MANILA - The Philippines needs a doctor in government, Willie Ong said Thursday after announcing his intent to run for vice president in next year's elections.
Ong, who has more than 16 million followers on Facebook, is the running mate of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.
"We need a doctor inside government, the pandemic will be here for at least 2024. Not only COVID, heart disease has increased by 25, 000, 20,000 deaths in 2020," he told ANC's Headstart.
Ong said he initially met with Domagoso as he was being considered for his senatorial slate. The mayor later asked him to run as his vice president, said their campaign strategist Lito Banayo.
"He (Domagoso) was really very persistent. We need an infectious disease hospital, it could be done. We need a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for our country, iko-connect natin RITM, UP and Isko was so happy, ‘Yan ang gusto ko, yan ang gagawin natin,'" Ong said.
(We need a CDC for our country, we'll connect it with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and University of the Philippines and Isko was so happy, ‘that's what I want, that's what we'll do.')
"He did it in Manila and I'm very confident he will do it."
Ong said he initially did not want to run for public office again after losing in the 2019 polls.
Banayo, however, called on the day that his mother was about to be buried and said Domagoso was "waiting" for him to be his vice president, the doctor said.
"He was trying to convince me with numbers, sabi ko (I said) I have decided. I knew he was very stressed. Sabi ko ready na ko (I said I'm ready). 18 millions lives are waiting, let's do it," he said.
When asked how he would fare against his competitors President Rodrigo Duterte and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Ong said he would "not bash anyone."
"I keep my eye on the ball. I’m not competing against them, we're fighting against COVID. It’s a medical problem not a political problem," he said.
Ong also denied claims that he was an "enabler" of the Duterte administration, as he had dinner with the President's supporters during the 2019 midterm election campaign.
"In 2019 I think I would welcome anyone who supported me. I had blogger supporters from the Duterte administration and the opposition. They invited me for a dinner so sumama ako (I went with them)," he said.
"At the start of his term yes, even until now I have no problem. he’s the President for 6 years so why should we not support him? If I want to change something, I’ll keep it to myself because I'm not being asked," he added when asked if he supports Duterte.
When asked for his comment on Duterte's attacks against his running mate, Ong said, "I told Mayor Isko I will not bash anyone, I will be myself and I’m very firm on that."
On government's COVID-19 response, Ong said the administration was "doing its best."
"I think they're doing their best but I have other ideas. May kaniya-kaniyang (each have their own) style eh," he said, adding that he would give the public options on the vaccine brand they prefer.
As for death penalty, Ong said he does not support it except for heinous crimes.
"No but for karumal-dumal na krimen (heinous crimes), mass murder I will consider it. It will save more people," he said.