MANILA, Philippines – The Liberal Party (LP)’s 2016 standard-bearer on Monday, October 7, lauded embattled Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino for “putting country before self” in announcing to withdraw from the ruling party’s Senate slate.
“Isa sa mga batayang prinsipyo ng Daang Matuwid ang pag-una ng bayan bago ang sarili (Among the many guiding principles of Daang Matuwid is putting country before self). By his decision to withdraw from consideration for the LP’s Senate slate, Francis Tolentino demonstrates he is a true believer in Daang Matuwid,” Roxas said in a statement on Wednesday, October 7.
Tolentino, in a chance interview with reporters the same day, had said he would no longer be presenting himself as an LP Senate bet almost a week after a controversial performance at the birthday of an LP member.
During Laguna Representative Benjamin Agarao’s birthday party on October 1, all-girls group Playgirls performed on stage, gyrating and even engaging guests in simulated dry-humping before an audience that included LP members, children, and college students. The party was preceded by the oath-taking of 80 new members of the LP led by no less than Roxas, who left before the performance began.
Tolentino said he should be held responsible for what happened as he, as the highest-ranking public official at the party, did nothing to stop the performance. (READ: Tolentino and the LP: A graceful exit)
“I and the LP have always believed that how you campaign is a reflection of how you are going to govern. As regards the recent incident in Laguna, it was a mistake, and I appreciate that Chairman Francis Tolentino has acknowledged this,” said Roxas.
Tolentino has denied paying for the girls’ performance, contrary to the claims made by the event emcee as the Playgirls performed. Agarao said the girls were hired by his friends, although he did not name a specific person.
In an earlier statement released a day after the controversial Laguna performance, Roxas disowned the dance, saying there was no room in his campaign for “gimmicks” that degrade women. Roxas also said the party would be launching a probe into the incident.
No mention of the investigation was made in his Wednesday statement.
Tolentino had been a shoo-in for the ruling party’s Senate slate prior to the controversy. It remains unclear if Tolentino will pursue his senatorial bid.
Gains as MMDA chairman
Even without the Laguna controversy, the odds had been stacked against Tolentino, whose numbers in senatorial preference surveys have been anything but stellar. The worsening state of Metro Manila traffic is one of the many issues Tolentino would have to deal with during his campaign.
Tolentino would have been one of several Cabinet members with a slot in the LP slate for 2016.
Roxas, however, insisted Tolentino’s mistake – referring to the Laguna incident – “does not reflect the totality of Francis Tolentino and his service for our people.” As a member of the Cabinet, said Roxas, Tolentino “contributed towards change.”
The former interior secretary enumerated Tolentino’s achievements in the MMDA: being readily available in times of disaster and the modernization of the agency, including the creation of the agency’s smartphone app and Twitter account.
“Maraming salamat (Thank you very much), chairman Francis for your dedicated service,” said Roxas.
Reiterating his earlier statement, Roxas said the Laguna controversy has since prompted the party to “take a hard look at how we are conducting, and how we are to conduct, our campaign.”
“Sexy” performances by scantily-clad women is a common feature in Philippine political sorties. Campaign rallies of different parties in the past have seen all-girl groups perform prior, in-between, and after politicians themselves talk about their platforms and campaign promises.
Roxas called on his party mates to avoid as much in the 2016 campaign.
“Layunin namin palagi ang pag-angat ng antas ng pampublikong diskurso (Our goal is always to elevate the level of public discourse), to always appeal to our better angels kumbaga. Moving forward, I ask our LP members and our supporters to adhere to this objective,” said Roxas.
“Ours is a party united by principle, at ipagpapatuloy naming lumaban nang patas para ituloy ang pagbabago (and we will continue to engage in a fair fight to continue reforms). We will continue striving to empower each and every one of our countrymen to help accelerate our collective pursuit of prosperity,” said the presidential candidate. – Rappler.com