Wary his pick might lose, Duterte defers endorsement
President Duterte said he still does not have a candidate whom he favors to succeed him, withholding his endorsement of a presidential aspirant and taking his time before making his choice as he was wary about having his anointed one lose the election.
“I may or I may not [endorse a candidate], but preferably I’d like to stay neutral,” Duterte said in a prerecorded interview with Communications Secretary Martin Andanar which was aired on the government television on Friday.
“That means I will not support a candidate unless—again having said it I’ll say it again—there will be a compelling reason for me to go out and tell the people what it is,” he said.
Duterte said he would like to bide his time and was not in a hurry to support an aspirant.
If the interest of the people is at stake, then he may just choose a candidate to back, he said.
The President said several candidates had sent emissaries to court his support, but he declined.“I’m not in a quandary, but I’m thinking it’s not easy to come out and then the one you endorsed will lose,” he said.
Ideally, his bet should win the race, Duterte said.
Asked what this means for his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who is the running mate of former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Duterte said he and his daughter rarely spoke with each other.
They have only talked once in the past months, he said.
“We do not talk about politics, either inside, except for once, but I do not want to discuss that because it would not be good. It was between a father and daughter. But it was also a conversation about politics, but we will keep it to ourselves, lessons learned along the way,” he said.
At least two presidential candidates—Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and Marcos—have said they wanted the backing of the President, who continues to have high trust and approval ratings.
Moreno has the backing at least one former Duterte Cabinet member and a large number of the President’s supporters, who are pushing an Isko-Sara tandem.
Three former Cabinet members are in the Marcos-Duterte senatorial line-up.
Marcos is the candidate of the little-known Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, while the President’s daughter is running under the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party.
Duterte last year publicly derided Marcos, calling him a “weak leader” and a “spoiled child,” being an only son, who carried some baggage, which he did not elaborate on.The President’s endorsement is being sought because a faction of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilpino-Lakas ng Bayan which he leads, was left without a standard-bearer.
Duterte explained this was “simply because we cannot find anybody.”The PDP-Laban faction under Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi initially fielded Sen. Ronald dela Rosa as a last-minute candidate for president, and his running mate was Sen. Bong Go.
Dela Rosa and Go later withdrew their respective bids and Go filed his candidacy for president under the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan.
But Go backed out as well.
Domagoso, who is running as the Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate, has publicly stated that he wanted the support of PDP-Laban.
In the interview with Andanar, Duterte asked voters to replace some of the long-serving senators with new faces, pushing several of his own choices, particularly former presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, former Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, anticorruption commissioner Greco Belgica, actor Robin Padilla and former Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.
“Help your country, help me. I’m giving you the wisest choice of people out there seeking acceptance,” he said.
Duterte again attacked reelectionist Sen. Richard Gordon, who chaired the blue ribbon panel that investigated alleged irregularities in his administration’s pandemic purchases and accused him of betraying the public’s trust.
But the President promised that he would be “neutral” and ensure that the forthcoming polls would be peaceful.
“I will see to it that the elections will be clean, honest and free of violence during my time,” he said. As Commander in Chief, Duterte said that he and the military “agreed” there would be no violence and intimidation during the election period.
“I will see to it, and I will guarantee to all candidates, I will be neutral. And the military and the police will see to it that the Constitution, mandated by the Constitution upon their shoulders, will produce a clean and honest election,” he said.
Saying that he was in his “last days” of his presidency, Duterte promised he would “place things in order,” including the economy, and was optimistic that things would get better.
“The Lord is merciful,” he said. “At the rate we’re going, everything appears to be rosy and I hope it would be that so that I can go out like a father who, as he leaves his home, sees that his children are OK and have gotten better and do not have a lot of problems.”
He said it was very telling that the Philippines’ investment rating from Fitch remained at BBB, and at A- from the Japan Credit Rating Agency, which meant that the country could still borrow funds and draw in foreign investments.
“As I have said, at the start of the campaign, I cannot promise you anything, but I will try to make this country comfortable for you,” Duterte said.
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