DAVAO CITY: Even after the PDP-Laban named Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as its substitute candidate, the tough-talking official continued to brush off pressures for him to join next year’s presidential race.
The mayor, through his executive assistant Christopher Go, on Friday said his position to not run as President in the 2016 elections remains, even after PDP-Laban’s standard-bearer Martin Diño withdrew his certificate of candidacy (COC) for him to be substituted by Duterte.
“Nothing has changed. I will continue my soul searching on All Souls’ Day,” Go quoted Duterte as saying.
He said the mayor’s previous decision apparently is as strong as before and has not been changed by a resolution passed by PDP-Laban that compelled him to substitute for Dino.
Go made the clarification when reporters chanced upon him on Thursday afternoon at the opening of a police sports festival at the Almendras Gym here.
Duterte was supposed to open the sports festival but did not show up and instead sent Go and City Administrator Melchor Quitain as his representatives.
Quitain, also the City Legal Officer, however, hinted that the mayor is yet to make a decision.
He said the decision of Diño is only the first step and there would be a second step if the mayor decides to run.
“If he is going to be a substitute, still it depends upon the mayor,” Quitain added.
“The groundworks were laid. Let us wait for the decision of the mayor. [He told us], let’s just wait and see. That’s it, wait and see.”
The withdrawal of Diño came ahead of the end of the five days given by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for him to explain why he should not be declared a nuisance candidate. Diño made the decision upon the advice of his lawyers.
In a statement through former North Cotabato governor Manny Piñol, PDP-Laban national chairman Ismael Sueno said Diño decided to withdraw his COC to pave the way for Duterte, who earlier announced that he would yield to the decision of his national party.
In a 10-page motu proprio petition signed by Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal, acting head of the Comelec’s law department, and two other lawyers, the Comelec legal office asked the Commission to “Declare Martin Diño as Nuisance Candidate and Refuse to Give Due Course To Or Cancel His Certificate of Candidacy.”
“It is clear that respondent has filed her [sic]COC to put the election process in mockery or disrepute… and that he has no bona fide intention to run for the Office of the President,” the petition claimed.
“While it is true that ‘the right to vote and to be voted for shall not be dependent upon the wealth of the individual concerned, whereas social justice presupposes equal opportunity for all, rich and poor alike, and that, accordingly, no person shall, by reason of poverty, be denied the chance to be elected to public office,’ reality is a bitter pill that Respondent has to swallow,” it said.
Sueno chided the petition as a mockery of the election process.
“It is this very petition of the Comelec legal department which prejudges Martin Diño’s true intention in filing his COC and belittles his capacity to wage a nationwide campaign,” he said.
“It is our inherent right as a political party of good standing which has participated in national elections since the 1980s to have a line-up of candidates to field. Our best bet is Mayor Duterte but since he failed to file his COC as President, the party opted to field Diño,” Sueno said.
“We could have fielded Senator [Aquilino] Pimentel [3rd)]and he could have also announced that in case our first choice, Mayor Duterte decides to run within the window allowed by law for substitution, he would yield. Would they have petitioned to declare Senator Pimentel as nuisance candidate?” he asked.
Sueno said PDP-Laban, even with its meager resources, “will fight this mockery of the election process tooth and nail.”
“The true intent of a presidential candidate and his capacity to wage a national campaign cannot be determined by just three lawyers of the Comelec,” he added.
Earlier, PDP-Laban during its national convention affirmed the party’s support for Diño as the party’s presidential candidate. It was a move to quell any attempt to disqualify Diño.
Diño is the PDP-Laban deputy secretary general for the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) and concurrent chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
The party also unanimously voted Duterte as “substitute” presidential standard-bearer once the party’s presidential candidate withdraws from the race in next year’s elections.
PDP-Laban has considered Duterte as the party’s strongest presidential hopeful.
“Mayor Duterte ‘must dutifully abide by the decision,’” the resolution said, to ensure the party’s victory.
Sueno said with Diño out of the race, the party has until December 10 to fill in the void in its presidential slot. The PDP -Laban chairman said a COC for President has been prepared for the signature of Duterte.