Koko, Migz can fix rift – Binay camp

MANILA, Philippines – Theirs was a bitter rivalry that spanned 4 years. Still, Vice President Jejomar Binay is hopeful that Sen Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and former Bukidnon Rep Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri can patch things up.

Binay’s spokesperson, Joey Salgado, downplayed Pimentel’s objection to being in the same senatorial lineup as Zubiri. Binay chose the two as part of the senatorial slate of his new coalition, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

UNA is a coalition of Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and former President Joseph Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) for the 2013 midterm elections. (Read: Will Binay's coalition in 2013 be opposition?

“VP thinks hindi dapat ma-divide ang Mindanao (VP thinks Mindanao should not be divided). It’s better to have two people representing Mindanao in the Senate,” Salgado explained.

Zubiri hails from Bukidnon while Pimentel is from Cagayan de Oro. Despite the Mindanao connection, Pimentel has been vocal about his sentiments against Zubiri. 

“Unfortunately, he is on the (UNA) list. That’s a big problem. How could I be with the person who deprived me of my 4 years in the Senate? Certainly, I’m not jumping with joy over this,” Pimentel told the Inquirer.

Pimentel was only able to assume his Senate seat in August 2011, when the Senate Electoral Tribunal declared him the winner of the electoral protest. Zubiri resigned days before this.

Zubiri allegedly benefitted from cheating in Maguindanao during the 2007 polls. At that time, he ran under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s umbrella coalition TEAM Unity.

Asked about possible conflicts arising from the two’s history, Salgado said Binay is confident that “minor things can be addressed.”

Pimentel has said he does not want to campaign with Zubiri.

In response, Salgado told Rappler, “That’s a minor issue that can be ironed out once they are included in the slate. These are operational details that can be resolved.”

DRAMATIC RESIGNATION. Pimentel and Zubiri's feud culminated in Zubiri's resignation and the eventual oath-taking of Pimentel as senator. File photo from Senate website

DRAMATIC RESIGNATION. Pimentel and Zubiri's feud culminated in Zubiri's resignation and the eventual oath-taking of Pimentel as senator.

File photo from Senate website

One alliance, 2 blocs?

For former Senator Ernesto Maceda of UNA, Binay and Pimentel can tackle the issue.

“The matter is to be decided between himself (Pimentel) and Jojo Binay. They can come into an agreement.”

Maceda said he understands that Pimentel feels strongly about Zubiri joining the coalition. The former senator, however, doubts that Zubiri will join Pimentel’s party, PDP-Laban.

To address Pimentel’s concern about campaigning with Zubiri, Maceda said, “It’s possible that while they are included in the same ticket, it can be divided into 2 blocs.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a member of the PMP, thinks the issue lies with the UNA leadership.

“It’s up to the leadership of the coalition to determine who to include in the senatorial ticket. I will respect the feeling of Koko but in the end, it’s the directorate of the coalition of PDP-Laban and PMP that will decide,” Enrile said in an interview over radio dzBB on Sunday, April 8. – Rappler.com