Duterte lobbies for ‘pet’ senatorial candidates

Published January 6, 2019, 3:45 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Genalyn Kabiling

Bicol-based politicians could apparently risk losing financial aid from the administration if they don’t back three senatorial bets of President Duterte in the upcoming elections.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his message during the birthday celebration of former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Atty. Francis Tolentino held at the Tagaytay International Convention Center in Tagaytay City, Cavite on January 3, 2019. (VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a recent post-disaster assessment briefing in storm-hit Camarines Sur, the President tried to persuade the local officials to support his Senate bets, saying they could either stay friends or become strangers for the remainder of his term.

“I brought along my three candidates for senator,” Duterte said, referring to former Presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, former presidential assistant Christopher Go, and former police chief Ronald dela Rosa.

“Ganito ‘yan (Albay Rep.) Joey (Salceda) eh. ‘Pag matalo ‘yan sila, may three years pa ako [This is how it is, Joey. If they lose, I still have three years left],” he said in jest, drawing laughter from the officials.

“Oo. Kailangan ninyo ang pirma ko sa release. Nasa inyo ‘yan kasi pwede naman tayo magkaibigan, pwede naman tayong walang imikan. I’ve been used to it [Yes, and you need my signature for the release. That’s up to you because we can be friends or we can ignore each other. I’ve been used to it],” the President said.

Duterte was alluding to the P46 billion estimated road users’ tax that he intends to use flood mitigation projects in disaster-prone Bicol region.The President was in Camarines Sur last Friday following the devastating onslaught of tropical depression Usman in Bicol and other nearby regions.

In his remarks, Duterte expressed hope that he could convince the Bicol officials with his “drama” about supporting his three Senate bets, just like when he was persuaded by Salceda to support a candidate during their days in Congress.

“Madala ako sa drama mo, baka madala ko rin ka sa drama ko. Lahat naman dito pwede naman kayo magpunta ng Malacañang pahingi-hingi. Lalo na ‘yang 46 billion na ‘yan [You won me over with your drama. I might persuade you with my drama too. You can all go to Malacanang to ask for funds, especially that P46 billion],” he said.

“Kung — wala kayo sigurado. It will remain a lagoon for you to swim. Hindi na kayo magpunta ng dagat [If you don’t have it, it will remain a lagoon for you to swim. You don’t have to go to the sea anymore],” he added.

The local officials present in the situation briefing last Friday included Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, and Camarines Sur Governor Miguel Luis Villafuerte.

Earlier, the President said he was inclined to use part of the road tax venues to reduce Bicol’s vulnerability to calamities.

“We use part of the money for the pressing problems of Bicol. It’s about P46 billion,” he said.

“I’m ready to spend the money for — to improve the topography of the place and make it safe for people to build houses or really just get out of those mountainous thing, especially if there’s a mine being operated behind, mahirap ‘yan,” he added.