Press Release
August 16, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today lauded presidential contenders of opposition parties for declaring that they will not entertain any overture from the administration Lakas-Kampi for a coalition, much less to be drafted as its standard bearer in the 2010 elections.

Pimentel urged leaders of various opposition groups to heed the call for unity among their ranks in the face of the administration's incessant efforts to divide their forces and to coopt them by offering them all sorts of incentives and tempting propositions.

The minority leader issued the statement in reaction to the assurance of Sen. Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party and Sen. Francis Escudero of the Nationalist People's Coalition that they will stay put with the opposition and will not accept any offer by Lakas-Kampi to include them in the selection of the administration presidential candidate.

"It is undeniable that the administration is courting certain opposition leaders who are frontrunners in the presidential race. But woe to those who will be perceived as trying to make a deal with the administration, because that could spell the end of their posturing as aspirants for the highest position in the land," Pimentel said.

He was referring to the prevailing notion that an endorsement and support by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does not enhance a presidential candidate's winning chances because of her unpopularity and her high distrust rating.

To further clarify matters, NP spokesman former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla said there are no ongoing coalition talks between the NP and Lakas-Kampi and that the NP does not intend to enter into a coalition with the administration party for the coming polls.

On the other hand, Escudero said that although the NPC has a working alliance with the ruling party at the House of Representatives, he will oppose any coalition between the NPC and Lakas-Kampi during the 2004 election in case he is drafted as the NPC standard bearer.

Pimentel said the administration's effort to lure a winnable presidential bet from the opposition explains why the fate of Vice President Noli de Castro as Lakas-Kampi standard bearer is still hanging despite his good showing in the presidential surveys.

He expressed support for the plan of former President Joseph Estrada to invite all opposition presidential contenders to a meeting to tackle unification efforts, including the possible selection of a common presidential candidate.

Earlier, Pimentel had broached the idea of holding a national unification convention wherein the common presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates will be chosen.

However, he admitted that the goal of a united opposition has become a pipedream because Senators Villar of NP and Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party are bent on pursuing their presidential candidacies and showed no interest in taking part in the unity talks.

Pimentel also clarified that contrary to some newspaper reports, he has not asked Mr. Estrada to withdraw from the presidential race and to just play the role of a kingmaker.

"What I have said in media interviews is that the moment Mr. Estrada files his certificate of candidacy, it is expected that some people would file a disqualification case against him. That is why I have been saying that he should get a very powerful vice presidential candidate who can perhaps take his place in case the courts would rule that he is no longer eligible to run for president for the second time," he said.

Pimentel also said Mr. Estrada is motivated by a desire to seek political vindication but there are other ways for him to fulfill such wish. He noted that the ex-president is being enthusiastically received and mobbed by the crowds wherever he goes. He said this indicates that the people still love him which should make him feel vindicated

"However, it is inaccurate to interpret my statement in this regard to mean that I want Mr. Estrada to withdraw. I have never said such thing. Such misreporting of my statement is unfair to me and the former president," the minority leader said.

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