By ALFRED GABOT
Editor in Chief
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted publicly for the second time that he is “sold on the idea” of joining the 2022 vice presidential race, heating up further the political cauldron three months into the start of filing of certificates of candidacies for the May 9, 2022 national elections.
The 76-year-old Duterte who is vowing out as Chief Executive after six years on June 30, 2022 made the admission during his meeting with the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) executives and other government officials at Malacañang’s Malago Clubhouse in Manila on Monday, July 5..
During the meeting, some PDP-Laban members also called on Senator Christopher “Bong” Go to consider running for president to assure “continuity” of the government services, programs, and projects started by Duterte.
Go, whose term as senator will still end on 2025, thanked his party mates for considering his name but said he has no plans to run for higher office and would leave his fate to God as he appealed to fellow government officials to address first the Covid-19 pandemic.
Outside of the meeting, however, some allies have urged the President to pick his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as his anointed successor. Mayor Sara is leading all surveys on possible presidential candidates and appeared to be the most winnable candidate for president.
This early, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Senator Imee Marcos or former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and former Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. are eyeing the vice presidency under the Mayor Sara Duterte.
Despite Mayor Sara’s denial she was running for president, speculations were bolstered to the contrary as the People’s Reform Party (PRP) and other national political parties announced “full support” to the potential presidential bid of the Davao City’s lady mayor and founder of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).
Aside from PRP, four other national political parties — Lakas-CMD of former President Fidel V. Ramos and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Senator Ramon Bong Revilla; National Unity Party (NUP) headed by former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Deputy Speaker Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite, Nacionalista Party (NP) of former Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. and Sen. Cynthia Villr, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada — have signified their support to Duterte-Carpio should she run for president.
It was reported, however, that should the Villar-led NP enter again the coalition with HNP, it would throw in limbo the presidential aspirations of members former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, and Alan Peter Cayetano, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The PRP is now chaired by Atty. Narciso Santiago, the husband of the late Sen. Mirriam Defensor-Santiago, PRP founder who was dubbed the “Iron Lady of Asia.”
Santiago assembled a press briefing at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel where his group declared the PRP’s support to the President’s daughter, saying that PRP believes that Duterte-Carpio can “continue the advocacies and principles” of the late lawmaker.
Santiago also expressed hopes that Duterte-Carpio will “heed the strong clamor from the people” for her to replace her father in Malacañang next year.
In the same meeting in Malacanang, Duterte landed another blow on Sen. Manny Pacquiao in their raging word war, this time raising a tax case that the latter fought as boxing superstar.
A surprise rift erupted between erstwhile close friends Pacquio and Duterte in late June, after the President threatened to prove the senator was a liar, over his claim that the current administration is two or three times more corrupt than its predecessors.
“I remember he (Pacquiao) has a tax evasion case and he has been assessed to pay, P2.2 billion ang utang niya na hindi niya binayaran ang gobyerno, for all his fights,” Duterte said in the meeting which government aired on July 7.
“Sabi kasi niya kasi korap. Kung korap kami, ikaw, when you cheat government, you are a corrupt official, lalo na,” said the President.
(He alleged corruption. If we are corrupt, you, when you cheat government, you are a corrupt official, more so.)
Duterte said he did not know if the case was still pending in court.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in 2013 filed a tax fraud case against Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee for alleged tax deficiencies in 2008 and 2009 amounting to P2.2 billion.
The BIR claimed Pacquiao had a total of P2.26-billion underpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009, including those for his earnings in his boxing matches abroad.
The BIR, in its final assessment, said the Pacquiaos’ total tax liabilities amounted to P3.29 billion, including penalties and surcharges.
However, the Court of Appeals on July 27, 2018 directed the BIR to “cease and desist” from collecting the alleged tax deficiency of Pacquiao and his wife pending decision on the senator’s petition questioning the BIR’s assessment.
Pacquiao said his income taxes have been fully paid in the United States. His lawyers argued that Philippine laws protect against double taxation, and that in the words of then BIR commissioner Kim Henares, “a Filipino citizen is taxed on his global income.”
Despite the legal battle, Pacquiao reigned as the country’s top taxpayer in 2013, and was second the year after.
Pacquiao’s camp has yet to release a statement on Duterte’s latest tirade. The senator is in the United States training for a boxing match against world champion Errol Spence on August 21 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In 2016, Duterte won the presidency campaigning on a promise to fight corruption, crime, and illegal drugs.
But his administration has been dogged by scandals and allegations of graft and cover-ups in state agencies ranging from prisons, the state insurer, immigration, airports and customs, to police and the drugs enforcement agency, few of which led to convictions or high-profile resignations.
Duterte said he is “seriously” considering accepting the PDP-Laban’s call to seek the vice presidency, but stressed that he also has to consider several factors.
“To the proposition that I run for vice president, medyo I’m (somehow) sold [on] the idea. I am seriously thinking of running for vice president but let me dwell into the reality of things,” he said.
Should he decide to seek the second top post in the country, Duterte said he wants to have a good working relationship with the next president.
Duterte said his successor “must be a friend of mine who I can work with”.
“Kung tatakbo akong bise presidente, hindi ko kaibigan ‘yung maging presidente (If I run for vice president and the next president is not my friend), I would be reduced to inutility,” he said.
In case the next president will come from the opposition and he decides to gun for vice president, Duterte said he would just focus on making a way to “be productive and just see to it that the Filipinos are not really pushed [to the] wall”.
“If I run as vice president which you want me to do so, maybe I will, but huwag na tayong mag-promise ng mga pabahay, lahat ganoon (let’s not make any promises of granting anything, like housing). We just address the present agony and sorrow of the Filipino,” Duterte said.
On May 31, the PDP-Laban adopted a resolution calling on Duterte to run for vice president and choose the party’s standard-bearer in the 2022 national elections. Party vice chairman Alfonso Cusi read the resolution during the meeting.
Duterte initially expressed reluctance to seek the vice presidency, as he sought to retire as president and return to his hometown, Davao City, after his term ends in June next year.
Duterte also repeatedly said he would wait for the announcement of House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez who might also join the vice presidential derby next year.
He said he had already told Romualdez that he is ready to support the lawmaker if the latter decides to seek the second top national post.
However, Duterte on July 1 said the public can now consider him as a vice presidential “candidate” to “maintain the equilibrium for all”.