While saying that the “party is always open to change”, a ranking PDP Laban official insisted that Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa was not a “last-minute choice” for president.
This was asserted by lawyer Melvin Matibag, the Secretary-General of PDP Laban, during a virtual press conference on Monday morning.
“It’s really last minute. If you will recall in my interviews before, we have been mentioning Sen. Bato, Sen. (Francis) Tolentino and other Cabinet members who we consider as possible presidential candidates before the Go-Duterte tandem even floated,” Matibag averred.
In the party’s National Convention held last 8 September, the party formally proclaimed Senator Christopher “Bong” Go and President Rodrigo Duterte as its presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the 2022 national elections.
“While it appeared last minute, the preparations were there. We followed the process of PDP Laban,” Matibag pointed out.
“If it’s last minute, we should have filed at 4:59 p.m. We did not file at 5:00 p.m. We discussed things thoroughly. We can speculate a lot of things but it’s true that it went through the process,” he added.
Matibag noted that the party has passed a resolution authorizing Duterte—the party’s chairman—to complete the selection of the national candidates, including the presidential and vice-presidential posts.
Why Bato-Bong tandem?
Matibag said de la Rosa is only one of the “two to three” members being considered after Go as its standard-bearer.
“Winnability and the acceptance to continue the Duterte legacy” are the standards the party had set in choosing its figurehead for the upcoming elections.
“Sen. Bato is a national figure. He obtained 19 million votes in the 2019 elections. He was number five (in the senatorial race),” Matibag stressed.
“He was a PNP (Philippine National Police) Chief, so he has the network all over the country. He is someone who can continue what Pres. Duterte has started especially the war on drugs, the war against criminality, and insurgency. That’s why he emerged as the final choice of PDP Laban,” he explained.
In a separate interview, Matibag said while de la Rosa was not the “best presidential candidate” that the party can endorse for the next polls, the neophyte lawmaker was the one “available.”
Is De la Rosa too “bagito” to take on the government’s highest post? Matibag disagreed.
“When Sen. (Panfilo) Lacson ran for president in 2004, he was only serving as a senator for three years. But no one questioned his capacity to run for president, so the standards should be the same,” he said.
De la Rosa’s “greatest strength” would be the backing of the ruling party, according to Matibag.
“The party is behind him. We have talked to local chief executives and they welcomed the candidacy of Senators Bato and Bong. They even allowed us to utilize their headquarters and are helping us with the layout and design of campaign materials,” he disclosed.
De la Rosa submitted his certificate of candidacy (CoC) for president last Friday, 8 October, the last day for CoC’s filing of the Commission on Election (Comelec).
The former top cop-turned-senator was clad with the shirt bearing the logo of the regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP), which is led by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
More speculations surfaced that De la Rosa will be substituted by Duterte-Carpio when he admitted that it would be “better” if the President’s daughter will run for president instead of him.
However, Matibag denied it, saying that the party is not “entertaining” talks about substituting de la Rosa yet.
“We are preparing to campaign for the Bato-Go tandem, we are planning to do a caravan for that,” he said.
“We are saying that it is possible that there will be a substitution, well it is always possible. But as to the certainty, we cannot say that,” he added.
Following De la Rosa’s acceptance to run for president, Matibag said the party has already started drafting the proposed platform of the Bato-Bong tandem.
But why did the presidential aspirant think it would be better if it is Duterte-Carpio to become PDP Laban’s standard-bearer, Matibag was asked.
“In the 2019 elections, he was a PDP Laban candidate but he was strongly supported by HnP, maybe that’s where that statement is coming from,” he replied.
Duterte-Carpio, meanwhile, is not open to rejoining PDP Laban or become its presidential bet.
Matibag also denied that PDP Laban is mocking the Comelec’s period for substitution and making it as part of the party’s “political strategy.”
“Is it wrong for Sen. Bato to be substituted before 15 November? The answer is no. Because even the Comelec resolution allows substitution up to 15 November. That is the process that we should respect and we have to recognize,” he stressed.
“If it’s a mockery and if it’s wrong, we should tell Comelec to remove that period of substitution. Substitution is part of the rules. Let us not pass judgment to any political party,” he added.
Matibag nevertheless pointed out that by 15 November, only the people will certainly know who its real presidential candidate is, saying that the “party is always open to change.”
The party will start campaigning for the tandem of de la Rosa and Go in Lanao del Sur.