DAVAO - Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday fended off criticisms against former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino, whose senatorial candidacy he is endorsing.
In his local radio show in Davao, Duterte vouched for Tolentino's personality and work ethic.
"Matagal ko nang kilala si Francis. And he's one of the most decent officials sa ating bayan," Duterte said.
"This guy has remained poor. Iyung motorsiklo niya, iyung pa rin noon. Hindi siya gaya ng iba na nagkaroon ng pera. He lives a very simple life. I do not have to compare him with anybody but he is an entity by himself," he added.
Duterte also downplayed the controversial performance of an all-female group allegedly hired by Tolentino for a Liberal Party (LP) event in Laguna.
Duterte said the "raunchy" performance of the group PlayGirls was just a form of entertainment, noting that Tolentino displayed decency in resigning as MMDA chairman after the scandal.
"He resigned because doon sa raucous show na sabi nila bastos, which to me is what we do every election time, ****** just to entertain people," Duterte said.
"The problem is napintura sa kanya [Tolentino] dahil siya siguro ang nagkuha. After the outcry, he had the decency to resign -- pambihira iyung ganoon. I always salute people who live by their principles in life."
Tolentino earlier denied inviting the Playgirls to the birthday celebration of Laguna Rep. Benjie Agarao which doubled as an LP oath-taking event in Sta. Cruz, Laguna last October 1.
Despite this, the former MMDA chairman earned heavy criticism for allegedly sending the girls as a "gift" to the Laguna lawmaker. Several groups also filed consolidated complaints against him before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Magna Carta of Women.
READ: Furor over sexy dance number threatens Daang Matuwid
Aside from resigning from the MMDA, Tolentino also voluntarily removed himself from the LP senatorial slate amid public outrage.
(Tolentino on 'twerk' scandal: We have to move on)
Duterte said Tolentino deserves support despite the scandal because of his talent and expertise.
"Ako nanghinayang ko sa talent. The guy only has good intentions for his country. Hindi mo naman kontralado magsayaw-sayaw ang mga babae diyan, hindi naman obsence," the mayor remarked.
'Tolentino not at fault for Manila traffic woes'
Duterte also said that Tolentino is not to blame for the heavy traffic in Metro Manila.
"Of course iyung trafffic, no one can really solve. It is not solveable at this time unless we have the money. We will need about P100 billion to do it, which we have none. Anybody, maski sino mag-upo doon, hindi talaga kaya iyan," Duterte said.
READ: Manila traffic is worst in the world: Waze
Duterte also urged the public to vote candidates on the basis of their principles and track record, and not their popularity.
"Remember, maghanap kayo ng mga tao na may prinsipyo sa buhay. Importante masyado iyan para hindi kayo mawala sa landas. Marami kayong mga piniling tao, tingnan niyo ang nangyari sa ating bayan. It is because you go for opportunists, kung sinong sikat sa rating. Susmariosep, you better wake up, guys," Duterte said.
Tolentino, for his part, thanked Duterte for the endorsement that will boost his candidacy.
Tolentino earlier bared his plans if elected senator, which include the establishment of a National Disaster Recovery Agency as well as a National Urban Planning Commission to address problems in growing urban areas.
Tolentino, who holds a doctorate degree in international environmental law, reiterated that he wants to push for laws that will promote disaster preparedness and environmental sustainability.
The former MMDA chairman was at the forefront of the recently held Metro Manila-wide earthquake drill, as the metropolis prepares for a possible magnitude 7.2 earthquake that could be triggered by the movement of the West Valley Fault.
He also promised to craft laws that will address urbanization problems and allow bigger revenue allotment for best-performing local government units.
Aspiring president Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is reportedly considering Tolentino in her senatorial line-up. Tolentino said he has yet to talk with Santiago's camp.