The senator quickly stressed, however, that he has not left his party PDP-Laban, of which he is president.

"’Di ko iniwanan ang partido ko. Ang balak ko, ako'y tatakbo bilang kandidato ng PDP-Laban so pag-aralan na lang kung may legal problems... Hihimayin namin ang coalition agreement word per word. Nung binasa ko naman ang coalition agreement sa palagay ko pwede," he said.

He explained that PMP and PDP-Laban did not merge so PDP-Laban can still field its own candidates.

"We did not lose our identities. Ang ibig sabihin lang naman ng approval ng registration ng coalition is it will be treated as a political party for purposes of that election," he said.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. had also earlier said that both UNA and the parties under it can field their own candidates.

But Pimentel said he does not plan on destroying the agreement formed by the two parties.

"’Yan naman ang pangako ko kay President Estrada na ‘yung pag-atras ko as UNA senatorial candidate hindi ko kukuwestiyunin o guguluhin ‘yung coalition ng PMP at PDP-Laban. So ako lang po maaapektuhan dito," he said.

Less chance of winning?

Pimentel admitted that his chances of winning in the 2013 elections seemed better under UNA with the endorsement of Estrada, Binay, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who is also a member of UNA, but noted that it was a risk he was willing to take.

"Ganyan naman ang buhay... Sometimes you cannot have it all," he said.

"Nobody forced me to leave. Desisyon ko lang ito. I want to campaign with a happy heart. Gusto ko sa kampanya happy ako," he added.

The senator said he has yet to receive any formal invitation to run under the administration's Liberal Party but that he was "open for adoption by everybody."

Aside from Zubiri, UNA will also field San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, incumbent senator Gregorio Honasan, and defeated senatorial bet Joey de Venecia.

Welcome to LP

Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Florecio Abad said Thursday the Liberal Party will welcome Pimentel to its fold.

“We told him that he has to first settle his problem with UNA as we did not want to meddle in their affairs. Once he has made up his mind, we will welcome his joining the administration coalition,” he said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Abad served as LP campaign manager during the 2010 presidential elections and a former president of the party.

LP is now chaired by President Benigno Aquino III. – with Amita Legaspi/KG/RSJ/HS, GMA News


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