MANILA (UPDATE)— President Rodrigo Duterte met with presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. in the run up to his party's endorsement of the latter this week, officials said Thursday.
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, Duterte's longtime aide, said the meeting was among the factors that led to the PDP-Laban (Cusin wing) throwing support behind the candidacy of Marcos in the May elections.
“Maganda naman po ang resulta ng meeting. Medyo matagal-tagal nga ‘yon at talagang ganado ‘yung Pangulo na magkuwento. I think about 80 percent ng discussion ay more on si Presidente po ang nagsasalita,” Go said in a statement.
(The meeting had a good result. It was lengthy and the President was eager to talk. I think he was the one talking 80 percent of the time.)
In a separate statement confirming the meeting, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who is also Duterte's acting spokesman, said the president discussed his administrations major achievements and gave pieces of advice to Marcos.
"The President expressed optimism that his administration’s notable programs and projects will be continued by the next administration," said Andanar.
Go and Andanar did not say whether Duterte was endorsing Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., in the May 9 elections.
Marcos' spokesman, Vic Rodriguez, confirmed that the meeting transpired, but did not elaborate.
"It was a cordial and productive meeting, where the President shared his experiences and insights as an outgoing Chief Executive with the presidential aspirant," said Andanar.
According to a staff of Go, the meeting was held in Manila during a recent weekend.
Marcos' running mate is Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the president. The former is running under Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, while the latter belongs to Lakas-CMD.
Late last year, Duterte, whose party has no presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the upcoming elections, described Marcos as a spoiled son and a weak leader.
"Hindi ako bilib sa kaniya. He’s really a weak leader," Duterte said of Marcos in a speech in November.
(I am not impressed with him.)
"Hindi ako naninira ng tao, talagang weak kasi spoiled child, only son. Of course, he can talk, he delivers English articulate[ly], ang aral kasi kung saan-saan sa labas. Pero kung sabihin mo na may crisis, he’s a weak leader at saka may bagahe siya," he added.
(I do not malign anyone. But he is really weak because he is a spoiled child, only son. Of course, he can talk, he delivers English articulately because he studied in several places abroad. But if you say there is a crisis, he’s a weak leader and he has baggage.)
Allegations of massive corruption and human rights violations during the administration of Marcos' father, especially during the Martial Law imposition, continue to hound him.
In his latest pronouncement regarding his preferred successor, Duterte said last Feb. 25 that he opting to stay neutral.
"I may or I may not, but preferably, I would like to stay neutral. Ibig sabihin, wala akong susuportahan na kandidato, unless there will be a compelling reason for me to go out or tell the people what it is," he said.
On Wednesday, Duterte's political adviser urged him to endorse Marcos o protect him from possible legal action when he steps down. The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has planned to investigate the deadly drug war of Duterte.
Without referring to any of the 10 presidential aspirants, Duterte said he prefers that his successor is a lawyer, decisive and is a good judge of character. Only Vice President Leni Robredo and Jose Montemayor, Jr. are lawyers among the candidates for the country's top post in May.
— with reports from Pia Gutierrez and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News