MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte maintains his bid for the vice presidency is legal, even if a big majority in an opinion poll said it would violate the intent of the Constitution, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Monday showed 60 percent of respondents frowning on Duterte's candidacy. Only 39 percent said he should seek the vice presidency, while the remaining 1 percent did not give an answer.
"Abogado rin naman ang Presidente at siguro ang importante ay ‘yong mga abogado ay magkaroon ng kaniya-kaniyang opinyon at sa tingin niya hindi po ‘yan labag sa Saligang Batas," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
(The President is also a lawyer and perhaps it is important for lawyers to have their own opinions and in his view, that is not against the constitution.)
Duterte, 76, is barred by the Constitution from seeking a second term as President.
There is "no express prohibition" for him to seek a different post and "therefore, it is allowed," said Roque, a lawyer.
"Ang masasabi ko lang po, sensitibo po ang Presidente sa pulso ng taongbayan. Hintayin na lang po muna natin ang kaniyang pinal na desisyon," he said in a press briefing.
(All I can say is the President is sensitive to the pulse of the people. Let us just wait for his final decision.)
Asked if he meant the President could withdraw from the 2022 race, Roque said, "Anything is possible unless and until the certificate of candidacy is filed."
Video courtesy of PTV
Earlier in September, Duterte accepted his nomination as vice presidential candidate of one of 2 rival factions in his party, the PDP-Laban.
A framer of the 1987 Constitution said Duterte's bid for the country's second highest office is against the intent of the charter as it allows him to stay in power for more than 6 years.
Critics also fear Duterte wants the vice presidency to avoid potential legal cases, including those related to killings under his anti-narcotics drive.
Melvin Matibag, secretary-general of the Duterte-backed PDP faction, said he felt the SWS questions were "incomplete."
"To give a more accurate sentiment of our people, the survey should have also asked the obvious question: 'If the Constitution allows President Duterte to run for Vice President, would you vote for him?'" he said in a statement.
He noted former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were allowed to run for other posts after their terms as chief executive and won.
Matibag said Duterte's allies were "also encouraged" by the survey results because it showed a nearly 40-percent base who are satisfied with the performance of the President and want continuity.
He added there were "varying levels" among the 60 percent who rejected Duterte's candidacy, and this is tied to satisfaction and trust in the administration.
"As we view it, with proper messaging we can still convert these numbers in our favor," Matibag said. "We are mindful of the opinion of the general public but this particular survey is just a snapshot of the public sentiment in a particular time."
"Ultimately, the question of constitutionality rests with the Supreme Court," he added.
Duterte's allies earlier said he wanted to pursue unfinished business against narcotics and corruption, which he promised voters he would stamp out in 3 to 6 months in 2016.
Bets for president, vice president, and senator are required to file their candidacies between Oct. 1 and 8.