PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will likely endorse a Senate slate distinct from that of his political party, Partido-Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), Malacañang said on Monday, February 11.
"Ganoon siguro ang lalabas doon dahil ang Presidente ang namimili (Perhaps, that's what will happen because it's the President who will choose). But of course, the personal choices of everybody would be depending on his own choice," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
"That is his personal preference so I don't think they can stop him from so doing. The President has already said that he will have his own preferred candidates," he added.
Duterte has endorsed some candidates who are not included in the list of PDP-Laban's preferred candidates for the 2019 midterm senatorial race.
So far, the five senatorial bets of the ruling PDP-Laban are former special assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, former presidential adviser on political affairs Francis Tolentino, former Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, and Maguindanao Representative Zajid Mangudadatu.
In his previous speeches, Duterte endorsed Go; Dela Rosa; Tolentino; incumbent senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Cynthia Villar, and Joseph Victor Ejercito; former senator Jinggoy Estrada; former senator and Taguig Representative Pia Cayetano; Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda Josefa "Imee" Marcos; and singer Freddie Aguilar.
Apart from the two slates provided by him and his political party, Duterte is also expected to endorse candidates supported by his daughter's regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).
Panelo said this merely means that the President "has a deep bench of senatorial hopefuls."
"So regardless of who among them wins, okay pa rin sa kanya 'yun. Sinasabi lang niya sa mga tao na, "Oh, eto, okay lahat ito. Bahala kayo kung sino gusto niyo. Kahit sino sa kanila, pwede sa akin." I don't think merong ano doon -- and I think, even the candidates would want that," the Palace official said.
(So regardless of who among them wins, that's fine with him. He's just saying that, "All of them are fine with me. Whoever wins among them, that's fine with me." I don't think there's a -- and I think, even the candidates would want that."
HNP, a regional party founded by presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, has two slates for the 2019 elections -- a national line-up and a regional line-up.
The national slate contains the names of Villar, Cayetano, Marcos, Dela Rosa, Go, Ejercito, Estrada, and Mangudadatu.
The regional slate includes the names of the eight senatorial candidates from the national line-up, along with Tolentino, Angara, Pimentel, former senator Ramon Revilla Jr., and former broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad.
Panelo was also confident that Duterte's move would not harm the candidates' chances of winning.
Asked for Palace's reaction on Duterte's endorsement of Estrada, who is facing criminal charges for alleged involved in pork barrel scam, Panelo said there was nothing wrong since the former lawmaker was "presumed innocent."
"Former senator Estrada is charged with corruption. And the Constitution says, unless you are convicted with final judgment, you are presumed to be innocent. So the presumption is Estrada is innocent. Number two, he has been granted bail. And reason for the court's grant of provisional liberty is anchored on the fact that the evidence of guilt is not strong," Panelo said.
"So you cannot begrudge the President for endorsing a man who is presumed to be innocent under the law. Otherwise, you are prejudging him (Estrada)," he added.
Pressed again on Duterte's decision to endorse Marcos, whose family purportedly had ill-gotten wealth amassed during the 20-year Marcos regime, Panelo noted that the Ilocos Norte governor was not facing any charges.
Panelo also stressed that Duterte endorsed Marcos because the Chief Executive was "indebted to her."
"According to the President, he is helping Imee because he is indebted to her because she's only one of two governors who helped him in the campaign. Utang na loob yata 'yun (He owes her a debt of gratitude," he said.
"In the first place, Imee is not charged. So kung 'yun ngang naka-demanda at presumed innocent, lalo na itong hindi naman naka-demanda. Wala naman siyang charge ng crime. Wala," he added.
(In the first place, Imee is not charged. So if one (Estrada) is facing charges and presumed innocent, the more that Marcos will be endorsed since she's not facing any charges. There's no charge of crime. None.) (SunStar Philippines)