PRESIDENTIAL candidate Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso, currently mayor of Manila City, on Monday said he wants to include President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his senatorial slate for the 2022 elections, months after he criticized the tough-talking leader’s governance style.   

The chief of the Philippine capital, who has vowed to create the “broadest form” of government, said he will personally back the senatorial candidacy of Mr. Duterte.  

“I’m going to vote for him personally. I’m going to endorse him,” he told reporters in Cebu City, based on a report published by the state-run television’s Facebook page. “If he’ll accept it, I’ll be honored.”  

Mr. Domagoso said he wants Mr. Duterte to be included in his Senate slate as a guest candidate “simply because he no longer has a presidential candidate.”  

The Manila mayor, who had criticized the administration’s pandemic response, made the pronouncement days after the President’s preferred successor, Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go, decided to quit the presidential race.  

Mr. Domagoso said he would have no problem adding Mr. Duterte to his current three-man slate as long as the President would not be a guest candidate for other presidential candidates.   

The local leader is running for president under Aksyon Demokratiko, the political party founded by the late Senator Raul S. Roco in 1997 and became his vehicle for his presidential bid in the 1998 elections. Mr. Roco lost to Joseph E. Estrada.  

“We standby with the pronouncement of our Party President and standard bearer,” party chairman Ernesto “Ernest” M. Ramel, Jr. said in a Viber message.   

“Aksyon has taken a centrist and objective stand on many issues and is not an opposition party per se,” the party chair said. “We believe that there are current administration policies and programs worth continuing while there are some that can be improved, discontinued, or rectified.” 

Mr. Domagoso in September said that he would avoid senseless speeches late at night if he becomes president, in an apparent allusion to Mr. Duterte’s televised addresses in which he has attacked political opponents, including the Manila mayor.  

The President earlier said Mr. Domagoso does not deserve to become president given his past as a sexy actor.  

The Manila chief, who ran and lost in the 2016 senatorial race, had said leaders who flip-flop on their political ambitions could not be trusted.   

Months before the filing of electoral candidacies, Mr. Duterte said he would retire from politics once his six-year term ends next year, only to change his mind by filing his candidacy papers for senator at the last minute.   

Mr. Domagoso used to be a scavenger and pedicab driver in a Manila slum before he was discovered by a show business talent scout.  

Political analyst Cleve V. Arguelles earlier told BusinessWorld that Mr. Domagoso’s campaign narrative could be easily discredited “because it’s personality — rather than platform-oriented.”   

Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, who has considered herself as part of the opposition camp, had been in talks with Mr. Domagoso and other politicians to unite all presidential candidates critical of the Duterte government.   

Also on Monday, a public official who has been part of the national pandemic response team led by Mr. Duterte welcomed Ms. Robredo in his home city. 

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin “Benjie” B. Magalong, who was designated contact tracing czar, said he and the opposition leader are “completely aligned” in their political views. “I admire her.”  

In her speech at a flag raising ceremony, Ms. Robredo said Baguio and her hometown Naga City “share a lot of similarities” in terms of rejecting vote-buying and violence in politics.  

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who lost to Ms. Robredo by a hair in the vice-presidential race in 2016, received 75,275 votes from Baguio, higher than the latter’s 21,108 votes.  

Mr. Marcos filed his candidacy papers for president in October, angering activists and victims of his father’s two–decade rule.  

The late dictator’s son is now facing more than five petitions seeking to block his presidential candidacy.  

In a related development, the Philippine elections body’s spokesperson urged candidates who are facing electoral cases to respect the litigation process and refrain from discussing them publicly.  

“It is easier for everyone involved if there is some sobriety in this process,” Commission on Elections spokesman James B. Jimenez told a virtual news briefing. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza