BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Resigned Sen Juan Miguel Zubiri apologized for bringing up the marital problems of Sen Koko Pimentel but still took a swipe at his rival.
During a press conference here on Sunday, March 17, Zubiri said sorry to Pimentel’s estranged wife, Jewel May Lobaton, for claiming in a TV faceoff that she is a “battered wife.” Zubiri faced off with Pimentel on Studio 23’s Mano Mano.
Lobaton had denied Zubiri’s statement and asked that she and her children be spared from the campaign.
“I wish to humbly apologize to Jewel for the pain that I have caused for bringing this issue out in the public during a heated exchange on a televised senatorial debate last week,” Zubiri said.
Yet toward the end of his statement, Zubiri said, “Those of us who are offering ourselves to the people must prove that we should not have skeletons in our closets no matter how personal it may be. We should not lead double lives.”
Zubiri also clarified that he did not say Pimentel physically abused Lobaton.
“I merely quoted her statement that she was a battered wife, and being a battered wife does not only mean being subjected to physical abuse but psychological, mental and verbal abuse as well. These are clearly defined in section 3 of RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence of Women and Children Act,” Zubiri said.
The former Bukidnon representative narrated that a mutual friend of his and Lobaton called him last July 12, 2012 requesting that the two meet. He eventually agreed to meet with her along with his wife, Audrey.
Zubiri said Lobaton convinced them that she deserves help in getting custody of her two children with Pimentel. Lobaton is Zubiri’s distant cousin on his father’s side.
He said the family decided to help Lobaton quietly.
“That is why it is regretful for the other party to say that we are using this for political means because we have kept this issue a secret between our friends and family all this time.”
“I even told Jewel that it may be a bad idea to involve me because it would politicize the custody of her children, and will anger Sen Koko even more. So my wife and I quietly disengaged from those meetings to allow Jewel and her legal team to work for the children’s custody.”
Zubiri denied making up the story, reiterating that Lobaton also approached former President Joseph Estrada in the presence of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) campaign manager Toby Tiangco, spokesman JV Bautista and former representatives Ompong Plaza and Lenny de Jesus.
Estrada is the wedding godfather of Pimentel and Lobaton.
‘The heat of the moment’
Pimentel has taken exception to Zubiri’s claim, saying he is considering filing a libel case against him.
Zubiri said he regrets bringing up the issue but also defended his reaction. The former congressman drew flak, with netizens saying it was too personal and had no place in the campaign.
“I have been pushed to the wall so many times by Sen Pimentel and sometimes, enough is enough. I uttered those words at the heat of the moment and even before the campaign started, Sen Pimentel has been besmirching my reputation and making wild accusations without even offering a single shred of evidence.”
Zubiri was referring to Pimentel’s criticism that he is a “cheat” and a “fake senator.” Pimentel laments that Zubiri deprived him of over 4 years of his Senate term.
Their rivalry is rooted in election cheating in 2007. Zubiri was initially proclaimed the 12th senator but Pimentel questioned his victory in an election protest.
In August 2011, Zubiri resigned as senator, just days before the Senate Electoral Tribunal declared Pimentel the rightful winner of the polls.
In the press conference, Zubiri again said that like Pimentel’s children, his kids are also affected by the mudslinging.
Still, he maintained that character questions are a legitimate issue in the campaign.
“Our public and private conduct should be beyond reproach and should be open to scrutiny, especially by the people. And we should be willing to answer difficult questions truthfully.” – Rappler.com