Marcos camp on Duterte blind item: ‘We don’t feel alluded to’
MANILA, Philippines — The camp of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. shrugged off President Duterte’s claim that a male presidential aspirant in the May 2022 elections had been into drugs, particularly cocaine, as other rivals for the Palace seat denied being the subject of the allegation and even offered to undergo a drug test.
“We don’t feel alluded to. We’re just concentrating on what we’re doing,” said Victor Rodriguez, Marcos’ chief of staff, in an interview with dzRH on Friday. “We only have the highest respect and recognition for the President,” he added.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao said he was willing to be tested for illegal drug use and challenged his rivals to do the same.
“Although I’m not in a position to judge anyone on this issue, I am willing to undergo a drug test any time and anywhere,” he said in a statement also on Friday. “I hope all my other fellow candidates will do the same.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, another presidential aspirant, added: “Except to say, I am 1,000-percent sure he was not referring to me—I have no comment.’’
Vice President Leni Robredo said she did not want to comment on the matter further without evidence. “No. 1, I’m sure that’s not me, and No. 2, ayaw kong pumatol. Ayaw kong dagdagan (I don’t want to add anything to it),” she told reporters.
In a speaking engagement on Thursday, Duterte spoke of a cocaine-using male candidate and that this man came from “a wealthy family” with a well-known “father.”
“And he is very weak leader—his character—except for the name. The father [was], but him? What has he accomplished?” he said.
The President did not name the person, but among the presidential contenders, his description applied closest to Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Last weekend, Duterte publicly expressed his displeasure over the decision of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to run for vice president in tandem with Marcos. On Tuesday, in a dinner he hosted at the Palace, he had asked House allies to support her and his anointed presidential bet, his longtime aide Sen. Bong Go.
Asked about the President’s blind item, acting Malacañang spokesperson Karlo Nograles said: “The President, of course, has access to many sources, including intel reports. On naming the said individual, we will leave it to the sound judgment of the President.”
Nograles said law enforcement agencies would know what to do about such information.
“The mandate of our law enforcement agencies is very clear. And they are not selective, whoever you are, regardless of your social status or social rank, if ever, whatever, as long as there is a violation of the law, the offender should be arrested and prosecuted immediately,” he said, when asked why no charges had been filed despite what the President knew.
“There are no sacred cows here, we do not defer to social status. We will file charges, arrest and prosecute all those who are involved in drugs,” he added. The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the two main agencies tasked to wage the President’s controversial war on drugs, were silent on his claim.
Enough of ‘innuendos’
PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon answered “no comment,” while the PNP leadership did not respond to inquiries.
Early in his term, the President disclosed the names of police officials, judges, mayors and other individuals with alleged links to narcotics, though the accuracy of his list has been questioned. None of the names of prominent presidential candidates had been included in three “narcolists” so far released by the President.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the President should “go beyond political innuendos” and divulge the identity of the cocaine-using presidential aspirant and file charges against him.
“It would be difficult for us if an addict and ‘weak leader’ would slip past our guard and become the President of the Philippines,” Zarate said in a statement.
Robredo also urged the Duterte administration to “release evidence, and if there is evidence, to file charges against [him] under our laws.”
“We shouldn’t indict people like this,” the Vice President said. “I am sure the President has access to information that’s out of our hands so he is the only one who can answer what the evidence to his claims are.”
Like Pacquiao, she called on all presidential candidates undergo a drug test.
“How can we fight drugs if we don’t have the moral authority to fight against it? The people need to trust that we can do it,” she said.
Not ground for DQ
According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), drug use cannot be considered a ground to disqualify candidates in the May 2022 polls.
“Substance abuse is not among the disqualifications provided for by law,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters.The poll body, he recalled, issued a resolution in 2004 making it mandatory for all candidates to undergo drug testing but the Supreme Court struck it down in 2018.
“In any case, the Comelec did try to require candidates to submit a negative drug test several elections ago. The move was disapproved by the Supreme Court,” Jimenez said. —With reports from Julie Aurelio, DJ Yap, Tina Santos and Dexter Cabalza
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