Zubiri says meeting with Abalos coincidence

Zubiri says meeting with Abalos coincidence
By Cynthia Balana
Last updated 03:04am (Mla time) 07/01/2007

MANILA, Philippines—Team Unity senatorial candidate Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri demanded an apology yesterday from Sen. Aquilino Pimentel for “spreading lies” about a meeting between his parents and Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos at a Makati restaurant Friday night.


The young Zubiri confirmed the meeting, but said it was merely a coincidence that was being used to taint his election contest with Pimentel’s son, lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, after the Comelec canvassed the Maguindanao votes.


Zubiri said his mother had chanced upon Abalos on her way to the restroom of a restaurant where she and her husband, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri, were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary with the family.


Zubiri said Abalos was in the same restaurant for a different affair.


Zubiri said his mother told Abalos that it was their anniversary and Abalos then went to his parents’ table to greet the couple and stayed for “less than 10 seconds.”


But before the night ended, Zubiri said he received several text messages from reporters who got wind of the incident from the Pimentel camp.


“The mood of the family was destroyed when they found out about the nature of the messages. (My mother) was understandably distraught,” Zubiri said.


“These events are spent once in a lifetime and my mom spent the evening crying because of the misguided attacks of Senator Pimentel. This is unforgivable,” he said.


Zubiri challenged Pimentel to prove his allegation. He said he was willing to concede defeat to Koko if the latter could prove, with the concurrence of the hotel management, that Abalos did break bread with the Zubiris.


Zubiri demanded an apology from Pimentel and told him to stay out of the ongoing fight between him and Koko.


“Considering that he is also vying for the Senate presidency, Senator Pimentel should have the decency not to use his influence and popularity to malign persons and families to get his son proclaimed,” Zubiri said.


Malacañang, meanwhile, joined the word war, assailing military-rebel-turned-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for calling Zubiri a “cheat.”


“What Senator Trillanes said about Migz Zubiri is uncalled for and unfair,” Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio said in a text message.


Claudio backed Zubiri’s plan to file charges against Trillanes. “It is only right for Migz to defend his honor in the face of such a vile insult and accusation hurled without any provocation. Senator Trillanes’ anger and unparliamentary language do not do justice to himself, to Migz and to the Senate as an honorable institution,” Claudio said.


Zubiri and the younger Pimentel are locked in a bitter race to the finish based on a recount of the Maguindanao votes. Pimentel had asked the Supreme Court to stop the Comelec from counting the Maguindanao votes which were said to be rigged in favor of Zubiri’s Team Unity, but was turned down.


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