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Duterte abandons ambition to become a senator

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday quit the 2022 senatorial race, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“The President has filed his withdrawal from the senatorial elections,” Comelec spokesman James B. Jimenez twitted. The 76-year-old president, who is barred by law from running for reelection, went to the election office in Manila, based on a photo posted by the official.

“The president believes that withdrawing from the Senate race will allow him to better focus on managing our pandemic response in order to sustain the progress we have made in the country and in safely reopening the economy,” acting presidential spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a statement.

Mr. Duterte’s withdrawal from the Senate race came hours after his former aide Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go formally dropped out of the presidential race, leaving the administration without an anointed successor.

The president has called his daughter’s running-mate, ex-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. a “weak leader.”

Mr. Go filed his withdrawal at the Comelec two weeks after hinting of the plan.

“I am already out of this race as I said last Nov. 30,” he told reporters in Filipino, based on a report by the state-run Philippine News Agency. “I just waited a little while to let my supporters know that my heart and my mind were against my candidacy.”

“The withdrawal of Bong Go from the presidential race is a sign that members of the most reactionary faction in Philippine politics are now united,” presidential candidate Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman said in Filipino in a video statement.

“This is aimed at protecting Duterte from potential lawsuits after his term, and securing the wealth and political power he has accumulated in six years,” the labor leader added.

Mr. Go said he would support a presidential contender who would continue the programs started by Mr. Duterte, including his infrastructure projects. “The president and I will talk about it.”

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso, who is running for president next year, last month said he would welcome and appreciate Mr. Duterte’s endorsement.

This month, he said he would back Mr. Duterte’s plan to become a senator. “I’m going to vote for him personally. I’m going to endorse him.”

Mr. Domagoso earlier criticized the government’s pandemic response. In September, he said he would avoid senseless speeches late at night if he becomes president, alluding to Mr. Duterte’s televised addresses where he had attacked political opponents, including the Manila mayor.

Mr. Go initially registered to run for vice-president. He changed his decision at the last minute after Mr. Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio decided to run for vice-president.

She is running in tandem with ex-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., who is now facing several lawsuits seeking his disqualification at the Comelec over his tax evasion conviction.

Also on Tuesday, Ms. Carpio said she would endorse the senatorial candidacy of former Senator Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada, who spent three years in jail for his alleged involvement in a public fund scam.

In a statement, Ms. Carpio said she would also back former Defense Secretary Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. Ex-presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr., former Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar, former Quezon City Mayor Herbert M. Bautista and ex-Senator Lorna Regina “Loren” B. Legarda, and reelectionist Sherwin T. Gatchalian for senator.

Ms. Carpio also named Davao Occidental Governor Claude P. Bautista and Mr. Marcos’ first cousin, Tacloban Rep. Martin G. Romualdez, as her campaign managers.

Ms. Carpio is running under Lakas-CMD, the political party of ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a known powerbroker in Philippine politics.

Mr. Marcos’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas and Ms. Caprio’s Lakas-CMD has signed an alliance with the political party founded by ex-President Joseph E. Estrada, who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2001. He spent years in prison before he was convicted for corruption and later pardoned by Ms. Arroyo.

Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte on Monday night said his administration would stay neutral during the elections campaign

“When it comes to the elections, the government, the administration will take a neutral stand,” he told a taped Cabinet meeting. “We will see to it that there will be no terrorism, vote buying and intimidation and everything that would put a hindrance to an honest election.”

Mr. Duterte earlier said he would retire from politics once his six-year term ends next year, only to change his mind by filing his candidacy for senator at the last minute.

Mr. Duterte was running under a political party founded by his supporters. He substituted for a relatively unknown candidate.

Critics have said his run for a Senate seat was yet another attempt to evade prosecution by a United Nations-backed tribunal that was investigating his war on drugs that has killed thousands.

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