Koko rejects UNA; open to 'adoption'
MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel is willing to be "adopted" by other political parties and alliances after he left the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) coalition.
"I am up for adoption. Kailangan ko rin ng tulong," Pimentel said in an interview with radio dzMM's Dos Por Dos on Thursday.
He said he remains the president of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), but is open to receiving help from other parties. The chairman of PDP-Laban is Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
Pimentel announced earlier in the day that he will run without the help of UNA because it included his rival, former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in its senatorial line-up in the 2013 mid-term elections.
"Huwag na lang nating gamitin iyung word na coalition kasi hindi naman natin madadala iyung party (PDP-Laban) pero on a personal basis siguro, ang aking position ngayon, I am up for adoption," he said.
"Kung may mag-adopt po sa akin, sige po, pag-usapan po namin," he added. "Papayagan mo lang na dalhin iyung pangalan mo, pasalamatan sila. It doesn't mean na magkakaroon ka ng panahon sa sumama sa pagkilos nila."
"Any help is welcome, for as long as wala ring arrangement na hindi ko gusto," Pimentel said.
No Liberal Party invite yet
He added that he has yet to get a formal invitation from the ruling Liberal Party. "Wala pa po. For the record, wala pa. Nababasa lang po natin sa diyaryo at napapakinggan sa TV interviews pero formal, wala pa po."
Pimentel said it was hard for him to leave UNA -- a coalition between PDP-Laban and former President Joseph Estrada's Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).
"Napakahirap po kasi, parang pagpapaalam ito eh. Ito iyung grupong pinagpaalaman ko eh matagal ko nang kasama. Tapos, ang masakit din kasi ang dahilan ng pag-alis ko sa aking grupo ay may bagong sumama sa amin. Parang ang hirap. Sinasabi sa akin, bahay natin ito, bakit ikaw ang aalis?" he said.
No rift with UNA leaders
He reiterated that he did not leave UNA because he had a disagreement with either Binay or Estrada. "Hindi naman ito tungkol sa kanila, hindi ito tungkol kay President Erap, hindi ito tungkol kay Vice-President Binay, hindi rin ito tungkol kay Senate President Enrile. Hindi ko naman talaga sila iniiwanan. Hindi naman ako nagpapaalam sa kanila na permanente."
"Ito ay temporary na pagpapalam, sa pagdating ng 2013, hindi masusunod iyung payo nila na tumakbo kasama si Zubiri sa isang senatorial ticket," he added.
Pimentel said he talked to his family, partymates, and supporters before making a decision to leave UNA. "Marami rin akong kinausap. Ang resulta ng aking consultation, more or less, binackapan nila iyung initial na position ko (to leave the alliance)."
Meeting with Estrada
He said he went to see Estrada 10 a.m. Thursday to formally tell him about his decision.
"Lumapit ako sa kaniya at sinabi ko, 'Sorry, Ninong. Ninong, patawarin mo ako,'" he said. "Nung sinabi ko iyon, parang alam na rin niya na tungkol na iyon sa desisyon ko sa UNA."
"Sinabi ko sa kaniya, 'Ninong, patawarin mo ako pero hindi ko talaga kakayanin na tmakbo sa parehong senatorial ticket kasama si Zubiri.' Sinabi naman niya, 'Iyan na ba talaga ang desisyon mo? Naintindihan kita.'"
"Sinabi ko kay President Erap na rerespetuhin ko ang coalition agreement with PDP-Laban and PMP," Pimentel said.
He said he has yet to talk to Binay, who is currently overseas. "Pero iyon na nga, kinlaro ko sa kaniyang chief of staff, paki-relay kay Vice-President, nagpaalam na ako kay President Estrada."
"Hindi po ako umaalis ng aking party sa PDP-Laban. Hence, kami ni Vice-President Binay, magkapartido pa rin hanggang ngayon. Tinuturing kong internal party matter iyung balak ko," he explained.
He said he will run in 2013 under PDP-Laban, with no support from UNA.
Pimentel also said his departure from the coalition won't affect the alliance between PDP-Laban and PMP. "Hindi ako gagawa ng hakbang na makakasira sa coalition agreement. Ang apektado sa pagkalas ko sa UNA ay ako lang, wala nang iba," he said.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Estrada said he is disappointed that Pimentel decided not to stay with UNA, but “I respect his decision.”
He said he remains proud of Pimentel. “Sabi ko sa aking inaanak, at ipinagmamalaki kong inaanak ko sya, nakakapanghinayang at malaking bagay na nawala sya sa UNA dahil magaling syang senador at Bar topnotcher.”
He said he made an effort to keep Pimentel, but the latter insisted he cannot work alongside Zubiri.
Estrada said he had Zubiri’s supposed involvement in the electoral fraud investigated but found none.
Estrada also said he asked for the blessing of UNA’s leaders before he accepted Zubiri into the PMP fold.
Asked for his advise for Pimentel, who may now be adopted by the LP, Estrada said: “He does not need my unsolicited advise, I respect his decision.”
He said Pimentel did not mention his plans when they met. “He said he’s going to be an independent PDP-Laban.”
Binay says he'll talk to Pimentel
Meantime, Binay expressed sadness over Pimentel's decision to leave UNA, but hinted that all is not lost.
In an interview with ANC, Binay said, “I’m sad, but that’s his decision and I respect his decision.” Nonetheless, he said “we will still talk when I come home.”
Binay said Pimentel will now become an “independent PDP-Laban...Let us separate the personality of Senator Pimentel and the party.”
He said PDP-Laban will remain committed to UNA.
Binay is currently in Saudi Arabia to convey the Philippines’ condolences on the passing of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud. He will arrive July 7.
JPE offers to still help
In a separate interview with reporters, one of the coalition’s leaders, promised to help Pimentel if asked.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, an official of the PMP, said, “if he wants my support, I will help him as much as I would help the others without abandoning my obligations to my party and my coalition.”
He said he will still endorse Pimentel’s candidacy. “Why not? We can endorse multiple candidates. It depends upon the people.”
Enrile said he does not see UNA’s line-up getting affected by Pimentel’s exit.
“Hindi kami mawawalan. Kaya lang, senator na sya, and he has a good standing in the service. We have to accept the fact that he will be a loss to us because he’s already a senator and he’s within the possible 13 winners,” he said. -- with reports from Ruby Tayag, dzMM; Ryan Chua, Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News; Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com