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PNoy, Palace vouch for MMDA chief after Playgirls incident

Louis Bacani (Philstar.com) - October 7, 2015 - 1:20am

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III and Malacañang on Wednesday vouched for embattled Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino following the controversial Liberal Party (LP) event that he attended in Laguna.

In a statement sent to reporters, Aquino said Tolentino has accepted responsibility for the LP event last week that featured women performing a lewd dance number.

Aquino said the MMDA chief has decided to withdraw as a senatorial candidate of the administration.?

The president vouched for Tolentino's "dedication and dynamic leadership of a public servant committed to the common good" that encouraged him to run for senator.

"Francis is a firm advocate of Daang Matuwid. 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," Aquino said.

"It is also my belief that he will take the opportunity to further reflect on how he can better affect positive change in the future," he added.

On October 1, Tolentino attended the oath-taking ceremony of new LP members in Sta. Cruz, Laguna which later turned into Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao Jr.'s birthday celebration.

Videos uploaded on YouTube and Facebook showed three scantily clad female dancers at the event. One of them was seen humping an unidentified male wearing a yellow shirt while simulating sexual act.

The emcee of the program reportedly told the audience that the dancers were sent as a "surprise gift" by Tolentino to Agarao.

Tolentino drew flak due to the controversy but denied that he brought the sexy dancers.

The MMDA chief apologized to the public on Wednesday morning and asked the LP to remove him from its senatorial ticket.

Neither Aquino nor Malacañang confirmed that Tolentino will not be included in the LP senatorial line-up which will be announced on Friday.

Like Aquino, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended Tolentino from his critics, saying the Laguna event "should not define what he has done for us as chairman of the MMDA."

"Malaki na rin ang nagawa niya: the flood control projects. You would always see him in the forefront of all the disaster response. We have seen him always there, front and center pagdating sa mga kalamidad, pagdating sa mga problema ng Metro Manila," Lacierda said in a press briefing.

Lacierda said the Palace welcomes Tolentino's apology which is a "recognition of valid concerns of the women's sector."

"Moving forward, it is also a reminder to all those who are participating in the political process of the need to be always be mindful of how we treat the dignity of everyone including the womenfolk," he said.

AQUINO ATILDE BENJAMIN AGARAO JR. CHAIR FRANCIS TOLENTINO CHAIRMAN TOLENTINO DAANG MATUWID LACIERDA LAGUNA REP LIBERAL PARTY QUOT TOLENTINO
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