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Tolentino to run for Senate as independent

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino is pushing through with his Senate bid, after withdrawing himself from the senatorial slate of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). 

In a text message to Rappler, Tolentino said he would be running as an "independent" candidate in the 2016 elections.

Without naming any political party or senate slate to join, Tolentino said he would file his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) this week, adding that he would continue the "battle" no matter what. (READ: Roxas: In quitting LP Senate slate, Tolentino put country before self)

“The political storm is over. I hope so. Like any good soldier, the battle must be won at all costs. I ask for your support as I embark on a familiar territory,” Tolentino said in a statement sent to media on Sunday, October 11.

On Wednesday, October 7, Tolentino went ahead of the LP and asked the party to drop him from its senatorial slate, following criticism from social media, women’s groups, and LP members for the lewd performance by female dance group, Playgirls, at an LP event in Laguna. 

This “lewd performace” happened 2 days after Tolentino announced his intention to run for a Senate seat in 2016. The event host told the audience repeatedly the dance group was 'a gift' from Tolentino.

While he maintained he did not send the girls as gifts, Tolentino apologized for the incident and said his only mistake was not stopping the dancers from performing at the event. It was later revealed, however, that he had hired the group before – in 2013, for his brother Abraham Tolentino’s 2013 bid for Congress. 

"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 was the highest government official during that event.)

After more than 5 years in the post, Tolentino resigned as MMDA Chairman on October 7. The following day, President Benigno Aquino III accepted his resignation.

In a statement, Aquino said Tolentino is a "firm advocate of Daang Matuwid," and lauded Tolentino's act of 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. – Rappler.com