Koko mulling libel charges vs Zubiri

PANGASINAN, Philippines - After being victim to what re-electionist Koko Pimentel called "baseless accusations" from political rival Migz Zubiri, Pimentel told reporters he is mulling libel charges against the senatorial bet.

On Saturday, March 16, a visibly fed up Pimentel said his lawyers are studying a possible libel charge against Zubiri after the latter accused him of beating his wife Jewel.

Pimentel and Jewel are currently separated. Jewel has since denied the claims.

The senatorial candidate of Team PNoy, President Benigno Aquino III's coalition, said Zubiri's accusations were below the belt.

"I hope people have learned their lessons that there are some topics off limits in the campaign. This is very basic. Inventing charges is off limits. Absolutely prohibited. If you invent personal attacks, it's too much. That's a double technical foul. You're out of the game," he said.

He also said he did not need to deny the accusations since Jewel already has.

"I know the truth. I am at peace with myself, I am at peace with the truth," he said.

The animosity between Pimentel and Zubiri is rooted in the 2007 polls. Pimentel claims Zubiri cheated him of 4 years in the Senate after he was initially proclaimed the 12th senator. In 2011, Zubiri resigned amid a series of exposés of election cheating in 2007. His resignation came just days before the Senate Electoral Tribunal proclaimed Pimentel the rightful winner of the polls.

Forgiven?

Pimentel said he has forgiven Zubiri, a bet of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, for the personal attack, but said it is the people who will decide whether they have forgiven him for cheating in the 2007 elections.

"The matter of cheating, it's not me to forgive, it's the people. I'm just the face of the victim but the true victims are the people. They were the ones who paid him as a public official, but then he didn't have a mandate from the people after all," he said.

Pimentel also denied ever having attacked Zubiri, despite the two having exchanged barbs in the past weeks.

"I have never attacked him. I'm just singing 'Imagine there's no cheating.' Is that a personal attack? I attacked cheating in its entirety, why did they get hurt?" he asked. "All of a sudden, he attacked me for mentioning his name. I never mentioned his name on stage."

The word war between the two first started when, on the campaign trail, Pimentel sang a song on electoral cheating to the tune of John Lennon's "Imagine." Zubiri responded with his own version of the song. Since then, both bets have called each other names and have challenged each other's platforms.

'Protect the kids'

The re-electionist admitted he has talked to Jewel via text and short phone calls since the incident, and asked that she "protect the kids."

"I feel bad for my children because my children know how to read now, they can search it on youtube, it's recorded forever. So that saddens me," he said.

Pimentel said he has yet to speak to his children, but looks forward to spending time with them after the sortie in Baguio on Sunday, March 17. - Rappler.com