Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa threw his hat into the presidential fray last week, making him the third incumbent senator seeking to take over from President Rodrigo Duterte, whose six-year term ends next year.

Dela Rosa was picked to be the standard bearer of the Cusi wing of the divided PDP-Laban, whose other wing has Sen. Manny Pacquiao as presidential bet.

The former Philippine National Police chief is teaming up with fellow freshman senator Bong Go as his vice-presidential running mate. Both have stated on multiple occasions that they are absolutely loyal to Duterte.

While Duterte was mayor of Davao City, Dela Rosa served as its chief of police while Go was a longtime personal assistant to the president.

Dela Rosa filed his certificate of candidacy on October 8, the last day for the submission of COCs by candidates seeking elective positions in the 2022 elections.

It was a surprise move on the part of the senator, who had never been considered as a possible candidate for the presidency.

Followers of Duterte expected his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to seek the presidency after she had performed well in various surveys.

Dela Rosa said “it would be better” if the President’s daughter ran for the top post but she had said on several occasions that she preferred to run for her third and final term as Davao mayor next year. Only after completing her term would she consider seeking a higher post, she said.

Not everyone was convinced, however, as the possibility remains that she can be appointed as a substitute bet should any nominee back out of the presidential race.

This was the scenario in 2016, when a relatively unknown politician named Martin Dino filed his COC to run for president under PDP-Laban, only to withdraw in favor of Duterte.

A substitution is allowed until mid-November. For now, Sara Duterte-Carpio only filed a COC to seek re-election as mayor.

President Duterte later appointed Dino undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Speculation has been rife that Dela Rosa will be playing the same role as Dino within the next two months, as he was wearing a Hugpong ng Pagbabago shirt when he filed his COC. The Hugpong is a regional party headed by Duterte-Carpio.

Melvin Matibag, PDP-Laban Cusi faction secretary general, said that the “Ba-Go 2022” tandem would receive the full support of the President, who announced his retirement from politics three weeks ago.

The Cusi wing – headed by Energy Sec. Al Cusi – had earlier pushed for President Duterte to run for vice-president, which the incumbent chief executive initially accepted.

Go was the party’s original presidential bet but he declined the nomination. Thus, when Duterte initially accepted the nomination to run for vice-president, the party was left without a presidential bet.

The other wing of the PDP-Laban, headed by Sen. Koko Pimentel, nominated Sen. Pacquiao as its standard bearer, with former Manila mayor and current party-list Rep. Lito Atienza as their vice-presidential nominee.

The third incumbent senator seeking the presidency is Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, whose running mate is Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto.

A former senator, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., is also seeking the presidency.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is also a presidential contender, as is Vice-president Leni Robredo, who has Sen. Francis Pangilinan as her running mate.

Robredo electrified social media last week when she finally announced her presidential run. Of all the candidates, she has received the most support from celebrities, the academe, and business and civic organizations.

Dela Rosa’s candidacy has been hampered by his lack of popular support, coupled by his being under investigation by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Duterte administration’s brutal drug war, which has seen anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 suspected drug users and dealers being killed by the police.

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