MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte was not endorsing any presidential candidate when he said the public can "choose an Ilocano" to replace him.
Duterte has maintained that "he does not support any presidential candidate unless there is a compelling reason," said his acting spokesman Martin Andanar.
"Kung ano man iyong sinabi ni Presidente sa Ilocos (whatever the President said in Ilocos), you know the President ‘no, he likes to play with words and he loves to horse around," Andanar said in a press briefing.
The President on Friday said in Ilocos Sur, part of the bailiwick of the Marcos family, that most of his Cabinet members are Ilocanos.
"Ibigay ko na itong isang buwan aalis na ako sa Malacañang, mamili na kung sinong Ilokano na leader ang ilagay ninyo doon," Duterte continued.
(In one month, I will leave Malacañang. Choose which Ilocano leader you will put there.)
Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. is the only Ilocano candidate in May's presidential race. His running-mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is the President's daughter.
The President in November called Marcos a "weak leader."
Duterte recently said he "may or he may not" endorse a presidential candidate, noted Andanar.
"So ‘antayin na lang po natin ang magiging desisyon ng ating mahal na Pangulo," Andanar said.
(So let us just wait for what our President will decide.)
The PDP-Laban wing headed backed by Duterete said he would campaign for its national and local candidates from March 25.
The group has adopted Duterte-Carpio as its vice-presidential candidate.
The Duterte-backed faction was left without a standard-bearer after his longtime aide Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go dropped out of the presidential race.