Saying he respects the decision of Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III to leave the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), coalition stalwart and former President Joseph Estrada even vouched for the lawmaker's abilities and said he would be an asset to any party.
"Yun ang kanyang prinsipyo, at sabi ko nga sa kanya, alam mo, you'll be an asset to any political party," Estrada said in an interview aired over GMA News TV's Balitanghali on Friday.
He issued the statement after Pimentel announced on Thursday that he would be leaving UNA, the coalition formed by Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Vice President Jejomar Binay's Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban).
Earlier in the day, presidential adviser on political affairs Ronald Llamas said President Benigno Aquino III will “graciously welcome” Pimentel to the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Pimentel said je left UNA because he cannot run on the same senatorial slate as former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri. But he vowed to stay with PDP-Laban, where he is president, although saying he was willing to be adopted by other parties.
Zubiri, who was proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as the 12th winning senator four years ago, resigned from the Senate on August 3 last year amid mounting testimonies about fraud committed during the 2007 polls.
He was replaced by Pimentel, who had filed an electoral protest against him and poll sabotage cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos
Pimentel had also admitted that his chances of winning in the 2013 elections seemed better under UNA with the endorsement of Estrada, Binay, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who is also a member of UNA, but stressed that it was a risk he was willing to take.
In a separate interview, however, Enrile said he would still be open to helping Pimentel with his candidacy.
"Kung hihingin niya ang tulong ko, bilang kaibigan ieendorso ko pa rin siya sa voters sa aking lugar," he said. — Kimberly Jane Tan/RSJ, GMA News