PAMPANGA, Philippines – Resigned Sen Juan Miguel Zubiri said he respects the statement of the wife of Sen Koko Pimentel but stands by his claim that she was a battered wife and even has witnesses to prove it.
In an interview on the sidelines of a campaign sortie in Candaba, Pampanga on Saturday, March 16, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial bet responded to the statement of Pimentel’s estranged wife, Jewel May Lobaton.
Lobaton had denied Zubiri’s allegation that she told him Pimentel beat her up. Zubiri made the statement on Studio 23's "Mano Mano." Lobatan is a distant cousin of Zubiri on his father’s side.
In issuing the denial, Lobaton said she only asked Zubiri’s help in getting custody of her children. She asked that she be spared from the two men’s campaign rivalry, saying her marital problems are not national issues.
“I regret having to hurt her by making it public,” Zubiri said. “Pero pati ang aso na nananahimik at mabait, pag sinipa-sipa mo, kakagat din po iyan so minsan mapupuno ka din. Tao lang din ako, mapupuno ka rin kaya nag-react ako nang ganun.” (But even a quiet and tame dog, once kicked, will also bite back. So sometimes you also get more than you can take. I'm just human, I get fed up that's why I reacted that way.)
Zubiri said he will issue a formal statement on the issue on Sunday, March 17.
Zubiri said that Lobaton even told former President Joseph Estrada and UNA campaign manager Toby Tiangco the same story she allegedly told him.
"I’m not the only one nakarinig sa kanyang kwento. Sa bahay ni Toby Tiangco, he will confirm this, nagkwento din po siya, at sa bahay ni Erap Estrada, nagkwento po siya. Kasama ko silang lahat kagabi and they will confirm it to media.” (I wasn’t the only one who heard the story. In the house of Toby Tiangco, he will confirm this, she also said that, and also in the house of Erap Estrada. I was with them all last night and they will confirm it to media.)
Zubiri responded to Pimentel’s statement that he is considering suing the resigned senator for libel.
“You know, if he files the libel case, then I am forced to divulge all the things she said to us and I will also ask all the witnesses to come out who wants to corroborate. I will just ask to witness on my behalf Toby Tiangco, former President Estrada, JV Bautista, Ompong Plaza, they were all there in the house of President Estrada and Toby Tiangco when she said what happened to her.”
“I respect her decision and I will not speak any more but if the husband will insist on filing libel charges against me then I will have no recourse but to say exactly what was told to me in that meeting.”
The former Bukidnon representative said he felt he had to respond to Pimentel’s constant attacks accusing him of involvement in poll fraud in 2007, and even calling him a “fake senator.”
“Ano pang kasalanan ko sa mundo, nasabi na niya? Siguro pati ang pagdating ni Typhoon Pablo, kasalanan ko pa rin.” (What other faults do I have? Maybe even Typhoon Pablo is my doing.)
Zubiri also responded to Pimentel’s statement that he should spare his children from their rivalry. Pimentel has two kids with Lobaton, aged 8 and 3.
“Sana maawa din siya. Sabi niya may mga anak siya, may anak din ako. ‘Pag nabatikos ako, walang katotohanan na sinasabi niya mandaraya daw ako eh apektado ang aking mga anak. Pinag-uusapan iyan sa kanilang mga eskuwelahan.” (I hope he also pities me. He says he has children, I have children, too. When he criticizes me without basis, he says I am a cheat, my children are also affected. That’s being talked about in their school.)
Zubiri and Pimentel's rivalry is rooted in the 2007 senatorial polls. Zubiri was initially proclaimed the 12th senator in 2007 but Pimentel questioned his victory in an electoral protest. Zubiri resigned in August 2011, days before the Senate Electoral Tribunal declared Pimentel the rightful winner.
The rivalry intensified at the start of the campaign, with Pimentel issuing statements calling Zubiri a cheat and questioning his health program. Zubiri fired back and asked Pimentel to instead explain his own accomplishments.
Ceasefire… but Koko first
Despite his own attacks on Pimentel, Zubiri said he is frustrated with the way both the administration Team PNoy and UNA are running their campaigns.
“It’s becoming black propaganda against black propaganda. Well, it’s happening with everybody. Sana bumalik tayo sa issue-oriented politics at sana mag-umpisa sa umaatake sa atin.” (I hope we go back to issue-oriented politics and I hope it starts with those attacking me.)
Zubiri said he wants to stop the name-calling but said Pimentel should go first.
“Kung gusto niya ng ceasefire, ceasefire po kami pero sana mauna sa kanya kasi ako’y nananahimik, wala naman akong sinasabing masama tungkol sa kanya. Kaya nagtataka ako bakit hanggang ngayon, gigil na gigil na gigil siya sa akin. Di ko maintindihan.” (If he wants a ceasefire, fine but he should be the first to stop because I am keeping my silence. I don’t say anything bad against him that’s why I’m surprised why until now, he keeps attacking me. I don’t understand.)
Zubiri however said that questions about candidates’ character are valid and fair game for as long as politicians do not resort to cussing.
The resigned senator joked to reporters, "I'm a battered senatorial candidate." - Rappler.com