MANILA - The presidential campaign manager of Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso said it was his personal decision not to bring Dr. Willie Ong with them in their campaign sorties in Mindanao.
According to Lito Banayo, he decided to do so to prevent Ong from being placed in an awkward situation, especially since there were many supporters who paired Domagoso with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in the areas they will be visiting.
"That was my call. That was my decision. Kasi nga, whenever you make sorties or campaign trips, you send an advance team, normally, four or 5 days beforehand, even a week beforehand. They called me up and they said, 'Boss, puro streamers dito, Isko-Sara,' tarpaulins, puro Isko-Sara," he told ANC.
"So I called up Doc Willie, and I said, Doc, baka mas mabuti po 'wag kayong sumama sa Mindanao kasi i don't want to put you in an embarrassing situation where 'yung mga tarpaulins doon is Isko-Sara," Banayo added.
He clarified that although Domagoso is being paired with another vice presidential candidate, he did not say anything about supporting Duterte-Carpio.
"He did not say he was supporting Sara at all. He didn't say that at all. Pero doon kasi sa Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, wala rin naman silang sinabi, 'yung mga speaker, 'yung major power blocs, wala din naman silang sinabi na Isko-Sara," he explained.
Domagoso on Monday maintained that he is still campaigning for Ong, his party's vice presidential candidate, even if several local politicians have endorsed him with a different candidate.
Domagoso's statement came after Ong released a video clarifying his earlier interview with ABS-CBN News wherein the doctor admitted that he was "hurt" when some camps decided to carry the Manila mayor's candidacy but not his.
“Both of us uphill ang battle namin but no matter what Isko-Doc Willie ako," Domagoso told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
Ong was noticeably absent from Aksyon Demokratiko's 3-day sortie in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato, where local officials are supporting Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for vice president.
Domagoso told reporters there that Ong was unable to come due to a scheduled interview in Quezon City.
The pick-up truck the Manila mayor used for his motorcade in Maguindanao was peppered with posters showing the faces of Domagoso and President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, as shown in one photo that went viral online.
The posters bore the logo of the Isko-Sara Movement, a group pushing for a Domagoso-Duterte tandem in the upcoming elections.
Several groups, especially from Mindanao, have committed to backing Domagoso's presidential bid, but are rooting for Duterte-Carpio, Aksyon Demokratiko chairman Ernest Ramel said in a recent press conference.
Aksyon's allies in several areas have their own reasons, but the party stands by its candidates, Ramel said.
- with a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News