MANILA - With the sole desire to rid the country of corruption, crime and illegal drugs, a group of businessmen has pledged P1 billion to fund the presidential campaign of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte supporter Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre said there are "no strings attached" to the financial aid promised by the group that aims to trump the tough-speaking mayor's decision to rule out plans for the 2016 elections.
Aguirre said the offer was made by Benigno Gopez, who speaks for the group of businessmen, after the gathering of Duterte supporters at Quirino Grandstand on Saturday.
Aguirre declined to name the other members of the wealthy group who don't want their names to be published.
Duterte has earlier turned his back on a presidential bid due to lack of finances needed to bankroll a campaign.
"Ang problema sa akin, ganito. Hindi ako nanghingi ng pera. Wala akong pera; wala akong bilyon na naipon. Wala akong alkansya," he claimed.
Aguirre has no worries that the financial help from the private group will compromise Duterte's policies if he gets elected as president.
The lawyer pointed out that Duterte has served as Davao City mayor for almost 30 years now and it would have been incredible for him to do so without being backed by private groups. Despite this, Duterte has been able to maintain a zero corruption record, Aguirre said.
"Hindi naman ako naniniwala na sa Davao ay walang nagko-contribute sa kanya. Wala namang corruption... Zero corruption ang record niya," Aguirre said.
"Halos 30 taon na po siyang nanunungkulan doon, e ano po ang pang-aabuso na ginawa ni Mayor Duterte, lalong-lalo na sa korapsyon? Kaya ako ay naniniwala na siya ay marunong pumili ng taong kakatulungin niya sapagkat hindi naman niya kakayanin na siya lang," he added.
'He will run'
Aguirre is also confident that the there is a 90% chance that Duterte will heed their call and set aside plans to retire from public life next year.
Aguirre cited the text message sent by Duterte to his followers, asking to be given more time to do some ''final soul searching.''
The message, read by former Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. at the Luneta gathering, reiterated Duterte's claim that he is not interested in running for president.
Nonetheless, Duterte said at the end of the message that after a period of "final soul-searching," he will face his supporters and guarantee that he will not let them down.
"Sa kaunting panahon na lang po, haharap ako sa bansa at sa inyong lahat. At magdedesisyon ako ng buong kalooban at mula sa puso. Pangako ko sa inyo - hinding hindi ko kayo pababayaan,'' Duterte said.
Aguirre believes that the last part of Duterte's message is enough indication that the Davao mayor will throw his hat in the 2016 polls.