Duterte now ‘somewhat sold on idea’ of VP run
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is getting to like the prospect of running as Vice President in the 2022 elections, but believes that his future successor should be a “friend” that he can work with, like his longtime aide, Sen. Bong Go.
“I am somewhat sold with the idea. Meaning to say, I am seriously thinking of running for Vice President,” Duterte said at a meeting on Tuesday night, July 6, 2021, with his allies in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which he chairs.
But the 76-year-old President was coy and noncommittal to the very end of the meeting, during which local officials and lawmakers from both chambers of Congress heaped praise on him and cajoled him into seeking the vice presidency in 2022.
He said he would call for “further consultations” on his possible candidacy before the party’s national assembly on July 17. Last week, however, he said he should be considered a “serious” candidate for the vice presidency in order to “maintain equilibrium.”
The President also referred to the rift within PDP-Laban, saying he did not want to end up in “a messy fight with the other side.” He said he would resolve the rift stemming from the claims of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, the party’s acting president, on government corruption, “the legal way.”
Dwelling on “the reality of things,” Duterte said: “If I run for Vice President, and the elected President is not my friend, the situation would arise that I would remain an inutile thing there.”
He added: “Because if you do not have support from the President, you are nothing. This is my dilemma. The President that will win must be a friend of mine, whom I can work with.”
The meeting was aired on government TV on Wednesday afternoon. Commenting on the event, Bayan Muna Rep. and House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate said: “It’s an unabashed display of impunity in using government time and resources for a clearly partisan political activity aimed at pandering to the whims of President Duterte to escape accountability and extend his tyrannical influence and power beyond June 30, 2022.”
Even if his successor is not his ally, Duterte will be a “productive” spare wheel: “[I]f I end up there, I will find a way to be productive. I will just see to it that Filipinos are not pushed to the wall,” he said.
In drawing up his scenario, Duterte appeared to be talking about his “unfriendly” relationship with Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition.
He initially appointed Robredo as “housing czar” but barred her from attending Cabinet meetings, and she eventually quit the post. He also named her as “anti-drug czar” but sacked her after barely a month during which she conducted meetings with pertinent officials and drew up a plan of action for curbing the trade in illegal drugs.
At the meeting, local officials and lawmakers, such as Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Rep. Rida Robes, and Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino tried to convince the President to seek the second-highest post, ostensibly for the “continuity” of his programs against illegal drugs and corruption.
But four months ago, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said the President’s war on drugs in which thousands of drug suspects have been killed was a failure because it had not made a dent on drug syndicates and “the drugs are still there.”
The extrajudicial killings in the anti-drug campaign have been examined by the International Criminal Court, and last June outgoing Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought a formal investigation of the matter. Malacañang said Mr. Duterte would not cooperate with any such inquiry.
The economy is in its longest recession since the foreign debt crisis in the 1980s, with the first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) declining by 4.2 percent from over a year ago.
In 2020 the economy fell to its worst postwar recession as the GDP dropped 9.5 percent—the biggest fall since the government began recording yearly output in 1946, or after World War II.
According to a Social Weather Stations survey, the average hunger rate for the year 2020 reached a new record of 21.1 percent of families, surpassing the previous record of 19.9 percent in 2011 and 2012, and double the prepandemic average 9.3 percent in 2019.
And after more than a year since the Luzon-wide lockdown was imposed on March 15, 2020, the Philippines is still under “one of the world’s longest lockdowns,” with Time magazine and Vice Asia running reports on it.
‘Ready’ but ‘humble’
Duterte appeared to endorse Go, his trusted ally and aide, and the party’s auditor, as a viable presidential candidate.
“Bong Go is ready any time. He is being humble. Go on, Bong, speak. Don’t be shy,” he told the senator.
Addressing his party mates, Go said he was uninterested in the post.
“Consider me last. I am not interested to run for the presidency because I know how hard the job is … I will make do with the scraps, if you cannot find anyone else. I leave my fate to God and to the Dutertes, I owe them a debt of gratitude,” he said.
Duterte said he was “touched” by his party mates’ support but would not make any promises.
“Let’s no longer promise to give housing, or anything. Let us just address the present agony and sorrow of the Filipinos,” he said.
Commenting on Duterte’s seeming endorsement of Go for the presidency in 2022, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a text message: “There is nothing yet certain or stable in the political scenario for 2022. The President’s mind changes like the stock market.”
In his own text message in response to the Inquirer seeking comment about the meeting of the party founded by his father and namesake, Sen. Aquilino “Koko’’ Pimentel III merely said he was presiding over a hearing of the Senate committee on trade at the time.
He did not reply when asked if he had been invited. —With reports from Christine Avendaño, Nestor Corrales, Melvin Gascon and Inquirer Research INQ
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