Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will not be the game-changer in the presidential race.
Belmonte, vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), noted that the road would not be easy for Duterte since the candidate he is supposed to replace, Martin Diño, has already withdrawn from the presidential race.
Election laws allow substitution of candidates until December 10, provided that the candidate and the substitute belong to the same party.
“I don’t know if it is as easy at that. I don’t like to use the word game-changer, but definitely he will have some effect and you have to make certain adjustments. The message of Mayor Duterte is law and order… running after the guilty, and that certainly resonates with a lot of people, including myself. I wish him luck,” said Belmonte who was Duterte’s colleague in the League of Cities when he was mayor of Quezon City.
When asked if Duterte’s penchant of joking about killing people is a dangerous precedent, Belmonte dismissed such Duterte habit as mere exaggeration.
Duterte, a former lawmaker, has been linked to the so-called Davao Death Squad.
“He’s exaggerating his message. He is not going to shoot people. He is just saying let’s have law and order. At the end of the day, we all must conform with the law. Otherwise, we’ll sue him,” Belmonte said.
“We have to see it beyond the rhetoric. Nobody in his right mind would say he is all about killing people, thieves or addicts. He is exaggerating it to call the attention of the public. If the message is killing, I would not like such message,” he added.
LP spokesman and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said Duterte’s possible entry into the presidential race would benefit their candidate, Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
“Duterte’s decision to run for President would enhance the candidacy of Mar Roxas because he will further divide the anti-administration votes, especially in Mindanao. It is expected that a substantial number of anti-administration votes that would likely go to either Binay or Poe would vote for Duterte,” Evardone said in a text message.
Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Grace Poe are also gunning for the presidency.
But according to political analyst Ramon Casiple, Roxas’ ratings sre expected to suffer further once Duterte’s name is included in the list of presidential candidates in the survey.
He explained that Roxas, despite being the candidate of the administration, was unable to improve his survey ranking and had remained in the third place, trailing Binay who is in second spot and Poe who managed to retain her position as top presidential pick.
“Roxas will have a big problem once Duterte enters the race, it may have an effect on the other leading candidates but not as big as Roxas,” Casiple said.
Duterte, he added, will definitely be a game-changer especially when the campaign period begins.
Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), sees Duterte as a strong candidate and may even be the top choice for the presidency in case Poe is legally disqualified.
Tuazon said the only thing that will stop Poe from running is if she is disqualified and without a strong and acceptable candidate that will replace her, Duterte could win the elections.
“Duterte can still be the surprise front-runner in clean and fair elections,” he added.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4t, ,meanwhile, sees the entry of Duterte in the race would have an effect not only on Roxas but also on Binay’s ratings.
He said since Binay and Roxas are both behind Poe, it is expected that Duterte will be getting votes from them and the Davao city mayor may be able to get some votes from Poe but not that significant because her lead is so huge.
“But we will see the effects of Duterte’s entry in the next survey so it would be better to wait for them,” added Trillanes, an independent vice presidential candidate.