President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday he is not yet backing any candidate to succeed him in the May 9 national elections, unless a “compelling reason” urges him to do so.
In an interview aired on state television, the President—whose daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is running for vice president—said he would like to stay neutral as much as possible.
“I may or I may not but preferably, I would like to stay neutral. It means I will not support any candidate. Unless there will be a compelling reason for me to go out or tell the people what it is,” Duterte told Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar.
“I’d like to bide my time, I am not in a hurry,” he added.
Duterte said that if “the interest of the people is at stake,” he would be “forced” to give a name.
“Until now I have yet to decide whether or not to support a candidate. At this time nobody is in my mind, actually.”
Duterte also vowed Friday that he would protect every Filipino’s right to vote this coming May by ensuring fair and honest elections, adding he would treat friends and foes equally by staying “neutral.”
“Even with (Defense Secretary Delfin) Lorenzana, we talked straight yesterday. That this election under me would be without fear-mongering, vote-buying, but you cannot hide that,” the chief executive told Andanar.
Duterte added that he also asked law enforcement authorities to uphold the Constitution in “producing clean and honest elections,” warning politicians who would plan otherwise.
“I will be neutral, and the military and the police will see to it that the Constitution, mandated by the Constitution upon their shoulders, will produce clean and honest elections,” he said.
Last year, the President said he would call on the military to ensure that the rule of law would be implemented in the upcoming elections.
Duterte’s longtime aide, Sen. Christopher Go, had filed a certificate of candidacy as the substitute standard-bearer of a different party, the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS).
In December though, Go withdrew from the presidential race, leaving Duterte without an anointed successor.