MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday denied President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking a Senate seat supposedly to dodge the International Criminal Court's inquiry into killings under his anti-narcotics war.
"Wala namang kinalaman sa ICC case iyong desisyon ni Pangulong Duterte na tumakbo," said Duterte’s acting spokesman Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
(The ICC case has nothing to do with the decision of President Duterte to run.)
"Ang pagtakbo po ni Pangulong Duterte as senator ay dahil gusto po niyang magpatuloy ng kaniyang serbisyo sa taongbayan," he said in a press briefing.
(His bid for the Senate is because he wants to continue serving the people.)
House Deputy Minority Leader Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Tuesday claimed Duterte and his allies were seeking government posts "that they can use as shield from the numerous cases coming their way" when the President steps down in June 2022.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas called Duterte's last-minute filing of his candidacy for senator as "a desperate and vain attempt to evade prosecution" over his drug war and government's pandemic transactions.
"Gusto niyang isuksok ang sarili sa Senado na tila dagang nasusukol (He wants to put himself in the Senate like a cornered rat). He may run for senator, but he can never run away from his numerous crimes against the people," she said in a statement.
(He wants to put himself in the Senate like a cornered rat.)
Nograles denied this.
"Wala pong pag-e-evade ng prosecution nito at lahat ng mga batikos na narinig po natin ay wala pong katotohanan lahat ng mga akusasyon na ‘yan," he said.
(There is no evasion of prosecution here, and there is not truth to all those accusations.)
Asked if Duterte has started assembling a legal team for the ICC inquiry, Nograles said, "Not that I know of, no."
Duterte had said last month he would quit politics after leaving the presidency and voters were kept guessing over both his and his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio's intentions right up until Monday's deadline for changing candidates.
Despite last-ditch efforts by supporters to convince her to succeed her father, Duterte-Carpio is set to run for the vice presidency.
With their decisions made, the spotlight for the presidency could shift to the controversial son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
"This seals Marcos's position as the frontrunner in this race," said Richard Heydarian, an author, columnist and academic who specializes in politics.
"With Sara not in the race, then this race becomes all about beating Marcos".
Duterte-Carpio, 43, had been tipped to run for president after leading all opinion polls this year in preferred candidates. Marcos has said he wants her to be his running mate, which could give his candidacy a significant boost.
Marcos, a former senator, is part of the Philippines' most famous dynasty, with mother Imelda and sister Imee between them serving as congresswoman, governor and senator.
Elections next year indicate a Duterte dynasty taking shape too, with the president's two sons running for congress and city mayor.
Rodrigo Duterte is barred from seeking re-election as president.
Though Marcos' run for the presidency has stirred anger among victims of his father's brutal era of martial law, "Bongbong," or "BBM," as he is known, has led a new opinion poll on who should succeed Duterte next year, with a commanding lead over his rivals.
Marcos had 47 percent support in the Social Weather Stations poll conducted three weeks ago, commissioned by Stratbase Institute, which asked respondents who they would vote for as president.
The poll results showed the other presidential candidates far adrift, with Vice President Leni Robredo getting 18 percent, and Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso with 13 percent, followed by boxing icon Manny Pacquiao with percent.
The poll did not include Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, Duterte's closest aide, who only joined the presidential race on Saturday.
— With a report from Reuters