MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has excluded from his own senatorial lineup Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., both actors and former senators linked to the multibillion-peso "pork barrel" fund scam.
This as he endorsed 11 candidates under his party PDP-Laban, including Estrada's half-brother, JV Ejercito.
Estrada’s inclusion in Duterte’s list had been expected after the chief executive raised his hands in a peace and order summit last Feb. 8.
But the President, who has waged a campaign against corruption, told reporters that he just felt compelled to raise Estrada’s hand because he 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.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President probably did not want to embarrass Estrada in front of the crowd.
As for Revilla, Duterte said he did not include him because it was “too late.”
In a statement, Estrada said even without the President’s endorsement, “I will continue to be an ally of this administration.”
“My support [for] and trust [in] this administration is not diminished in any way. While the endorsement of our popular President will be helpful to my senatorial candidacy,” Estrada said.
The former lawmaker added that he trusts that Filipinos would reelect him “based on my good track record as a public servant, long list of legislative accomplishments, and genuine desire to uplift the lives of the masses.”
Lani Mercado, Revilla’s wife, told ABS-CBN News that a Duterte endorsement would just be a “bonus” and an “honor.”
“For the meantime we are humbled to be included in the HNP slate,” she said, referring to Hugpong ng Pagbabago, a regional party of President Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
The President's daughter has endorsed both Revilla and Estrada, saying the former had been acquitted and the latter's guilt has not been proven.
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.
Revilla, meanwhile, was acquitted in a plunder case over his role in the alleged diversion of his discretionary funds during his time as senator.
The prosecution had accused the actor-turned-politician of embezzling P224 million in discretionary funds while he was still senator.
Government prosecutors insist that while acquitted, Revilla should pay P124.5 million to the government as civil liability along with his former staff Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who were both found guilty of plunder.
Revilla is still facing 16 other counts of graft and had posted bail for his temporary liberty.
DUTERTE ENDORSES 11 BETS
In a proclamation rally on Thursday, Duterte introduced his 11 preferred candidates, among them PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, 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.
The other 6 “guest candidates” who showed up during Thursday’s rally were reelectionist Senators JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara and Cynthia Villar, Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, and folk singer Freddie Aguilar.
Aguilar, who belongs to the other PDP-Laban faction led by Rogelio Garcia, did not stay for the program and did not even wait for the arrival of the President, who spoke well of him during the proclamation rally.
Duterte-Carpio is also endorsing 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, HNP, endorses the candidacies of Pimentel, Go, Dela Rosa, Mangudadatu, Tolentino, Angara, Ejercito, Villar, Cayetano, Marcos, Estrada, Revilla, and former journalist Jiggy Manicad.
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, meron 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.”