MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/12 June) — The decision of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to include former congressman Juan Miguel Zubiri on its 2013 senatorial ticket “weakens its pretensions that it will set the tone for the reformation of our country’s corrupt political system,” former Senate minority leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said in a statement.
“By welcoming Migs into its fold, UNA has unequivocally put itself on the side of electoral cheats and sends the message that it will do anything to propel itself into power,” Pimentel Jr. said.
“To UNA, the principles that Koko Pimentel is fighting for: clean and honest elections, transparency and accountability especially of public officials are useless and irrelevant. And should be substituted by what is politically practical and expedient,” he added.
Pimentel’s son and namesake, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, has also objected to Zubiri’s entry to UNA, a coalition between the Binay-led PDP-Laban and the Partido ng Masang Pilipino of former president Joseph Estrada.
In the 2007 senatorial election, Zubiri won the 12th and last seat by a slim margin against the younger Pimentel.
Pimentel III filed a protest before the Commission on Elections and the Senate Electoral Tribunal, citing massive cheating, particularly in Maguindanao province then ruled by the Ampatuans.
Zubiri yielded his seat in the Senate in August 2011, after some witnesses, some of them election officials, surfaced and revealed how the cheating in Maguindanao was carried out.
Pimentel III was finally sworn in as senator a few days after Zubiri stepped down, with the SET ruling that he led his rival by over 250,000 votes.
In an interview Tuesday night with ANC’s Lynda Jumilla, the senator said the problem is not Zubiri’s candidacy but his decision to run under UNA of which he (Pimentel) is a member.
He said allowing this to happen would be like “rewarding” Zubiri.
Pimentel III hinted he might run outside of the UNA ticket. “I would be up for adoption by any political party and by the people themselves,” he said.
The administration Liberal Party has invited the senator to run under its ticket.
Zubiri had maintained that although he was the beneficiary of the cheating in Maguindanao, he had no knowledge about it. (MindaNews)