MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he and his former longtime aide Sen. Christopher Go would not run in the 2022 elections if his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio will seek the country's highest office, an official said on Wednesday.
Duterte made the remark during a meeting with several Cabinet officials on Tuesday night, said his spokesman Harry Roque.
"Sinulat ko po ang kaniyang sinabi, ‘Should Sara decide to run, Bong Go is out. For my part, dahil delicadeza, hindi puwede dalawa kami d’yan. If she runs, out na rin ako,'" Roque said in a radio interview.
(I wrote what he said, 'Should Sara decide to run, Bong Go is out. For my part, because of delicadeza, we cannot both be there. If she runs, I am also out.')
The footage of the meeting that aired on government station PTV-4 did not include this statement. A highly placed source said he had "no idea" why it was edited out.
Duterte in his Tuesday's speech said he would run for the vice presidency in next year's elections, confirming an earlier announcement by his political party, which was criticized by opponents as a ploy for the President to keep his grip on power.
"I will run as vice president, then I will continue the crusade. Number one is insurgency, then criminality, drugs," Duterte said. "I may not have the power to give the direction or guidance but I can always express my views in public."
The announcement came ahead of the PDP-Laban's national convention on Sept. 8, where it is also expected to endorse Go to be its presidential candidate in the 2022 polls.
The President has "consistently" shunned a Duterte-Duterte tandem with his daughter next year, said Cabinet Secretary and PDP-Laban executive vice president Karlo Nograles.
"Ang sinasabi niya, ‘pag tumakbo si Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, ang kaniyang anak, pagkapangulo ay hindi niya—malamang magbabago ang isip niya," Nograles said of the chief executive in a CNN Philippines interview.
(He said if his daughter Mayor Inday, Sara Duterte, runs for president, he will likely change his mind.)
Duterte chairs the PDP-Laban, while his daughter belongs to the regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
SCHEME FOR POWER?
Under the constitution, a president can serve only one term, and Duterte's announcement had been widely anticipated as he had already hinted he could seek the No. 2 job in the country, a move seen by political observers and critics as a backdoor to the presidency.
Duterte was heeding "the clamor of the people," Nograles earlier said.
Critics believe Duterte could be making a play to retain power by taking over as president under a scenario in which Go wins and then resigns. This would allow Duterte to shield himself from possible legal actions when he leaves office.
"This is really part of the scheme of the Duterte clique to extend not only influence but control of government," said opposition congressman Carlos Zarate.
Duterte-backer Nograles said the move would "guarantee continuity of the administration's programs during the past 5 years," including his war on drugs, which an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor wants investigated.
Duterte's legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, has described as "unfounded and illogical" claims that the 76-year-old leader would control the office of the president should he clinch the vice presidency.
Opinion polls show Duterte remains hugely popular, despite his bloody anti-drugs campaign and criticism of the pandemic response. Although, analysts say his popularity would not necessarily rub off on Go.
In the Philippines, the president is elected separately from the vice president.
Duterte has previously said he wanted Go to be his successor. His endorsement in 2019 helped Go to become a senator, a post he carries out alongside his duties as Duterte's personal aide.
"In choosing his successor, President Duterte is grappling with an unstated urgent concern: who can be best trusted to protect and insulate him from almost certain criminal suits once he is out of power," said think tank the Center for People Empowerment Governance.
Go, who earned a management degree from De La Salle University, has been Duterte's closest aide since the late 1990s, when the latter was a congressman representing his hometown Davao City.
Previously, Go has insisted he is not interested in the presidency.
"Vaccines first, before politics," Go, who chairs the senate committee on health, told Reuters.
On Wednesday afternoon, Nograles told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, "As far as PDP-Laban execom is concerned, ‘yong aming mga national officers, ang aming endorsement, ang ino-nominate namin for President is Sen. Bong Go."
(As far as PDP-Laban execom is concerned, our national officers, we will endorse and nominate Sen. Bong Go for President.)
But he said Go held "high respect" for the Duterte family, including the President's daughter.
"Narinig ko kay Senator Bong na ‘pag tumakbo po si Mayor Sara, hindi naman po lalabanan ni Sen. Bong si Mayor Sara," Nograles said.
(I heard from Senator Bong that if Mayor Sara runs, he will not compete against her.)
Go's senatorial bid in 2019 was endorsed by Duterte-Carpio.
WHAT SARA SAYS
Duterte-Carpio has outshone Go in opinion polls, but she and her father have played down the prospect of her running.
The Davao mayor in a statement called on her father, Go, and the PDP-Laban to be accountable with their political decisions.
She said her father confirmed to her personally his decision to run for vice president next year, with Go as his running-mate, which she said "was not a pleasant event."
She said she was presented with the options of "endorsing" the Duterte-Go tandem or running for president with Go as her vice president.
"I respectfully advise them to stop talking about me and make me the reason for them running or not running," Duterte-Carpio said.
Political analyst Victor Manhit said until candidacies were officially filed, starting in October, everything is speculation, with opinion polls showing other vice presidential candidates including a Manila mayor just behind Duterte.
— With a report from Reuters