MANILA – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he has decided to run for president because he doesn't want for the presidency to be ''cheapened'' if Senator Grace Poe wins in 2016.
During a party in Dasmariñas, Cavite on Saturday evening, the feisty mayor said he decided to join the 2016 race after the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) voted against a petition to disqualify Poe on the grounds of her citizenship.
He said running for president is now ''on the table'' because the SET decision on Poe's case triggered him to think about his principles.
''You cheapen the presidency, mahirap iyan. Importante sa akin yan. I think it is important for everybody. You don't cheapen it by just a mere interpretation of a treaty,'' Duterte said.
''Basta ako on the table na iyan, I am running for president because I am so disappointed and sad sa ruling na iyan. Grace can run for governor, mayor. I am even willing to vacate my position, pero huwag iyang presidente."
The mayor was referring to Poe's camp defense that international law and conventions grant the senator the status of a natural-born.
'CITIZEN, BUT NOT NATURAL-BORN'
Voting 5-4, the SET rejected the petition of losing 2013 senatorial bet Rizalito David who said Poe must be disqualified because she is not a natural-born Filipino. David has argued that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino because of her status as a foundling.
While Duterte said he could not accept the SET's decision on Poe's case, he clarified he has nothing personal against the neophyte senator.
''Itong SET…gusto ko lang sabihin, pardon the word, pero gusto ko sabihin sa lahat stop (expletive) the Filipinos. Hintuan na ninyo. Pati kayong 'di qualified mag-ambisyon kayo,'' he said.
''If you run for the highest office of the land, it is really reserved to a true-blue Filipino."
Duterte, a lawyer and former government prosecutor, said he is not buying Poe's camp's argument that international law and convention grant foundlings the status of a natural-born citizen.
''The treaty says foundlings are deemed citizens of the country where they are from. Hanggang dyan lang...do not overstretch it,'' Duterte said.
''Bakit mo i-overstretch na they are presumed [natural-born]? It is an assumption. If ever you make it [to the presidency], you are going to become a presumptive president in terms of citizenship.''
Duterte also noted the numerous cases Poe is facing with respect to her presidential bid. He said it would be ''tragic'' if Poe wins the polls and the Supreme Court eventually declares she is not qualified for the post.
Aside from the SET case, Poe is also facing four disqualification cases before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
''When she is there already (presidency) and when the SC says she is not a Filipino, that would be tragic,'' he said.
Aside from the citizenship issue, Poe's residency is also being questioned in the disqualification cases against her.
Duterte also defended himself from criticisms that he had been fickle-minded when it comes to running for president.
''Hindi naman ako urong-sulong. I never said that in any forum in any place in the Philippines that I was a candidate or I wanted to be the president,'' he said.
Duterte already filed his COC for re-election as Davao City mayor, but he said his daughter, Sara, might replace him.
''Maybe Inday. I'm now on the begging stage,'' he said.
Duterte said he has yet to formally inform the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), particularly its leader Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, of his decision to run for president.
PDP-Laban presidential bet Martin Diño already dropped out of the 2016 race, opening the doors for Duterte to become the party's substitute candidate.
Diño said he decided to withdraw his candidacy because of the Comelec's motu proprio decision to declare him as a nuisance candidate.
Prior to this, the party had chosen Duterte, who missed the October 16 deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy, to substitute for Diño.
When asked if he already intends to go to Comelec to fix his candidacy, Duterte said: ''Not yet. I have to make rounds to fill in the gaps." - with Primy Cane, ABS-CBN News