Duterte has ‘car but no gasoline’ for 2016 race

Posted on November 24, 2015

DAVAO CITY Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte reiterated his objection to the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s (SET) vote last week upholding Senator Grace Poe’s Senate seat -- a development that he cites as having prompted his reappearance in the scene of the presidential campaign.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte -- AFP
The still-reluctant presidential candidate said of his readiness to join the 2016 race: “I have a car but still no gasoline.”

Mr. Duterte made these and other colorful remarks in an interview in Greenhills, San Juan, on Monday afternoon, as broadcasted live by ANC.

He had a lot to say about the SET ruling in Ms. Poe’s favor, which clears one hurdle in a series of disqualification cases filed against the survey front-runner among the presidential candidates.

Describing the Constitution as “a piece of paper” that holds the country’s “many tribes... as a nation,” he said in English and Filipino, “Do not mess... with the Constitution.... If you will not heed the Constitution, you do not honor it, why should we in Mindanao? Almost a forgotten land. And every distribution in projects, everything, we get the smallest.... But we still follow because there is the Constitution.

“Now, if the Constitution will be disregarded, we will separate. Why will you force the Constitution on us if you’re interpreting it like a rubber band that’s about to break?”

Sought for comment about the vote of his sister, Senator Pilar Juliana S. Cayetano, in Ms. Poe’s favor, Senator and vice-presidential candidate Alan Peter S. Cayetano -- who is anticipated to be Mr. Duterte’s running mate -- said in an ambush interview: “Having a sister or a brother or a father or a son in government doesn’t mean that we will always vote the same. You will vote [according to your] conscience, you will vote [according to your] analysis. So, that’s why I am saying that I believe she and her companions were sincere but they’re sincerely wrong.”

Mr. Cayetano said he supports Mr. Duterte’s “position because you go to any of the legal scholars, law schools, the justices, they will support the position of the three justices [who voted against Ms. Poe] over what seems to be a sincere but sincerely wrong decision by the senators [at the] SET.”

Mr. Duterte also made a dig at Ms. Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero: “Stop using Grace.”

The mayor then revived an earlier accusation against the camp of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel A. Roxas II, blaming Mr. Roxas’s supporters for “one idiotic press release” alleging that Mr. Duterte had throat cancer.

“My wife has cancer. Cancer of the throat, then now, breast cancer, third stage, but this was removed.... We wanted to keep this private because the person is ill. I really resented this and I had enough. You know, you politicians, if you go into black propaganda, nothing will happen to you....”

Mr. Roxas had denied Mr. Duterte’s accusations. News reports had quoted the administration candidate as saying that cancer was too serious a matter from his family’s experience to be trivialized.

Despite the SET ruling, Mr. Duterte still expressed reluctance about entering the presidential arena.

“If you want to have an American president, vote for Grace,” he said in the interview as aired by ANC yesterday. “If you want [somebody] competent, vote for Roxas. If you want integrity, vote for [Jejomar C.] Binay. If you want extraordinary competence and integrity, vote for Miriam [Defensor-Santiago].”

Mr. Duterte reiterated the same later in the interview. “If you need Grace Poe, American, go to her. If you want competent, one who fights storms, there’s Mar. If you want somebody like Lee Kuan Yew, there’s Binay -- Lee Kuan Yew.”

Asked what can be expected from a Duterte presidency, he said: “I do not go for motherhood statements. I will [just] deal with criminality and drugs.”

Mr. Duterte also said he will “fix government” and “simplify procedures.” His government, he added, will be “inclusive.”

“I’m asking Jose Maria Sison to come over if I win and Nur Misuari to come out of the forest of Sulu, and everybody. And we will talk,” Mr. Duterte said.

In Davao City, it remains uncertain who will substitute for Mr. Duterte where he filed a certificate of candidacy for another term in the mayoralty.

The mayor’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, declined to comment on whether she will take up her father’s request to be his substitute.

Mr. Duterte in the ANC interview said his daughter is “unwilling” and “lazy” to accommodate his request.

“No comment,” was Ms. Carpio’s answer in a text message to the media when asked about her father’s declaration to run for president and on her option to substitute for his mayoral candidacy.

Mr. Duterte told the press over the weekend that he is already “begging” to convince his daughter, who served as city mayor for one term in 2010-2013.

Mr. Duterte’s son, incumbent Vice-Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte, has expressed interest in running for mayor but does not have the support of his father’s local political party, the Hugpong Sa Tawong Lungsod (People of the City’s Party).

City Administrator Melchor V. Quitain, a close ally of Mr. Duterte, said he does not know yet who will run for mayor.

“I am hoping Sara will finally decide to respond to the call of the people,” Mr. Quitain told the media.

As for Mr. Duterte’s possible presidential candidacy for the country’s top post, Mr. Quitain said he hopes “he will win and will make drastic changes in the country.”

Meanwhile, the camp of Rizalito Y. David appealed on Monday the SET’s Nov. 17 decision.

Mr. David’s counsel, Manuelito V. Luna, said they filed their 140-page motion for reconsideration (MR) pointing out the grave abuse of discretion committed by the five senators who composed the majority of the nine-member SET.

“Petitioner scores the [SET] majority for violating the Constitution with its legally infirm decision,” Mr. Luna explained in a text message.

The SET ruled the Hague Convention of 1930 binding upon the Philippines despite it not being a signatory. It said the agreement was part of generally accepted international law, “creating an exception to the general rule of natural-born citizenship based on blood descent” (the 1935 Constitution allowed only children of Filipino parents to be deemed natural-born citizens).

But Mr. David’s MR argued this violated the principle of the primacy and supremacy of the Constitution over international laws in the domestic plane.

The MR also assailed the SET decision as being politically motivated. “The five senator-judges failed to uphold judicial integrity,” Mr. Luna said.

The counsel also noted their appeal incorporated the arguments by the three Supreme Court (SC) justices who composed SET.

All the three justices dissented from the majority vote, explaining that Ms. Poe could not be considered a natural-born under the 1935 Constitution if her parentage could not be determined as a foundling.

It may be recalled that SC Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio said foundlings could not be considered natural-born Filipinos in the absence of customary international law guaranteeing citizenship at birth. Instead, he said Ms. Poe is, at best, a naturalized citizen by virtue of undergoing legal acts, such as obtaining a Philippine passport.

Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro said the 1935 Constitution did not contemplate foundlings as natural-born Filipinos. She said the Constitution should enjoy supremacy over the international agreements cited by Ms. Poe’s camp. Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion, for his part, argued that Ms. Poe never had Filipino citizenship to begin with.

Mr. Luna said these dissenting opinions by the SC justices “mirror the correct reading, analyses or application of the article on citizenship,” among others.

Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, the daughter of rival presidential candidate Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay, cast the fourth dissenting vote, although her own dissenting opinion has yet to be publicly released.

The five SET members who composed the majority vote were Senators Vicente C. Sotto III (one of Ms. Poe’s senatorial candidates), Cynthia A. Villar, Lorna Regina B. Legarda, Ms. Cayetano and Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV. -- additional reports by Carmencita A. Carillo, Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato and Alden M. Monzon