Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Monday affirmed his decision to run for president in 2016 — this time with a "pinky swear" to reporters covering his press briefing to show he will not back out from his plans.
Duterte, known for his hands-on leadership and straighforward attitude, told the reporters that in Japan, pinky swears are a sign of honor.
"Yes, I am running," he said in a report by Ian Cruz on 24 Oras. "But the formal declaration will be made by the PDP." He was referring to his political party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP-Laban.
Duterte's statement, first bared over the weekend, ended speculations regarding his plans to seek a national post in 2016. He has earlier said he would rather stay as Davao City mayor and even filed for a re-election bid.
PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III earlier said as far as he is concerned, Duterte is "100%" sure about his presidential bid.
No backing out
"Basta ito lang ang masasabi ko: Sa point of view ko, 'yung narinig ng tenga ko [ay] 100 percent nang tatakbo," Pimentel said. "As far as I’m concerned, wala na pong atrasan."
Pimentel said he last spoke with Duterte Saturday evening.
Despite his confirmation to join the presidential race, Duterte has yet to file his certificate of candidacy as a substitute for PDP-Laban's original bet, Martin Diño of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, who backed out from the race.
Over the weekend, Duterte said his disappointment over the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) junking the disqualification case against Senator Grace Poe, a presidential aspirant, in relation to her citizenship prompted him to change his mind.
Duterte argued that being a foundling does not make Poe a natural-born citizen, based on the 1987 Constitution.
Presidential bets react
Roxas, for his part, welcomed Duterte's decision. "Welcome to the campaign," he said. "Mabuti at nakapagpasya ng pinal si Mayor Digong (Duterte's nickname)."
"Maganda naman ito para lahat ng kandidato maka-present ng pataporma kung ano pangarap nila sa bansa," he said.
Asked on whether he feels threatened by Duterte's candidacy, Roxas said: "Do I look worried?"
Poe, meanwhile, said she was not surprised by Duterte's announcement. "I'm not surprised. Based on his actions I know dati na siyang desedido," she said.
Navotas City Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco of the opposition party United Nationalist Alliance had earlier said Duterte joining the presidential race is not likely to affect the chances of their standard bearer, Vice President Jejomar Binay.
"That is part of our democratic process," he said, referring to Duterte's possible presidential bid. "We respect his decision. VP Binay will just continue his consultations with the poor and explaining to them his programs that will uplift them from poverty."
Effect on presidential race
Meanwhile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Duterte's possible foray into the presidential race would affect the candidacies of other presidential candidates but stopped short of calling the local chief executive a “game changer” in 2016.
Belmonte, campaign manager of the ruling Liberal Party, said Duterte’s message regarding his advocacy for maintaining peace and order resonates “with a lot of people,” including himself.
But while Duterte’s possible candidacy for president would make the race more crowded, Belmonte believes the mayor’s effect on the upcoming elections would be limited.
"He is bound to have some effect [on] the playing field right now. You’d have to make certain adjustments [in the campaign],” the Speaker told reporters in an interview.
Asked if the feisty mayor could be considered a game changer, Belmonte said: “I don’t like to use the word game changer, but definitely he’ll have some effect [on the presidential race].”
Meanwhile, Belmonte downplayed Duterte’s proclivity for joking about killing people as his way of capturing the people’s attention ahead of the 2016 polls.
Belmonte said the report on Duterte’s “kill” jokes only shows the emphasis he puts on maintaining peace and order.
“He’s exaggerating his message,” he said of Duterte. “He is not going to shoot at people. He is just saying let’s have law and order.”
Belmonte said Duterte’s jokes about killing people should be taken with a grain of salt since Philippine laws determine how peace and order should be enforced.
“Nobody in his right mind would say he is all about killing people, thieves or addicts. He is just exaggerating to call the attention of the public,” he said.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report published earlier in the day quoted Duterte as saying, “I will kill you” several times during a law school classmate’s birthday party in Cavite.
The report said Duterte’s remarks, as well as his potshots at some friends and enemies, amused the audience. —Trisha Macas and Xianne Arcangel/KBK, GMA News