MANILA — Sen. Bato Dela Rosa on Monday revealed he was picked as the presidential bet of a faction of President Rodrigo Duterte's political party just 2 hours before the filing of candidacies closed.
Dela Rosa said he was the second choice of the party, after Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, who was initially nominated as standard-bearer but filed his certificate of candidacy for vice president.
Dela Rosa's name did not surface in the earlier national assembly and convention of the PDP-Laban wing led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
"Tinawagan ako [ni Cusi] 3 o’clock in the afternoon [on Friday] na pumunta sa Sofitel para mag-file ng COC," Dela Rosa said in a virtual conference.
(Cusi called me at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday to go to Sofitel to file a COC.)
The deadline for filing of candidacies was at 5 PM last Friday at the Commission on Elections' tent at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.
Dela Rosa said Cusi told him, "Wala na tayong ibang nakitang puwedeng magpapatuloy ng legacy ni President Duterte na iiwan, kundi ikaw."
(We did not see anyone else that can continue the legacy that President Duterte will leave, but you.)
A former police chief, Dela Rosa had led Duterte's anti-narcotics drive before he was elected as senator in 2019.
Dela Rosa said he replied, "'Okay, I'll be there, pero malayo ako ha, baka ma-traffic ako, alas-5 ang deadline."
(But I'm far away, I might be stuck in traffic, the deadline is at 5.)
"Binilisan ko, pumunta ako doon," Dela Rosa said. "Iyon na, ginawa namin 'yong COC at nag-file."
(I rushed, went there. That's it, we made the COC and filed.)
Dela Rosa admitted he was surprised with the party decision.
"Sino bang hindi magulat? Presidente na 'yan e. Mabuti sana kung ordinaryong posisyon lang 'yan," he said. "That is the highest position in the land. Talagang nagulat ako."
(Who wouldn't be surprised? That's the presidency, not just an ordinary position... I was shocked.)
"Hindi ako nasaktan. I must be proud of it, na ako ang napili finally. Although last minute na choice, being the top choice of the party is a great honor for me and I’m proud of that," he added.
(I was not hurt. I must be proud of it, that I was chosen finally. Although a last-minute choice, being the top choice of the party is a great honor for me and I’m proud of that.)
The President had wanted his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to run alongside his long-term aide, Go.
But Duterte-Carpio, 43, maintained she was running for mayor of Davao, the Philippines' third largest city, a position she has held twice since she succeeded his father as local chief executive in 2016.
Under election rules, candidates have until Nov. 15 to withdraw and then apply for another position, or file as a substitute contestant, leaving plenty of room for surprises, similar to Duterte's last-minute presidential entry in 2015.
This is the same deadline for a substitute candidate to take oath as a member of the original candidate's national party and take their place in the 2022 polls.
Dela Rosa said he was willing to step aside if Duterte-Carpio replaces him as PDP-Laban standard-bearer.
But Sen. Koko Pimentel, leader of the rival PDP-Laban wing, said the Duterte wing did not follow rules in its national convention.
"All their nomination processes were useless. Somebody who runs for president on a spur of the moment decision is not a serious candidate," he said in a statement.
Reacting to Pimentel, Dela Rosa said, "Huwag na nilang pakialaman 'yong aming partido... Ayusin nila 'yong partido nila bago sila makialam sa partido namin."
(They should not interfere with out party. They should fix their party before they interfere with us.)
"Suffice to say, I am the legal standard-bearer of our party," he added.
The Comelec has yet to say whether the Duterte wing or the Pimentel faction is the legitimate representative of the PDP-Laban.
– With a report from Reuters