Manila mayor Estrada backs MMDA chief Tolentino's senatorial bid

MANILA, Philippines – He earned the ire of netizens and women's groups over a controversial "lewd performance" at an event in Laguna, but Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino has gotten support from Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

On Friday, October 2, Estrada endorsed Tolentino's senatorial candidacy at the Manila City Hall.

Earlier this week, the MMDA chief announced he would be running for a Senate seat under the ruling Liberal Party (LP). He told reporters he will be submitting his resignation to President Benigno Aquino III within the week.

But just two days after he announced his senatorial bid, Tolentino got into hot water after he allegedly hired female dancers to perform at the birthday party of Laguna 4th District Representative Benjamin Agarao.

The party was held after the oath-taking of 80 LP local officials, led by administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II. Roxas had already left the venue by the time the dancers were onstage.

Photos and videos of the event showed the girls performing raunchy dance moves with male members of the audience. The emcee at the event repeatedly announced that the performance was Tolentino's "gift" for Agarao.

After the photos went viral and quickly drew flak from netizens, Tolentino posted a statement denying that he brought the dancers.

"Please hear my side of the story about certain materials circulating online: I was just a guest at the birthday party. I did not bring any dancers/singers. The emcee probably got misinformed," he said.

Agarao also denied that Tolentino hired the dancers, adding that it was likely that one of his friends had arranged the performance.

But the lawmaker's earlier statement, where he said that he found nothing wrong with the performance, was criticized by women's groups and members of the LP.

In a statement on Friday, Roxas said he would not tolerate the exploitation of women in his campaign, and called on LP members not to resort to "gimmicks" that degrade women.

Women lawmakers of the LP also asked the party to investigate the incident and make "accountable" those behind it.

Tolentino was not at his office in Makati City on Friday. His staff said he was in Malacañang for a meeting. – Katerina Francisco/