Campaign kickoff was Sara’s day

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With the national campaign for the 2019 midterm elections in full swing, President Rodrigo Duterte took the moment for some “private time” and nixed attending events that set off the 90-day candidates’ sorties.

It was all Sara Duterte-Carpio’s show.

The Palace assured the people President Duterte will not seek endorsement from religious groups for administration candidates

Malacañang Media Accreditation and Relations Office Undersecretary Feducia Mia Reyes-Lucas said Duterte even skipped the proclamation of the senatorial slate of his daughter Davao City Mayor Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) in San Fernando City in Pampanga on Tuesday morning for his “private time.”

This, as Malacañang also confirmed the Chief Executive had stayed away from officially proclaiming and endorsing candidates at this point.

The Palace also assured the people President Duterte will not seek endorsement from religious groups for administration candidates.

Duterte-Carpio said she understood the reasons for the President’s absence in the campaign launch. But she noted her father may join “selected campaign sorties” in the future.

“We understand that he has more important things to do as President. There are many problems in the country,” said Duterte-Carpio, founder of HnP, a regional party endorsing 13 senatorial candidates.

The President earlier had led the distribution of certificates of land ownership awards to farmers in Buluan town in Maguindanao on Monday prior to the start of the campaign period.

Mr. Duterte has yet to announce a full 12-candidate slate for the Senate. On 23 January, the President said it is “the right thing” to have his own personal choices as the country’s leader.

As Partido Demokratiko Pilipino lead, Duterte has so far picked 11 senatorial candidates, some of them not part of the ruling party.

Malacañang, meanwhile, did not play the prediction game, with presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo saying, “it’s still too early to tell if Duterte’s slate will sweep the Senate posts.”

Predictions, he said, may be given at least a week before the polls when the numbers are at least expected from the local political leaders.

“It’s too early to tell,” Panelo said. “The Palace still has no predictions regarding the matter.”

The official also reiterated the President’s call to strictly follow the rules on the prohibition on government employees and officials against campaigning for or against any political candidate – with the exception of the President himself as provided by law.

He stressed that while the President is calling for neutrality among his Cabinet members, Duterte can and will definitely express his personal choices.

Asked if the President sees the campaign as a test of his “endorsement power” as claimed by analysts and observers, Panelo stressed that Mr. Duterte does not believe in a “so-called magical power” to endorse. He said the country’s leader gives the people freedom to choose their representatives in government.

“What he’s giving the people is, ‘These are the people that I personally feel are capable of being in the Senate.’ That is why precisely they were named. He has a deep bench, so the people can choose,” Panelo said.

“Now, as far as I am concerned and I think the President will agree with me that even an opposition candidate’s victory doesn’t mean a repudiation of the administration. It only means that when opposition candidates win, 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 and not you to destabilize it,” the Palace spokesman added.

Panelo also noted Duterte will not ask religious groups to endorse his preferred bets, saying it’s not the President’s style.

Duterte did not ask endorsement from any religious group when he sought the presidency in 2016.

“He didn’t approach anyone. Many offered, but no one really showed open support for the President that time. He didn’t ask anyone nor am I aware (of any group) publicly saying that they are supporting the President,” Panelo said. “In fact, everybody was saying that he is going to lose because he was against the Church.”

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