2022 Philippine Elections

Duterte volunteer group, allies back Isko Moreno presidential bid

Pia Ranada

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Duterte volunteer group, allies back Isko Moreno presidential bid

FELLOW MAYOR. Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano joins Aksyon Demokratiko's kick-off rally at the Kartilya ng Katipunan to show support to presidential bid of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, on February 8, 2022. Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Former Duterte Cabinet member John Castriciones says the Duterte volunteer group he founded in 2016 is now backing Moreno's candidacy

MANILA, Philippines – A nationwide volunteer group that mobilized for the 2016 presidential bid of Rodrigo Duterte is supporting the presidential candidacy of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, declared its founder, a former Duterte Cabinet member.

Former agrarian reform secretary John Castriciones, founder and president of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC) made this pledge of support on Tuesday, February 8, at Moreno’s proclamation rally in Manila.

“We manifest our strong support for the candidacy of Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso!” announced Castriciones to applause.

Castriciones praised Moreno for having what he believes to be a clear and effective plan to improve the agricultural sector.

He even said Moreno was actually a member of the “national advisory council” of MRRD-NECC at some point.

Earlier on Tuesday, Moreno’s campaign manager Lito Banayo said Castriciones had called him up just the day before to ask if he and other MRRD-NECC leaders can join Moreno’s campaign kickoff.

Banayo said “200 leaders” of MRRD-NECC are fully behind Moreno’s bid for Malacañang.

These include MRRD-NECC National Capital Region chairman Bobby Diesta, and even Duterte government appopintees like Commission on Higher Education Commissioner Ronald Adamat, Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño, and Local Water Utilities Administration administrator Guiling Mamondiong, said Banayo.

Diño was recognized by the host during the proclamation rally but not Mamondiong. It is not clear if Mamondiong was present at the event. We will update this story with more information.

Local politicians who are allied with Duterte were also present or sent representatives. Deputy House Speaker Cebu 3rd District Representative PJ Garcia, brother of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, was onstage.

Back in December, the younger Garcia had already made known his support for Moreno. But Governor Garcia herself, who leads the dominant One Cebu party, is yet to declare such support. One Cebu had backed Duterte in 2016, likely contributing to his victory in the vote-rich province.

Taguig Mayor Lino Cayetano, younger brother of Duterte’s 2016 running mate Alan Peter Cayetano, was also onstage to publicly show his support for Moreno. Pateros Mayor Ike Ponce spoke at the rally, saying, “Dapat ang kaunlaran, ibahagi sa buong bansang Pilipinas at naniniwala po ako na makakaya dahil sa darating na halalan ang susunod na magiging pangulo ng Pilipinas, si Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso!

(Progress should be shared with the entire Philippines and I believe this can happen because in the next elections, our next president will be Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso!)

A Mindanao ally also showed up at Moreno’s campaign kickoff. Former beauty queen Sharifa Akeel-Mangudadatu, wife of former Maguindanao governor and Duterte ally Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu gave a testimonial onstage. She attested that she and her husband, who stood beside her as she spoke, are “overflowing” in their support for the Manila local chief. Sharifa is running for Sultan Kudarat governor.

FELLOW MAYOR. Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano joins Aksyon Demokratiko’s kick-off rally at the Kartilya ng Katipunan to show support to presidential bid of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, on February 8, 2022. Rappler

Quezon City Councilor Irene Belmonte, niece of former mayor and House speaker Sonny Belmonte, also spoke on stage to praise Moreno in the same vein.

“What Mayor Isko did in Manila is really impressive. What more what he can do for the entire country?” she asked the cheering audience.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, another politician who declared support for Moreno early on, addressed the rally through a recorded video statement.

Sa sandaling panahon, naipakita niya ang lideratong hindi makupad at hindi tamad. Matagal na tayong nagaantay ng isang lider na may tunay na solusyon at mabilis umaksyon,” he said.

(In a short time, he showed us leadership that is not slow or lazy. We have been waiting a long time for a leader with real solutions and who acts fast.)

Recto could not make it to the event because he is under isolation after exposure to COVID-19, said Banayo.

Orphaned by Bong Go?

A source familiar with discussions said the decision of some Duterte officials and supporters to back Moreno may be because the withdrawal of Senator Bong Go from the presidential race left them “orphaned.”

Castriciones, Guiling Mamondiong, and Martin Diño, for instance, are party mates of Go in PDP-Laban, which had urged the longtime Duterte aide to run for president.

The three, however, are believed by the source to be supporting the vice-presidential bid of Sara Duterte. Castriciones, at any rate, did not mention Moreno’s running mate Willie Ong, during his proclamation rally speech.

The three served in different capacities under Duterte’s presidency. Castriciones was his agrarian reform secretary and an interior and local government undersecretary before that. Mamondiong was director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority then Local Water Utilities Administration administrator. Diño is an interior and local government undersecretary.

It will be recalled that Diño was the PDP-Laban member whom Duterte substituted as the party’s presidential candidate, in the controversial 2016 move of the party that has now been mimicked by other politicians, including Sara Duterte herself. (READ: Isko Moreno thumbs down substitution: ‘Tsinutsubibo tayo’)

Castriciones founded party fielding Marcos

Also interesting is the fact that it is a party founded by Castriciones that now serves as Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vehicle for his presidential bid.

Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) was founded by Castriciones in 2018 to further the Duterte administration’s federalism advocacy. Marcos filed his candidacy for president under PFP. He is currently its chairman.

Asked what this aspect of Castriciones’ past says about his support for Moreno, Moreno’s campaign manager Banayo said on Tuesday, “Frankly, I do not know. I’m quite confused about the party labels… I didn’t even know there was a Philippine Federal Party at the time they adopted Ferdinand Marcos Jr.”

But a PFP faction, led by its “duly-elected” chairman Abubakar Mangelen, said PFP’s endorsement of Marcos as its standard-bearer is void because the party’s officers were not informed about it. The group is even pushing for Marcos’ disqualification. It’s not clear how involved Castriciones is with Mangelen’s faction since Castriciones is running for senator under PDP-Laban.

Rappler has learned of other Duterte appointees who are reportedly backing Moreno because they cannot bring themselves to support the dictator’s son and former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It doesn’t help that Duterte himself has publicly criticized Marcos as a “spoiled child” and implied he is a cocaine user, even if Marcos is his daughter’s standard-bearer.

There is a sector of Duterte supporters who are more comfortable supporting the presidential bid of Moreno, who has also taken pains to package himself as acceptable to the President’s base. The Manila Mayor has, for instance, declared he would welcome a Duterte endorsement, vowed not to hand over the President to the International Criminal Court, and praised his controversial drug war and infrastructure program.

There is even an informal movement pushing for IS-SA, or Isko-Sara. Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesman Karlo Nograles, a member of President Duterte’s PDP-Laban, denied that the party is officially pushing for this pair-up.

Duterte, PDP-Laban chairman, has not declared support for any presidential candidate, following Go’s withdrawal. He has told allies he would stay “neutral” and has warned he would “reveal” controversies about some of the candidates “in due time.”

On Saturday, February 19, Castriciones officially handed over a manifesto of support signed by officers of MRRD-NECC.

Castriciones said that the group decided to back Moreno’s candidacy because of his “genuine love” for the poor. 

“Siyempre nakikita rin po namin, ang sinabi ‘nyo, ‘yung continuity ng mga projects and programs of the Duterte administration,” said the former Duterte Cabinet member. (Of course we see that, as you said, the continuity of the projects and programs of the Duterte administration.) – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.