MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte “re-entered” his political party on Saturday, February 21, as members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) court him to run as Philippine president in 2016.
Duterte on Saturday said his re-entry means he will take a more active role in PDP-Laban. This role includes discussing the 2016 elections with party leaders “because this is the presidency.”
He pointed out that he never left PDP-Laban. He had to re-enter it, however, because he ran under a different party in 2013 so he could join a coalition in Davao City. “We had a coalition in the last election just to ensure victory,” he said.
Duterte was the keynote speaker at PDP-Laban's 33rd anniversary celebration in Intramuros, Manila, on Saturday. The mayor talked about his push for a federal form of government.
Before his talk, Duterte declined to confirm if he wants to run for president, but also refused to rule out the possibility.
“At this time, I am not a candidate for the presidency,” he said in an interview with reporters.
Duterte, at the same time, said he is not closing the doors on the presidency.
He also said he “cannot stop party members and other people in the Visayas and Mindanao” from asking him to run.
“Gusto nga nila akong tumakbo na presidente. Wala nga akong First Lady. Bigyan mo muna ako ng First Lady,” he quipped. (They want me to run as president. I don't even have a First Lady. Give me a First Lady before anything else.)
When asked about possibly opposing Vice President Jejomar Binay in the 2016 presidential race, Duterte said in jest, “Wala akong panlaban kay Binay.” (I have nothing to match Binay.)
Binay chaired PDP-Laban until he left the party in early 2014 because of disagreements with the party president, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
PDP courting Duterte?
PDP-Laban is now seen to be courting Duterte to become its presidential bet in the 2016 elections. (READ: Binay vs Duterte in 2016?)
The senator's father, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, said in 2014 that Duterte is a “good prospect” for president, the Manila Bulletin reported.
Curiously, in fact, the stage on which Duterte spoke had a backdrop that showed him alongside the Pimentels.
His supporters have also floated the idea of Duterte running for president. He has sent mixed signals about this.
“If only to save this Republic, I can run for president,” Duterte said in Pangasinan on February 19, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In another occasion, on February 12, Duterte said he doesn't want to become the president. At the same time, he added: “But if I become the president of the Philippines, I will rid the government of corrupt officials and change our style of government. If I will not get the reforms I want in the first 6 months to one year of my term, I will declare a revolutionary government.”
Like Duterte, PDP-Laban also wants the Philippines to change its style of government.
Founded in 1982, the party is pushing for federalism in the Philippines. The country is now running under a centralized form of government in which the central government holds the most power and resources.
Founded by the elder Pimentel, the father of the Philippines' Local Government Code, PDP-Laban believes federalism will strengthen local governments.
Duterte said federalism, for one, will help solve the peace and order problem in Mindanao, the Philippines' poorest island group that has been plagued by a 4-decade-old Muslim secessionist movement. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.