MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday formally endorsed 11 of his preferred senatorial candidates for the upcoming May elections.
Duterte raised the hands of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, former police chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, former special assistant to the president Christopher “Bong” Go, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, and former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino -- who all members of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Non-PDP-Laban members, namely reelectionist Senators JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara and Cynthia Villar, Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, and folk singer Freddie Aguilar, also attended the party’s proclamation rally, although Aguilar left early and did not even wait for the President’s arrival.
Duterte said he was endorsing only these 11 individuals.
“I have to be true to myself. Kung ano ‘yung sinabi ko dito, ‘yun na ‘yung suportahan ko,” Duterte told reporters after the proclamation rally.
Former senator Jinggoy Estrada was expected to be on Duterte’s list, after the President raised his hand in a peace and order summit in Legazpi City, Albay last Feb. 8.
Duterte, however, admitted that he just felt compelled to raise Estrada’s hand during the event because the lawmaker was already there.
“Nandoon siya eh. Alang-alang naman na hindi ko siya… Even for just one single day masabihan mo ng kandidato mo 13 lahat (He was there... Even for just one single day, you say all 13 are your candidates). What is that to a friend? We know that he has suffered. We know that he was in prison,” Duterte said after a proclamation rally in Bulacan Thursday.
He also made no mention of the former lawmaker in his nearly 2-hour speech.
Estrada, who has been out on bail since September 2017, is accused of pocketing P183 million in kickbacks from fake projects, purportedly with help from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged scam mastermind.
He was granted bail by the anti-graft court on the basis that he was not the “main plunderer.” He is still facing trial.
In a statement Friday, Estrada said he respects the President's decision and vowed to remain an ally of the administration.
"With or without the endorsement of the President, I will continue to be an ally of this administration. My support and trust to this administration is not diminished in any way," he said.
DUTERTE, SARA’S SLATES
Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, has also endorsed her own senatorial slate, composed of 13 bets. The mayor and her father’s slates are composed of essentially almost the same candidates, with a slight difference.
Duterte-Carpio’s regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, endorses the candidacies of Pimentel, Go, Dela Rosa, Mangudadatu, Tolentino, Angara, Ejercito Villar, Cayetano, Marcos, Estrada, former journalist Jiggy Manicad, and former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Asked why he and his daughter came up with their respective slates, Duterte said: “I cannot stop my daughter from supporting other candidates because it’s her desire.”
“I have no quarrel with Inday actually. But I respect her decision, who among the aspirants she will choose to form her ticket,” he said.
"Ako naman, mayroon din akong sariling nagustuhan (I have my own roster) along this year. Ang problema namin ni Inday (the problem between Inday and I) is she’s a politician and I am also. So we cannot agree on all, especially on all of the personalities.”
Duterte also said it was “too late” when asked why he was not endorsing Manicad and Revilla.
“They gave me the signal too late. Actually, about almost a year ago I was already forming the ticket. But I just played dumb. Hindi ko naman sinasabi. Ganun man talaga (I was just not saying. That's how I am),” he said.