By Genalyn Kabiling
Filipino voters must be allowed to choose freely during the elections and their right to dissent be respected, President Duterte said last Thursday.
While campaigning for the administration senatorial candidates in Bacolod City Thursday, the President said there would be no democracy in the country if the people’s right to dissent is removed.
“Never, never ‘yung intimidate because the essence of democracy is the right to dissent,” the President said during the PDP-Laban campaign rally attended by politicians seeking national and local posts in the May elections.
“‘Pag walang right to dissent, hindi ka maka-dissent [If there is no right to dissent, you cannot dissent], there is no democracy. That’s the only one there. The right to dissent. Remove that and you do not have a democracy,” he added.
Duterte stressed that voters have the “free choice” in the upcoming elections. He also told the Bacolod crowd that he won’t get mad if they support his bets in the upcoming polls.
“‘Yan lang rin ang hingiin ko sa inyo, hayaan ninyo ang tao. Kung sinong gusto niya. Kung wala kayong nagustuhan rito, okay lang [That’s my appeal to you. Let the people decide whoever they want. If you don’t like anyone here, it’s okay,” he said.
Duterte admitted that he has not forced his allies to support his candidates in the elections. He said he even told Yanson family of Bacolod that they could stay as friends if they decide to stay neutral in the polls.
“I told them may negosyo kayo, may… You are not bound to support my candidates, you can remain neutral, but for as long as that friendship remains,” he said.
“Hindi naman natin alam kung sino ang maging presidente after me and you might compromise yourself so you better stay out,” he added.
Also, Duterte said he has already directed the military and police to stay neutral during the elections. He said while he can campaign for his candidates, Cabinet members have been discouraged to avoid such partisan activity.
“I’m allowed to campaign. I did not even allow my Cabinet members to campaign. You know why? Kasi they are allowed if they want, problem is in making the sorties out of Manila maybe or going to the provinces, they have to spend,” he said.
“People would think that we are spending public funds to finance our sorties outside,” he added.
In his visit to Bacolod, the President endorsed the senatorial bids of Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafael Alunan III, former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, former aide Christopher Go, and other administration bets.
He claimed that unlike their rivals, the administration candidates have proven integrity and competence to become members of the Senate.