MANILA, Philippines — It’s a common saying that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, only permanent interests.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has said that he is open to running alongside former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the 2019 polls more than a decade after he accused her of cheating that led to a lengthy electoral protest with Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, now an ally in the Senate majority bloc.
According to Pimentel, he would not feel “awkward” should Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, be made part of the ruling PDP-Laban party’s senatorial slate and campaign with him. Pimentel ran under the Genuine Opposition against Arroyo’s administration slate in 2007.
“People change and circumstances change in politics,” Pimentel said, just two days after Arroyo, who was Philippine leader from 2001 to 2010, took her oath to become the newest member of PDP-Laban. The former minority party has seen its membership swell following President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral victory last year.
Pimentel accused Arroyo of fraud in the 2007 senatorial elections to ensure that Zubiri, who was running under her administration’s ticket, would make it to the Top 12.
The Senate president placed 13th then, and he lodged an election protest that led to a years-long protest against Zubiri.
Zubiri resigned his post in 2011 before the Senate Electoral Tribunal was able to hand down its decision. He maintained his innocence and claimed that he too had been cheated.
Pimentel took his oath of office in August 2011.
In 2013, before he won his second term, he left Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance after Zubiri was also included in the line-up.
He said that closing one’s doors or burning bridges should not be done unless absolutely necessary.
‘Embrace core party principles’
However, he emphasized that Arroyo must embrace the core principles of PDP-Laban including the push for federalism.
“But she must be the one to change by embracing the PDP-Laban’s core principles of belief in God, human dignity, love of country, equal opportunities for all, consultative and participatory democracy, and federalism,” Pimentel, the party’s president, said.
He however clarified that there had been no talks yet of having Arroyo run for the Senate where she served as a lawmaker from 1992 to 1998 before she successfully ran for the vice presidency.
Last week, Pimentel disclosed the names of some of the possible senatorial candidates of their party in 2019.
He said that aside from himself also being eyed to run under the ruling party were House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte), presidential adviser Francis Tolentino, Rep. Karlo Nograles (Davao City), Rep. Geraldine Roman (Bataan) and Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Negros Occidental).
However, Pantaleon Alvarez, the House speaker and the secretary general of the party, said that this would still change as Fariñas had expressed unwillingness to seek a Senate post in the midterm elections.
Alvarez also expressed his preference to fill the 12-man slate with candidates from PDP-Laban although he did not close the possibility of an alliance with other parties.