President Rodrigo Duterte would run for vice president in the 2022 elections as he conceded that he had to heed the call of his party mates in the ruling PDP Laban, party president Alfonso Cusi said.
The President, he added, thought that the endorsement for his candidacy was a “fait accompli.”
“I have to apologize to the President for sharing the word that he said. To him, (it was) fait accompli,” Cusi told the Daily Tribune earlier this week, as he shared his recent conversation with the President.
While the PDP Laban rejects criticisms hurled against Duterte’s potential vice-presidential bid, Cusi said it was wise for the political group to describe it as a “de facto reelection.”
“If I would not say it, those who are part of the opposition would say it, too,” he said.
“The wise thing to do is to say to the public that they should vote for the President again if they want to continue his leadership,” Cusi added.
Duterte would end his six-year term in June 2022 and is constitutionally prohibited from seeking reelection as president.
However, the Constitution does not stop Duterte from seeking the second top post in the government and, subsequently, to be the first in the presidential line of succession.
He emerged as the top choice to be Philippine vice president when elections come around in May 2022, based on a survey conducted by local independent pollster Pulse Asia last June through face-to-face interviews with 2,400 adults.
Since January, the Cusi-led faction in the PDP Laban has been pushing Duterte to run for vice president in the next elections, citing the need to continue the administration’s programs, particularly its anti-narcotics campaign.
If the Chief Executive would only run for vice president for such a purpose, why can’t he just endorse an ally as his possible successor?
Duterte may lose his “moral leadership” if he is out of power in 2022, Cusi said.
“President Duterte cannot just anoint someone or endorse someone for the presidency or vice presidency because it will not be as perfect compared to having him as vice president,” he said.
“Whatever remaining good years he has, he will do good in the country,” Cusi added.
Keeping PDP Laban
Apart from the need to sustain the President’s pet projects, Cusi admitted that Duterte’s election was needed to keep the PDP Laban intact.
He acknowledged that some PDP Laban members only joined the party “by convenience (and) because of Duterte’s influence.”
“We are asking the President to run for vice president because he is the anchor that puts us together,” the party president said. “If he does not run for vice president, our party members will dissipate.”
PDP Laban, Cusi added, currently has 300,000 government officials and civic leaders but some of them are inactive.
The party was a relatively small political group, until Duterte ran for president in the 2016 elections under its banner. Since his victory, many politicians jumped to PDP Laban, leaving the then-majority Liberal Party into a minority.
Duterte was hesitant at first to accept the call for his vice-presidential run, Cusi said, which was observed in the President’s constant change of tune on the matter.
He once said that floating a possible vice-presidential bid was just his strategy to taunt his critics, only to say later that he would run to escape from possible lawsuits he may face after his term.
The party has given the President a free hand to choose his running mate, who would also serve as the PDP Laban’s standard-bearer.
Duterte recently endorsed Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go as his successor.
Taking a cue from the President, the PDP Laban national executive committee approved a resolution on 4 August to formally endorse Go and Duterte as their candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency — a proposal which would be tackled during their national convention on 8 September.
Duterte to join campaign sorties
For the meantime, Cusi said the 76-year-old President is committed to join PDP Laban’s campaign sorties next year to promote the party’s candidates despite the ongoing pandemic.
“He has the energy for that. The only precaution is health, but he will participate in the campaign,” he said.
“Beyond that, he will take part in the campaign. He is committed to that,” Cusi added.
The President would likely not veer away from making controversial pronouncements during the campaign even if he would put him in a bad light against feminists and human rights groups — reminiscent of his style during the 2016 elections, Cusi said.
Although Duterte has constantly assured the public that he remains fit and healthy, he has repeatedly complained over migraines, back problems, among other illnesses.
These included Barrett’s esophagus which affects the throat, and Buerger’s disease, an autoimmune condition which causes blockages in the blood vessels.
He has refused to release his medical bulletin.
Duterte’s activities have been limited since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, in an effort to protect him from Covid-19 infection.
The public has been relying on the President’s televised speeches and meetings with Cabinet officials every week — all of which are edited and aired hours after the event.
Go won’t be proxy
Cusi, meanwhile, denied speculations that Go would step down from his post if he would be elected president to give way to Duterte.
Known for his fierce loyalty and closeness to the President, Go is the “best option” of PDP Laban to sustain the gains of the Duterte administration, he said.
Go’s experience as Duterte’s long-time aide and as a senator enabled him to gain a “firm and clear understanding of the intricacies of the government,” Cusi added.