Embattled official opts out of LP senatorial ticket
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino on Wednesday resigned from his post and asked the Liberal Party (LP) to exclude him from its senatorial line-up for 2016.
Tolentino–like other appointive government officials who are vying for elective positions in next year’s elections–was expected to give up his Cabinet portfolio after he announced his intention to run for senator last September 29.
But the controversy brought by the allegedly lewd performance of a female trio in a local LP event in Laguna that dragged Tolentino’s name invited undue attention to the aspiring senator.
Pictures and footage of the Playgirls dance group’s performance, which many found inappropriate, went viral and drew flak on social media.
Tolentino was the one who reportedly hired the services of the dance group as a “gift” to Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao.
He denied the allegation but nonetheless apologized for the incident.
Speaking before officials and employees of the MMDA on Wednesday, Tolentino, 55, also apologized to his mother, the LP and its standard- bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd as well as Agarao.
Tolentino also asked the LP leadership to exclude him from a list of names being considered for the party’s senatorial slate.
He earlier read his resignation letter addressed to President Benigno Aquino 3rd that he later hand-delivered to Malacañang.
The LP is scheduled to announce its senatorial ticket on Friday.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda also on Wednesday defended Tolentino from his critics, saying the resigned MMDA chief’s public service record should not be solely defined by the Laguna incident.
“What happened in Laguna does not define Chairman Francis Tolentino and it should not define what he has done for us as chairman of the MMDA,” he said.
Lacierda cited that it was Tolentino who was in the forefront in disaster response during calamities in Metro Manila.
“I hope the incident will not become the defining moment for Chairman Francis. He has accomplished many things and certainly this is something that he has recognized and something that he has already issued a statement for,” he said.
The President later in the day issued a statement praising Tolentino for his dedication and dynamic leadership.
”In all his years of public service, from the time he was appointed by my mother [then-President Corazon Aquino] as Officer-in-Charge of Tagaytay City in 1986 to his participation in the reform agenda as a member of my Cabinet, Francis demonstrated the dedication and dynamic leadership of a public servant committed to the common good. It is this same commitment that encouraged him to set his sights toward serving our people in a higher capacity,” Aquino said in a statement.
”Francis is a firm advocate of daang matuwid [straight path]. He knows that, at present, those who oppose meaningful reform will want to exploit the incident. I believe that Chairman Tolentino is doing his part to ensure that public debate truly focuses on the continuation of daang matuwid and the undeniable benefits it has brought to our bosses,” he added.
By “bosses,” Aquino meant the people.
At least 12 labor groups also on Wednesday filed a joint criminal complaint against Tolentino before the Office of the Ombudsman.
In the 10-page complaint, leaders of various labor organizations accused Tolentino of violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Magna Carta of Women.
“Women, in the persons of the ‘Playgirls,’ were completely discriminated [against]by allowing them to portray [an]obscene show in public, which is scandalous, contrary to good morals, good customs, public policy and public interest,” the petition read.
The complainants said Tolentino should be held accountable for the incident as he has the power to stop the show.
“Public officials and employees behaving with decency and pursuing good morals, good customs and sensitivity, should not incite, encourage or tolerate acts that appeal to prurient interests or those that are deemed dirty and intended to arouse sexual cravings more particularly in public event and setting,” they added.
“Tolentino et al, evidently violated this by encouraging, bringing about and allowing the subject obscene show for public viewing,” the complainants said.
Among the labor groups that filed the complaint were Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Sentro, Partido Manggagawa, Confederation of Independent Union in the Public Sector, Federation of Free Workers, Association of Labor Unions, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa, Alliance of Filipino Workers, Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association, Association of Genuine Labor Organizations, Council of Retirees-PSLINK and Sigaw ng Kabataan Coalition.