Erice: The Playgirls should be blamed
LIBERAL Party stalwart Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice on Monday blamed the all-girl group “Playgirls” for a lewd performance during the birthday celebration of Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao last week, despite widespread condemnation of the congressman and Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino for failing to stop the show.
“The performance was wrong but the responsibility lies with the artist group. Those who invited them didn’t know the performance would turn out the way it did,” Erice said.
Erice defended Agarao and Tolentino, saying the event wasn’t a Liberal Party event despite the presence of 80 new party members from the fourth district of Laguna.
“It was hyped because it wasn’t even an LP event, it was a birthday party. People are just turning it into an issue, making it bigger than it really is,” Erice said.
At the party, the emcee thanked Tolentino and said the “Playgirls” were a gift from him to Agarao.
Tolentino, who wants to run for senator under the Liberal Party, denied he invited the women, even though they had performed before during the 2013 campaign of his brother, who is a legislator.
The women’s rights group Gabriela on Monday said the Liberal Party announcement that the incident was under investigation was a sham and only for PR purposes, because Agarao admitted Monday that he and Tolentino have yet to be investigated.
“I have yet to receive any call from the LP regarding the incident,” Agarao said
But Agarao said he is ready to face the consequences and accept punishment from LP once the investigation is conducted.
“We will face consequences or any sanction to be imposed against me. I am just hopeful the investigation will be fair,” Agarao said.
Agarao said he has nothing to do with the controversial performance during his 58th birthday and 40th anniversary in public service after the oath- taking of 80 new LP members last Thursday at his residence in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
The Laguna lawmaker also said he talked to Tolentino, who maintained that the event’s emcee was misinformed when he said he had hired the Playgirls.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan hit Tolentino for allegedly allowing the lewd performance to continue, and said the LP was fooling the people about investigating the incident.
There were doubts Monday about Tolentino’s inclusion in the Liberal Party senatorial slate after last week’s scandal.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told reports Monday the incident was being investigated, but declined to say if Tolentino would be removed from the party’s senatorial slate.
The ruling party was expected to announce its senatorial slate Monday, but President Benigno Aquino III said this would happen Friday.
“It was Secretary Mar Roxas who took the initiative to get to the bottom of that because we’re talking about his lineup,” Abad said.
Roxas earlier disowned the lewd performance by the Playgirls, telling party members to avoid resorting to “gimmicks” that degrade and offend women, especially if they do “nothing to elevate the level of public discourse.”
“Let me make this clear: I will not tolerate, in any aspect of the campaign, this sort of abuse of women,” Roxas said in a statement on Friday, one day after the Laguna performance.
Abad said the party was still discussing the eventual fate of Tolentino, who has yet to be sworn in as member of the ruling party.
“We’re still in the process of discussing the senatorial slate,” Abad said. “Tolentino is entitled into due process.”
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte told The Standard that Tolentino’s actions during the Laguna event would definitely affect the party’s decision about whether he should be in the senatorial lineup.
Militant groups on Monday held an indignation rally over the Laguna incident.
“The scandalous display of sexism, its tolerance and absurd justification by several veteran politicians only fortifies the belief that this rotten political system breeds debasement and prejudice against women,” said Aaron Pedrosa, secretary-general of the Sanlakas party-list group.
“No amount strong-worded statements by LP leaders and even by the presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte and other damage control efforts can hide the fact that the objectification of women is a norm and scantily clad women gyrating to pop music a regular fixture during gatherings of politicians and even their campaign sorties,” Pedrosa added.
The groups also took exception to a statement by Senator Franklin Drilon, who claimed the incident was a “sorry isolated case.”
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino chairperson Leody de Guzman called on Tolentino, Agarao and all complicit politicians present during the scandalous gathering to quit denying their responsibility, issue a public apology and withdraw from the electoral race for good, out of delicadeza.
“Retiring from the elections and even from public service is the proper thing to do. They must learn to respect the electorate if they cannot discipline themselves and treat women as equals,” De Guzman added.
In the House, a staunch critic of the Aquino administration called on all government agencies to report on the use of their “extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses” that ran over P1 billion, in light of the furor caused by the lewd performance after a Liberal Party oathtaking.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the national government allots an average P1 billion for “extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses” every year, a budget which covers expenses for “official entertainment,” public relations, and other expenses not supported by the regular budget allocation.” With Sandy Araneta
“In other words, this is the portion of the budget treated as ‘pocket money’ by government officials: the budget for parties, outings, and other ‘extraordinary activities,” Ridon said.
“The public deserves to know these details, as taxpayers should not be paying for lewd parties and other nefarious activities of unscrupulous government officials,” he added. – With Sandy Araneta