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Moreno explains Ong's absence in Maguindanao campaign, says their tandem will remain

Presidential candidate and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on Tuesday explained his running mate Dr. Willie Ong's absence in their recent campaign in Maguindanao, saying he did not want to put Ong on the spot by campaigning in an area that already has a preferred vice-presidential candidate.

Moreno issued the remark after netizens accused him of dropping Ong as his running mate in favor of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

"No, kasi ayaw namin siyang mapahiya. You don't want to put your partner, if you're true to your partner, baka maalanganin ka lang. Kasi may iba naman silang preferred candidate. Which is sila naman ang nag-host, sila naman ang gumastos, sila naman ang dumulong," he said in an ambush interview in General Santos City.

(We didn't want to embarrass him. You don't want to put your partner, if you're true to your partner, on unsure ground. Because they have a different preferred candidate, and they were the ones who hosted and spent money on the event.)

Moreno stressed that he is fortunate to have Ong's support. He also assured the public that their tandem for the 2022 elections stays.

"So I'm grateful to Doc Willie. Talagang naniniwala siya sa akin. In the same manner, naniniwala rin ako kay Doc Willie. We assure, each and every one of us, na Isko-Doc Willie," he said.

(So I'm grateful to Doc Willie. He truly believes in me. In the same manner, I believe in him. We assure, each and every one of us, that it's still a Isko-Doc Willie tandem.)

Moreno has received the backing of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

For his part, Moreno's campaign manager, Lito Banayo, said he made the call to exclude Ong from the Maguindanao activities after an advance team saw tarps proclaiming support for the tandem of Moreno and Sara Duterte.

"I made a decision because it would be embarrassing for our VP candidate, DWO (Dr. Willie Ong). When they got back to Manila, I called up DWO and explained the ground situation in that part of Mindanao," he said in a message to GMA News Online.

"He understood my apprehension and said it was alright for him not to join. He also needed to rest and do interviews, as well as prepare for a forthcoming VP debate," he added.

Banayo said the UBJP and the Mangudadatus also did not endorse Duterte during the program and only expressed support for Moreno and Aksyon senatorial bets Samira Gutoc, Jopet Sison, and Carl Balita as well as former Agrarian Reform secretary John Castriciones.

Ong, for his part, earlier said he is focused on the vice presidential race and is not hurt by the rumored Moreno-Duterte tandem. —KBK, GMA News