Binay: Pacquiao our Senate bet for 2016

Ayee Macaraig
The Vice President says he and the boxing champ-turned-Sarangani congressman talked about this even before the 2013 elections, but Pacquiao was underage at the time

SENATOR PACQUIAO? Vice President Jejomar Binay says Sarangani Rep Manny Pacquiao will be part of his 2016 senatorial slate. File OVP photo

MANILA, Philippines – He holds many titles in boxing and is now referred to as Sarangani representative. Will Manny Pacquiao soon be called senator? 

Vice President Jejomar Binay announced the boxing champion as the first candidate to be included in his new party’s senatorial ticket for 2016.

“Basta isasama namin sa slate …. Matagal na naming pinag-uusapan iyan bago pa mag-halalan nang 2013,” Binay said in a press briefing at the Coconut Palace on Friday, March 7.

(We will include him in the slate. We have been discussing that for a long time now, even before the 2013 polls.)

The Vice President said that Pacquiao was not included in his slate in 2013 because the athlete-turned-politician was underage during the May polls. The congressman turned 35 on Dec 17, 2013, making him eligible to run for senator in 2016.

Pacquiao juggles boxing and politics. In the 15th Congress, he was a top absentee congressman

Binay also announced that his yet-to-be-named party is already looking for other senatorial candidates even if the election is still two years away.

Kami ay naghahanap ng mga interesado magkandidatong senador. Ayaw na namin maranasan ang nakaraan, ‘di kami nakabuo sa kakulangan ng oras. Kung maari, meron na kaming pagpipilian. Sana makumpleto ang 12 na matagal pa ang halalan.”

(We are looking for people interested to run for senator. We do no want to experience a repeat of the past where we were not able to complete our slate because of time constraints. If possible, we want to have choices early on. So we hope to complete the 12 candidates even if the elections are still far off.)

The Vice President was referring to the difficulty of his opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to complete its 2013 senatorial slate after businessman Joey de Venecia backed out at the last minute. The move forced Binay to field his eldest daughter, Nancy, who eventually placed 5th in the polls.

Binay refused to name the other personalities he is considering for the ticket, saying announcing all of them will take out the “excitement.”

Binay said Pacquiao is among the members of his former party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), who will join him in leaving the group to form his new political machinery.

Last week, Binay announced that he is leaving PDP-Laban because the party became “dysfunctional” over his differences with Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. Binay was chairman of PDP-Laban. 

Pimentel bolted UNA ahead of the 2013 polls because the coalition accepted resigned Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as member despite his strong opposition. Pimentel accused Zubiri of election fraud in the 2007 polls.

PDP-Laban bolts UNA

Pimentel, the PDP-Laban president, told Rappler on Friday that the party decided to formally leave UNA after Binay’s announcement.

The senator said PDP-Laban’s governing council met on Wednesday and decided on the move after Binay said he has no plans of sending a letter to formalize his resignation from PDP-Laban.

Pimentel said Binay’s pronouncement saddened him.

“On Wednesday, we decided that we will treat his media pronouncements as the formal notice [of resignation]. It was the Rappler article that convinced us that that’s it. Thirty-two years iyan of party togetherness, how about the martial law struggle, more than 32 years? What is a letter? Even that courtesy ay hindi napagbigyan,” Pimentel said in a phone interview. (Even that courtesy was not extended to us.) 

Pimentel and his father, former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr share a long history with Binay. The elder Pimentel founded PDP during the martial law years and it merged with Laban of the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr to form PDP-Laban. Binay was one of the first members of Laban.

The PDP-Laban president said he already expects “named personalities” like Pacquiao to bolt PDP-Laban to follow Binay. Pacquiao joined PDP-Laban in April 2012 after leaving the Nacionalista Party of former Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. 

“It’s okay as long as the ideologues will be left behind. We subscribe to the 5 principles of the party. The party will survive,” Pimentel said.

The senator said PDP-Laban has yet to discuss plans for the 2016 polls but is open to support a ticket “with the closest ideology” instead of one that is the “complete antithesis of the party.”

“We want to join enjoy our newfound freedom and study the political landscape and at the same time, improve our organization because we need to do some things, formalize some positions, do organizational work,” Pimentel said.

Is he eyeing higher office in 2016? “No. It’s so hard to run, even for senator. No one is talking to me about it.”

Binay: We will join UNA  

Responding to Pimentel, Binay said it is the party’s decision.

“We have to respect that. But our party will apply to join UNA as a political coalition.”

Binay’s new party will coalesce with former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) to form UNA. He said many original Laban members want to break away from PDP-Laban to join him.

He said his decision to form a new political party has no effect on his grassroots support.

“That many people have been telling me, ‘We want to join you, we want to join you,’ that solves the problem. I am happy. I am already open. We can talk.” 

Asked if he talked to Pimentel a week after announcing his resignation, Binay said, “Sa dyaryo na lang kami nag-uusap.” (We only talk through the newspapers.) –

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