AS CAMPAIGN season for national candidates kicked off Monday, February 12, Malacañang guaranteed that President Rodrigo Duterte would merely "verbally" endorse his preferred senatorial bets.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured the public that Duterte would not use taxpayers' money to campaign for the latter's Senate slate.
"The President even has called upon the members of the Cabinet to strictly follow the rules on the prohibition on government employees, officials not to campaign for or against any particular candidate. [He's] exempting himself because the provision says he is exempted from it," he said.
"But let me just emphasize that he will not be using government resources. In the course of his endorsement, that would be just verbal endorsement," he added.
The campaign period for Senate and party-list positions began Tuesday and will end on May 11.
Meantime, individuals running for a position in the House of Representatives and in local offices may start campaigning on March 30 until May 11.
Section 261(g)(i) of the Omnibus Election Code provides that any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices, cannot intervene in the 2019 midterm elections. Duterte, thus, is allowed to campaign for any candidates.
However, Section 261(o) of the Omnibus Election Code bars the use of "public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, facilities owned or controlled by the government" for an election campaign.
On Monday, February 11, Malacañang confirmed that the President would likely come up with a personal Senate slate that is different from the senatorial line-up of his political party, Partido-Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.
Duterte was also likely to endorse the Senate slate of his daughter's regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
The President has yet to make official endorsements for his preferred candidates for this year's elections.
Amid the campaign period, Panelo said the executive called on the 2019 poll candidates to follow election laws to ensure "clean, honest, fair, and credible" elections.
"Every government, every administration always appeals to the candidates to strictly observe the election laws. We have to have a clean, honest, fair, credible elections," he said.
Analysts earlier said the 2019 midterm elections will be a "test" for Duterte's administration, whether it would get a "supermajority" in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Panelo, however, said the President was not focused on using his so-called "magical" power to endorse, but wanted the electorate to consider candidates who he believes has the competence to serve the country.
"I don't think the President believes in his magical so-called power to endorse. What he's giving the people is, 'These are the people [whom] I personally feel are capable of being in the Senate.' That is why precisely marami siyang pinipili (That's why he has many choices)," he said.
"I think the President will agree with me that even the winning of the opposition candidates doesn't mean a repudiation of the administration. It only means that when an opposition candidate wins, it is an expression of the electorate, telling them that we're putting you there to cooperate with this administration because we believe in this presidency," he added. (SunStar Philippines)