“Reluctant candidate” no more.
The ruling PDP Laban on Tuesday confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte has formally accepted the party’s nomination for him to run as vice president in the 2022 national elections.
Cabinet Secretary and PDP Laban executive vice president Karlo Nograles said the President “agreed to make the sacrifice and heed the clamor of the people” for the continuity of his administration’s programs.
Nograles said Mr. Duterte reached the decision “after being presented with popular calls from PDP Laban regional, provincial, and down to the barangay councils aspiring for a transition of leadership that will guarantee continuity of the administration’s programs during the past years.”
Party members, Nograles explained, wanted no breaks in President Duterte’s campaigns against terrorism, communist insurgency, corruption, poverty and illegal drugs, as well as the continuation of the “successful implementation of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program and the 10-point socio-economic agenda.”
The idea of Mr. Duterte as a vice-presidential candidate first surfaced in March this year when the PDP Laban National Council drafted a resolution urging him to seek the second-highest government post.
Since then, the resolution has been circulated among party members from different regions, local government units, and chapters nationwide. On 31 May, it was adopted by the party during its National Council Meeting held in Cebu City.
Despite the exhortations from officials and members of the party which he chairs, Duterte repeatedly declined to bite the VP offer, saying he wanted to go back to Davao City to retire after his six-year term.
On Tuesday, PDP Laban ended five long months of trying to convince the “reluctant candidate” to throw his hat into the political ring anew as a VP candidate.
Convincing Duterte was reminiscent of the months leading to the 2016 elections when the then Davao City Mayor refused to be drafted to run for president despite his supporters egging him on as early as 2015.
He opted to file his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for mayor of Davao City anew. The move, along with party-mate Martin Diño filing his CoC as PDP Laban’s standard-bearer, stopped talks that Duterte was going national.
But in what many had seen as a political masterstroke, Duterte declared himself on 21 November as a candidate for president.
Mr. Duterte withdrew his CoC for Davao City mayor and filed his CoC for president on 8 December, or merely two days before the deadline for political parties to make candidate substitutions.
Go ‘not interested’
For the 2022 polls, the PDP Laban national council nominated Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go as its presidential bet and Duterte’s running mate.
The President has repeatedly teased his longtime top aide about becoming his possible successor. Mr. Duterte even called Go “the next president” or “Mr. President” at times.
Go, however, remained noncommittal as of Tuesday on his running for president.
“I am still not interested. Nakatutok ako sa aking tungkulin bilang Senador upang tulungan ang bansa na malampasan ang krisis na ating hinaharap (I am focused on my duties as a senator so I can help our country get past this crisis we are facing),” Go said.
“Bakuna muna bago pulitika. Mas mabuti unahin ninyo na muna yung mga interesado na tumakbong Pangulo (Vaccination first before politics. It’s better to ask first those interested to run for president),” he told reporters.
PDP Laban secretary-general Melvin Matibag, in response, expressed hope that Go will change his mind later on.
“We respect Senator Bong Go’s position and we are willing to wait,” Matibag said.
Sen. Koko Pimentel, who wanted Pacquaio as the party’s standard-bearer, wished the nominated candidates luck while sounding like a lone voice in the wilderness.
“PDP Laban has not reached that level yet of choosing a VP candidate because we will most likely delegate to our presidential candidate the choice of his or her running mate,” he said.
“Choosing the vice-presidential candidate first before naming your presidential candidate is an unusual circuitous convoluted process which I have never encountered before,” he added.
The President’s acceptance of the endorsement happened during his meeting with PDP Laban officials, including Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Diño, Monday night. It was on the occasion of the President’s grant of cash incentives to Filipino athletes who won in the Tokyo Olympics.
PDP Laban also announced its “initial senatorial slate” for 2022. They included House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gringo Honasan, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.
But Nograles pointed out that the senatorial lineup is still subject to the approval of delegates and officers during the PDP Laban National Convention on 8 September at San Jose del Monte Convention Center in Bulacan.
The tandem of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto said they welcome President Duterte’s decision to run for VP but that it has no effect on their bids.
“That’s good to know so that we are not guessing. It does not affect my resolve anyway,” Sotto told reporters.
“It won’t matter to my and SP Sotto’s determination to run in the May 2022 national elections. We have already declared and at this point in time, there is no turning back,” Lacson said.