MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is departing from his political party’s endorsement of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., saying on Thursday, March 31, that he will not be backing any presidential candidate.
“I am not supporting any presidential candidate. Neutral ako (I’m neutral),” said Duterte during an event in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu province.
“This is not a campaign, because I am not campaigning for a particular candidate,” he continued.
Only nine days ago, his party PDP-Laban decided to endorse presidential race front-runner Marcos. Officials of the Duterte-backed wing cited the President’s earlier meeting with Marcos as one reason they decided to back the former senator and late dictator’s son.
Asked if the meeting was an indication that the President would also be supporting Marcos, his own daughter Sara Duterte’s standard-bearer, Acting Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar said the choice of the party did not necessarily reflect Duterte’s choice.
Two days ago, Duterte had even brought up the issue of unpaid estate tax, at a time when the Marcoses’ estimated P203 billion in estate tax deficiencies had become a hot campaign issue. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, the candidate who first brought up the issue, welcomed Duterte’s statement.
Duterte spoke a little bit more about the presidential candidates. He wondered if any of them would be “as committed” as he in curbing illegal drugs and the communist insurgency, two of his most controversial governance priorities.
It’s not the first time that the President diverged from the positions of his own national political party, in the realm of elections. In 2019, he carried his own personal senatorial slate distinct from PDP-Laban’s five-person slate. – Rappler.com