Tolentino to LP: Exclude me from Senate slate

Katerina Francisco

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Tolentino to LP: Exclude me from Senate slate
(UPDATED) The MMDA chair also apologizes to women's groups for the controversial lewd dance at a congressman's birthday party last week

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – After coming under fire over a controversial lewd performance at a lawmaker’s birthday party last week, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino urged the Liberal Party (LP) to exclude him from the party’s senatorial lineup for the 2016 polls.

Ipinapaabot ko sa Partido Liberal na alisin na ang pangalan ko sa kino-consider nilang lineup sa pagka-senador sa 2016,” Tolentino said in a short statement to reporters on Wednesday, October 7.

(I ask the Liberal Party to remove my name from the list of those being considered for the 2016 senatorial lineup.)

The MMDA chief, who earlier announced his plans to run for a Senate seat next year, is among those reportedly being considered by the LP for its senatorial ticket.

But the controversial dance performance by an all-female group, the “Playgirls,” at a Laguna event last week put into question his status in the LP’s lineup. (READ: Will Francis Tolentino still be in LP Senate slate?)

Tolentino drew the condemnation of women’s groups and fellow LP members for allegedly hiring the dance group Playgirls to perform at the birthday party of Laguna Representative Benjamin Agarao.

The controversial performance, where the girls gyrated and twerked onstage with male audience members, was held after the oath taking of new members of the LP.

Tolentino denied that he brought the girls to the event, and later issued an apology over the incident. But in his statement on Wednesday, he only said that his mistake was not stopping the dancers from perfoming at the event.

Naging kamalian ko at tinatanggap ko ang hindi pagpigil doon sa performance ng mananayaw dahil ako ang pinakamataas na opisyal ng pamahalaan sa naturang lugar,” he said.

(My mistake, that I take responsibility for, is my failure to stop the performance of the dancers as I am the highest government official during that event.)

Kung na-offend ko po ang grupo ng mga kababaihan, humihingi ulit ako ng paumanhin,” he added.

(If I have offended women’s groups, again, I ask for forgiveness.)

The Playgirls’ dance was widely condemned by netizens and women’s groups for being lewd and sexually suggestive. Agarao, however, earlier said that he found nothing wrong with the performance.

In his statement on Wednesday, Tolentino also said that similar performances are shown live on television.

Muli sinasabi ko, hindi ko nakontrol, hindi ko napigilan ang naturang insidente na sa aking paniniwala at sa paniniwala din ng iba ay ginagawa rin naman araw-araw sa harap ng milyon milyon sa telebisyon araw-araw,” he said.

(I was unable to control and to stop the incident because of my belief, that others also share, that performances like that are done every day, in front of millions of people, on television.) 

Tolentino left shortly after issuing the statement, and did not take questions from reporters.

Earlier Wednesday, labor groups filed a complaint against Tolentino before the Ombudsman, accusing him of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Magna Carta for Women.

Aquino: Tolentino firm advocate of Daang Matuwid

In a statement, President Benigno Aquino III reiterated that the MMDA chief is a  “firm advocate of Daang Matuwid,” as shown by his pronouncement taking responsibility for the incident.

“He knows that, at present, those who oppose meaningful reform will want to exploit the incident. I believe that Chairman Tolentino is doing his part to ensure that public debate truly focuses on the continuation of Daang Matuwid and the undeniable benefits it has brought to our Bosses,” Aquino said.

He added, “It is also my belief that he will take the opportunity to further reflect on how he can better affect positive change in the future.”

The President also cited Tolentino’s contribution to public service from his appointment as Tagaytay City Officer-in-Charge in 1986 to his MMDA stint.

“In all his years of public service…Francis demonstrated the dedication and dynamic leadership of a public servant committed to the common good. It is this same commitment that encouraged him to set his sights towards serving our people in a higher capacity,” Aquino said.

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