April 1, 2022
MANILA – Nearing the homestretch of the May 9 national elections, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday that he was still not endorsing a candidate to succeed him.
“I’m not supporting any presidential candidate. Neutral ako. (I’m neutral). This is not a campaign because I’m not campaigning for any particular candidate,” he said in a speech during a meeting of the national and regional anti-communist task forces in Cebu City.
“Stop fucking with me because this is not politics,” he told his audience from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) and the Regional Task Force Central Visayas at Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark here.
The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) faction aligned with the administration had already announced its support for former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Duterte earlier said his ideal successor should be a decisive and compassionate lawyer.
Marcos, the son of the ousted dictator, is not a lawyer and had once been described by the President as a “weak leader” who had “baggage.”
Last week, the President and Marcos had a “cordial and productive” meeting, according to Malacañang officials who said that it should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the survey front-runner.
“Of course, I’m here to be magnanimous. All who are running in the elections, I hope they all win. I’m just not allowed to campaign for someone,” Mr. Duterte said.
But the Chief Executive did say there were certain officials he would support—mayors who would fight the communists and illegal drugs.
“As long as you are fighting the communists and drugs, I will proclaim you,” he said.
Speaking to local officials from Central Visayas, Duterte said he visited Cebu for two reasons: to stop insurgency in the different parts of the region and to get updates on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“I’m about to leave (the presidency) but I’m worried. When I leave, illegal drugs will surely come back. It’s entering our shores. If we won’t be able to address it, we will have a problem,” he said.
Duterte had promised, shortly after taking office in June 2016 that he would end the drug problem in the country in just six months.
“I could really not accept that. I’m not acting as a hero or a crusader,” he said.
Repeating his frequent threat, Duterte added: “But I will really kill you if you destroy my country. People who use ‘shabu’ (crystal meth) are stupid. You are a wasted person, a useless human being at the end of the day.”
After the meeting with local officials, President Duterte attended a campaign sortie of PDP-Laban candidates in Lapu-Lapu City.
The vote-rich province of Cebu, which has 3.2 million voters, was the first of about 20 localities that Duterte may visit to rally support for his political allies.
Strict protocols were implemented for officials and other people who were within the cordoned area with the President on Thursday.
All of them underwent swab testing two days earlier. At the venue on Thursday, people were tested again, this time with a rapid antigen test.
According to Lapu-Lapu City public information officer Mark Bautista, around 60,000 to 70,000 attended the event. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA