MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he took a drug test after President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that a contender seeking to replace him in the 2022 elections supposedly uses cocaine.
Marcos said that while "I really don’t feel that I am the one being alluded to" by Duterte, he believed it was his "inherent duty as an aspiring public official to assure my fellow Filipinos that I am against illegal drugs."
"This is why I took a cocaine test yesterday and the result was submitted this morning to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the office of the Chief of the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation," he said in a statement.
In a separate interview with Anthony Taberna, Marcos said he took the drug test at a hospital.
He told Taberna he tested negative for drug use.
"I am, and will remain, a vigilant anti-illegal drugs campaigner," Marcos told the supporters of his 2022 tandem with running-mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the President's daughter.
"And as I made the call during the 2016 election campaign, I’m calling again all elective aspirants to take the drug test to ensure our people, particularly the young generation, that no elected leader is into illegal substances," added Marcos.
Duterte has not named and did not cite evidence against the wealthy presidential candidate that he claimed uses cocaine and is a "very weak leader."
The President in a separate speech on Friday called Marcos a "spoiled" and "weak leader."
The Marcos and Duterte families had been friendly, as Duterte's father Vicente served in Ferdinand Marcos' Cabinet. In 2016, he allowed the late dictator's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite heavy protests.
In 2018, Duterte said he would step down as president if Marcos Jr., then contesting the Vice Presidential victory of incumbent Leni Robredo, would win his electoral protest.
“He has said he thinks [former] senator Bongbong Marcos is one of the better qualified leaders to succeed him. If there’s development and he (Marcos) will win the protest and he becomes vice-president, yes. He (Duterte) will make true his word,” then Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Marcos Jr. eventually lost his protest, cementing Robredo's win. The two are now contending for the presidency.
Duterte-Carpio was widely tipped to join the presidential race, after she led opinion polls. In October, her father said she would seek to replace him, with his longtime aide Sen. Christopher Go as running-mate.
But she registered as a substitute candidate for vice president— a move that her father blamed on the Marcos camp. Displeased, Duterte even threatened to challenge his daughter in the vice presidential race.
But he ended up filing a candidacy for senator under the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS), the same party fielding Go as standard-bearer.
TESTS 'PURELY VOLUNTARY,' SAYS PALACE
Duterte on Monday said the cocaine-using candidate eluded arrest supposedly because wealthy people abuse narcotics in yachts or in the air.
Asked if this statement showed the rich can evade Duterte's drug war, his acting spokesman Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, "Marami na po tayong nahuli na high value targets na lumalabag sa Dangerous Drugs Act."
(We have arrested many high value targets who violate the Dangerous Drugs Act.)
"Ang mensahe lang po ni Pangulo dito ay siyempre, kailangan din natin ng kooperasyon ng bawat isa, ng publiko lalo na," he said in a press briefing.
(The only message of the President here is of course, we need the cooperation of everyone, especially the public.)
Nograles added that drug tests for candidates are "purely voluntary."
"It's really up to them how they would want to conduct their voluntary drug test and if they want to submit it to the public," added the official.
Go and another presidential aspirant, labor leader Leody De Guzman, said they were willing to take drug tests. Another rival, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, tested negative for narcotics on Monday.