MANILA (UPDATED)— The PDP-Laban faction backed by President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday it adopted his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as its vice presidential bet in the May elections.
Duterte earlier opposed his daughter's vice presidential run, given her previous lead in surveys on his possible successors. He called her running-mate, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., a "weak leader."
The PDP-Laban faction supported by the President and led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi in its latest statement said Duterte-Carpio’s advocacies and vision “are strongly aligned” with those of PDP-Laban.
It added the mayor’s leadership and track record “make her most qualified for the position she is now aspiring for and therefore deserves the party’s support.”
The Cusi group also argued Duterte-Carpio would “help ensure the continuity of the vital programs of the current administration,” including its drug campaign and infrastructure drive, among others.
The faction said it was finalizing its alliance agreement with Lakas-CMD, which Duterte-Carpio chairs.
“We are now on our way to launching our campaign for Mayor Sara, and we assure all PDP-Laban candidates that the party is committed to support all of your candidacy,” it said.
The Cusi wing was left without a standard-bearer after the President's close aide Sen. Christopher Go backed out of the presidential race. Go was originally supposed to run for vice president.
HOW ABOUT BONGBONG?
Asked why the group has not endorsed Marcos, Cusi said, "We are still yet to be convinced. Kasi kung kumbinsido na tayo at ganyan na talaga iyan, bakit hindi, di ba?"
(If we are already convinced, why not, right?)
"It is not just a question of what you hear or what they say. What is important is what they do. Iyon ang importante kasi sa pulitiko lahat, pati langit, pati impyerno ipapangako natin, pero ang kuwan doon ay ano ba talaga ang gagawin natin? So it is the credibility of the person," added the official.
(That is what's important because everyone is a politician. We will promise heaven and hell, but what can we really do?)
Cusi said his group's evaluation of presidential contenders includes even opposition leader Leni Robredo and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, leader of the rival PDP-Laban wing.
"Who can advance, who can continue the program of the government of President Duterte, we are still in that process," he said.
Meanwhile, Lakas-CMD said it welcomed the development "as an opportunity to renew our partnership with PDP-Laban, which has been a steady ally in pushing for social and economic reforms under the Duterte administration."
"The Lakas-CMD is always open to alliances and partnerships with other parties and political groups which share our ideals and vision for the common good of the country," it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez said PDP-Laban's adoption of Duterte-Carpio was "but an expression of its freedom of choice."
He said the Lakas-CMD and Duterte-Carpio's regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago "informed us that there was no signing of an accord between them and PDP-Laban, nor a semblance of any formality to forge an agreement for Mayor Sara’s 'adoption'."
"They remain strongly committed to its alliance with presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos," Rodriguez continued, referring to the mayor's camp.
"As far as the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, the party of presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos, and the UniTeam are concerned, such 'adoption,' though a UNILATERAL move by the PDP-Laban (Cusi faction) deserves our utmost respect," he said in a statement.
— With a report from Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News