MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte pledged to support the campaigns of political aspirants of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), including providing them “sacks of money” to ensure their victory at the oath-taking of new members in Iligan city last October 16.

“I may not really be able to attend all your political meetings but I have committed to campaign for PDP candidates all over the country. So, I can only afford one each city because there are so many,” Duterte said in his speech.

“So, maybe you can schedule one rally and I will go there and that would be my way of helping you and I will also give you one sack of money to make sure that you will win,” he added.

“So, I hope that your campaign will be successful. Whatever we have, we will give it to you.”

Duterte is the chairman of one faction of the divided ruling party and urged members “to ensure the integrity of the elections for your respective positions, despite the challenges that you may face.”

“Keep in mind that your victory will not only be ours but more importantly of the nation. As a political party, we should continue to put the welfare and progress of our country and people on top of our priorities,” he said.

“As you run for public office, take this to heart. Even after the election period and regardless of the election results, even in daunting situations, do not lose faith in our party. We have been through difficult times yet we are still left here and standing,” he added.

In a report by CNN PhilippinesDuterte formally accepted PDP-Laban’s endorsement for him to run for vice-president in 2022 late August but made a last-minute surprise move and gave way for the candidacy of his longtime aid-turned-senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go as he revealed plans to retire from politics. 

Recently, PDP-Laban’s faction led by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cosi appointed Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa as their standard-bearer in the 2022 elections.

Sacks of cash

Last July, Malacañang through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that Duterte’s “sacks of cash” remark means he will raise funds for PDP-Laban candidates and allies in the 2022 elections. 

On July 17, Duterte told members of PDP-Laban he will bring “sacks of money” on the campaign trail when promoting allies during the 2022 national elections. 

“Those running for elections, ikakampanya ko kayo, city for city, totoo ‘yan… Talagang pupunta ako, city to city, province to province, kakampanya ako. At saka magdala ako ng maraming pera,” Duterte said.

“Sako kung mayroon,” he added.

“Of course, he knows it’s illegal to use public funds for partisan purposes. But there is no prohibition in the Omnibus Election Code to raise funds from private individuals for the candidacies of individuals,” Roque said in a press briefing. 

“That’s what the President meant. It’s an assurance to his party-mates that not only will he physically campaign for them but he will also raise funds for them,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, democracy can be very expensive,” he added. 

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate then expressed worry that public funds may be used for the campaigns of Duterte allies. 

“Duterte’s boastful remark shows his clique is creating an enormous war chest in the run-up for the 2022 elections using public funds and resources,” Zarate said in a statement. 

“This wanton, shameless, and wholesale plunder of taxpayers’ money should end especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.