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Referring to Marcos Jr., Duterte said, ‘I’m just talking (to him) out of respect. But I never, ever gave a commitment of support’

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President Rodrigo Duterte has formally endorsed the presidential bid of Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, while accusing another “weak” Palace aspirant of using illegal drugs.

Duterte on Thursday assailed one of Go’s opponents, whom he described as somebody from a prominent family with a strong albeit already deceased patriarch.

“There’s a presidential candidate who is using cocaine. A candidate is doing cocaine from a rich family,” he told officials of the government’s anti-communist task force during his meeting with them in Mindoro.

The President did not name the said aspirant, a deviation from his usual practice of publicly shaming governors, mayors, and police officers involved in illegal drugs.

Duterte, however, warned Filipinos against voting for the said aspirant, adding that he’s baffled by the public’s “fascination” with the presidential hopeful.

“He is a very weak leader, even his character, except for the name,” he said.

“What did that person do? What contribution has he made for the Philippines? Why are Filipinos so crazy, crazy supporting that person?” Duterte asked.

He may be referring to any of Go’s rivals for the presidency, namely, Vice President Leni Robredo, Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, and former lawmaker Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

 

Go, anointed one

In the same speech, the Philippine leader reiterated his support for the candidacy of Go, who served as his aide for 23 years.

“I am not into politicking. But let me just state for the record and in no uncertain terms my candidate for president is Bong Go,” Duterte said.

The President noted that Go is a graduate of the De La Salle University and is good at mathematics.

He made the statement although his eldest daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is running for vice president in tandem with Marcos.

Earlier, Duterte categorically denied ever endorsing the Palace bid of Marcos Jr.

Mr. Duterte revealed it was he who prodded Go to seek the presidency after the senator decided to withdraw his vice-presidential candidacy to avert a clash for the same post with the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

In an online interview, the President reiterated that he is not supporting or endorsing any presidential candidate other than Go, a man who has dutifully served him for decades, the last as Special Assistant to the President.

“Not once did you hear me say I’m for Marcos. No, you have not heard that. Never have I spoken that I will support another,” Duterte said in Filipino.

And then, obviously referring to Marcos Jr., he continued that, “I’m just talking (to him) out of respect. But I never ever gave a commitment of support.”

Training the spotlight on Go, Duterte cited the qualities that make him a highly deserving candidate for the presidency, including his “malasakit” (concern) for Filipinos.

He said Go would be the last to boast what he can do, but that in the senator’s years of service, he’s really proven his honesty. “You’ll never see or glimpse (any fault),” the President said.

 

Matter of principle

The President accompanied Go at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on 13 November when the latter filed his candidacy for president under the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS), an allied party of the administration Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP Laban).

“The fact that he withdrew (from the VP race), I knew that he gave way to us (he and daughter Sara) maybe because of the long years of his service to us. I took pity that he was reduced to crying,” the President said in the vernacular.

“My support for Bong is a matter of principle. That’s why if we should lose, then we’ll eat that. But as for me, when I tell a person I’d support you, I will support you. I keep my word,” he added.

Duterte made no mention of his daughter’s vice presidential bid under Lakas-CMD, which she now leads. Duterte-Carpio assumed the chairmanship of the national political party after after she was elected in its council meeting held virtually.

In his speech, the President also admitted that he was worried over the possibility that the illegal drug trade would flourish again after his term.

“Anywhere and everywhere, whenever I have a chance to talk, I usually insert the subject matter of drugs. I do not know [what will happen] if I am no longer the president,” he said.

“I hope it will no longer return. The problem is if it will flourish again and cannot be controlled,” Duterte added.

The same sentiment has been utilized by Duterte’s political party, the ruling PDP Laban, to campaign for its candidates in the 2022 elections.

The group is wooing Filipino voters by citing the need to “continue” Duterte’s programs, including the anti-drug campaign.

with MICHELLE GUILLANG

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