MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday appealed to politicians to "let the people vote freely" and avoid resorting to violence in the upcoming midterm elections in May.
Speaking in Tagaytay City, Duterte said he was even willing to help out politicians who have poor chances at victory, adding that he would not align with a particular party.
"Itong mga pulitiko (To politicians), I’m just appealing to you to let the people vote freely. Wala lang tayong (We should not have) terrorism," Duterte said in a speech in Tagaytay City, where he campaigned for the senatorial bid of his former political adviser, Francis Tolentino.
"Kung kandidato ka, tagilid ka, 'wag mong i-terorismo. Tawagin mo ako, kampanyahan kita. Wala akong partido. Sabihin ko 'pag hindi nanalo itong kandidato ko, patayin ko kayong lahat dito. Takutan na lang pero 'wag mong totohanan," said the President, chair of the ruling PDP-Laban party.
(If you're a losing candidate, don't terrorize [your opponent]. Call me, I will campaign for you. I have no party. I'll just say that if you don't win, I'll kill them all. Just to scare them, but don't make it real.)
The President's statement came in the wake of AKO Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe's slay, who was planning to challenge reelectionist mayor Carlwyn Baldo for the Daraga mayoralty in May.
Baldo has since been tagged as the mastermind behind Batocabe's killing, which he vehemently denied.
Without mentioning names, Duterte also warned politicians against threatening Batocabe's family, who had said they would field a candidate in place of the slain lawmaker.
Duterte earlier said he would shoot the person behind the killing.
"Wag mong gawin 'yan kasi hindi lahat ng tao matatakot mong ganun. Kaya pag ikaw ang natamaan nito, babalik ako dito pahiyain kita," he said when he visited the wake of Batocabe in Albay.
(Don't do that because you cannot scare everyone. If this points to you, I'll return here and humiliate you.)
"You know what, akyatin kita sa bahay mo, sampalin kita. Kung gusto mo subukan, gawa ka pa isa kalokohan. Ngayon pag napundi ako sayo, t****** mo babarilin kita."
(You know what, I'll go to your house and slap you. If you want to try it, make another foolishness. If I become full with you, I will shoot you.)
DUTERTE ENDORSES TOLENTINO
In the same speech, Duterte endorsed the candidacy of Tolentino, who was celebrating his birthday.
"Francis, birthday niya pumunta ako dito. Bakit? Gusto ko siya mag-senador," the President said in a speech.
(I attended Francis' birthday because I want him to become a senator.)
"Wala kayong lugi dito. Honest worker tapos abogado, ano pa hanapin mo?" he added.
(You will not lose anything. He's an honest worker and a lawyer, what else will you look for?)
The President also praised Tolentino for being "humble" and a "silent worker."
It can be recalled that Tolentino lost to 12th placer Leila de Lima in the last Senate polls by over 1.3 million votes. He filed an electoral protest, claiming he was cheated.
De Lima, an outspoken administration critic, has been serving her term detained since February 2017 on drug charges she has described as political persecution.
A former ally of the former ruling Liberal Party, Tolentino figured in a controversy involving sexy dancers during the oath-taking of new LP members prior to the 2016 elections. This caused the then-ruling party to distance itself from him.
After losing his May 2016 bid, Tolentino, also a former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair, took on the job as Duterte’s political adviser, bringing with him his experience as a long-time mayor of Tagaytay City.