Cusi bloc trumpets Duterte VP run; foes see fear of ICC
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will make a “sacrifice” by agreeing to run as the vice presidential candidate of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in the 2022 elections, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Tuesday.
Duterte, who has repeatedly said he was tired and wanted to quit, made the decision during a meeting on Monday with officials of the PDP-Laban faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Nograles said.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte agreed to make the sacrifice and heed the clamor of the people, and accepted the endorsement of the PDP-Laban party for him to run as vice president in the 2022 national elections,” Nograles said in a statement announcing Duterte’s decision.
Nograles did not say what Duterte would be sacrificing, but the 76-year-old President would spend six more years in government as the second highest official in the land, if elected.
The Cusi faction had endorsed Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go as its standard-bearer. But in a statement on Tuesday, the longtime presidential aide maintained he was not interested in running.
Go earlier said that his political plans in 2022 would depend on “God, the Dutertes, and the Filipino people.”
The 1Sambayan opposition coalition, whose lead convener is former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, an outspoken critic of the President, said it was not surprised by the announcement.
“It shows a clear mockery of our Constitution and democratic process,” 1Sambayan said in a statement.
“Obviously, this is driven by fear of accountability both from the ICC (International Criminal Court) and from our own justice system. The candidacy is both legally and morally wrong, and we trust that the Filipino people will realize his brazen, selfish, and self-serving motives,” it said.
Others in the opposition also called on Filipinos not to allow Duterte to remain in power and pushed for his prosecution for the crimes against humanity he is charged with at the ICC.
Vax drive continuity
In a television interview, Nograles said the party would wait for Go to make a decision up to Sept. 8 when it would hold its national convention and formally nominate its standard-bearer and other candidates.
As for other possible presidential candidates, such as Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Nograles said the party would study all options and possibilities.
According to him, the party’s regional, provincial and barangay councils wanted a leadership that would continue Duterte’s programs.
They want to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccination program would be sustained and its targets achieved, Nograles said.
They also want to see the continuation of the fight against terrorism, insurgency, corruption, poverty, and illegal drugs, as well as the “Build, Build, Build” program and the economic agenda of the Duterte administration, he said.
Nograles did not say what specific role Duterte would perform as vice president.
The Constitution says the vice president assumes the presidency if the president dies, is incapacitated, or resigns. It also allows the vice president to serve in the Cabinet, but that is up to the president.
Since 1986, vice presidents have served as foreign secretary (Salvador Laurel, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Teofisto Guingona), head of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (Joseph Estrada), social welfare secretary (Arroyo), chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (Noli de Castro, Jejomar Binay and Leni Robredo), Presidential Adviser on OFW Affairs (Binay) and cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Robredo).
Cusi faction’s bets
The Cusi faction’s initial list of senatorial candidates includes SAGIP Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, Information and Communications Technology Secretary and former Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
Addressing members of the faction last month, Duterte said he would run for vice president to be immune from lawsuit after his presidency. But a charge of sedition filed against Robredo by the justice department showed the vice president has no such immunity, according to Neri Colmenares, chair of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
Legal experts have raised possible constitutional obstacles to a president running for vice president as this could be used as a backdoor to the presidency. But Malacañang has said that there is no prohibition in the Constitution against a sitting president running for a lower position.
The PDP-Laban faction led by Cusi elected him as party president during an assembly at Clark Field on July 17. Nograles was elected as executive vice president.
That meeting and the election of officers were declared invalid by PDP-Laban president Sen. Manny Pacquiao and former president Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
“Choosing the VP candidate first before naming your presidential candidate is an unusual circuitous convoluted process. Which I have never encountered before,” Pimentel said in a Viber message to reporters.
Pimentel, who claims to represent the core members of the party as the son of its founder, the late former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., supports Pacquiao as the prospective standard-bearer.
The Pacquiao group believes that the purported Go-Duterte ticket is only a smokescreen for the Cusi faction’s true presidential candidate — the president’s daughter.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who is seeking reelection under the Akbayan party and has been endorsed by the opposition Liberal Party, expressed her disappointment over the moves by the Cusi faction, saying it had turned “Ka Nene’s original party into a ‘zombie’ institution which is only performing rituals empty of substance and principle.”
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that if Duterte runs for vice president “in circumvention of the constitutional ban, he would be adding to his serial infractions of the fundamental law.”
He said these include, among others, extrajudicial killings, harassment and killing of human rights defenders, the closure of ABS-CBN and violation of press freedom, and the president’s refusal to assert sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
Anakpawis chair Rafael Mariano, who served briefly in Duterte’s Cabinet as agrarian reform secretary, said the people must unite “to stop Duterte’s delusional attempt to overstay in power.”
“Six years under Duterte is like a lifetime of misery. We must not allow an extension,” Mariano said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who is Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s running mate, said the PDP-Laban’s declaration “does not affect my resolve” to run for vice president.
Lacson said “there is no turning back” to their candidacies in next year’s polls.
“That said, we continue to hope that the electorate will not be swayed by entertainment politics nor affected by fear and intimidation when they choose our country’s next leaders,” he said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP, JULIE M. AURELIO, KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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