MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE 3) Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno has announced his withdrawal from the vice presidential race for 2010.
Puno, in a speech to local officials in Camp Crame on Friday, said he was backing out of the race for the country?s second top post to continue his work with the Department of Interior and Local Government in the wake of recent disasters wrought by tropical storm "Ondoy" and Typhoon "Pepeng."
?I would like to announce, today, that I am withdrawing my bid to be the vice president of the Republic of the Philippines to remain with the people that I?ve worked with for the decades past; in order to remain with the people in the public service who have shown me, by their example, what it means to be a public servant; who have made my life more meaningful and I know will continue to give my life meaning in the months ahead,? Puno said.
Puno added that he got ?fed up? with politics and ?I don?t think I can have any more patience with that right now.?
?The hardships that I have seen all over the place are just too immense and too large to overlook and it pains me when I talk politics in the middle of so much misery,? he said.
Puno said his decision was made after consultation with close friends and relatives. He added that members of the administration party, the Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi CMD), were not aware of his decision.
Even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not informed of his decision, Puno said.
?There will be no more talk about any candidacies of any sort. I will dedicate myself in the remaining months in the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to serving our people in the way I know best, as a member of the DILG where I began many months ago and where I hope to see the height of my career,? he added.
Puno also said that he would leave it to the party to decide as to who would replace him as the vice presidential bet, adding that the matter was ?unimportant? at the moment.
Several names have floated for the administration?s VP bet, including Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto and even Senator Loren Legarda.
Seeming to backtrack a bit on his earlier claims of the strong chance of the administration party in winning on the 2010 elections, Puno now said he was keeping his hands off election matters.
But he immediately dismissed speculations that his withdrawal from the race was caused by the low approval ratings of Arroyo.
He also dismissed speculations that his withdrawal was a result of poor health.
?None of them are true. I am perfectly healthy,? Puno said.
He said his decision was final. And if ever he would decide to campaign for any of the administration candidates, Puno said he would first resign from his post in the DILG.