Duterte still won’t run as prexy even with Diño’s COC withdrawal, says aide

DAVAO CITY – Nothing has changed with the decision of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte not to run for president in the 2016 polls even with the withdrawal of Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) standard bearer Martin Diño from the presidential race.

Duterte’s executive assistant, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go made this clarification when reporters chanced upon him on Thursday afternoon at the opening of a police sportsfest at the Almendras Gym here.

Duterte was supposed to open the sportsfest but did not show up and instead sent Go and City Administrator Melchor Quitain.

“Ingon ni mayor (The mayor said) nothing has changed ug magpadayon daw siya sa iyang soul searching karong (and he said he will continue with his soul searching this) All Soul’s Day,” Go said.

Quitain, who is the executive secretary of Duterte’s Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod party, said the decision of Diño is only the first step and there will be a second step if the mayor decides to run.

“If he is going to be a substitute – still it depends upon the mayor but the ground is laid already for him to make his decision,” Quitain said.

“But still the mayor has to make his decision…at least everything and the ground work has been laid,” Quitain said.

The withdrawal of Diño came ahead the end of the five-day period 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 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 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,” the petition concluded.

In a statement through former North Cotabato governor Manny Piñol, PDP-Laban national chairman Ismael Sueno said Diño decided to withdraw his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) to pave the way for Duterte who has earlier announced that he would yield to the decision of his national party.

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 nation-wide campaign,” Sueno 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 lineup 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 Koko Pimentel 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?” Sueno asked.

Sueno said that 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 said.

Earlier, PDP-Laban during its national council convention affirmed the party’s support for Diño as the party’s presidential candidate. It was a move to quell any move to disqualify Diño. Diño is the PDP-Laban deputy secretary general for the National Capital Region 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. Philippine News Agency