MANILA — Presidential Communications Operations Office Sec. Martin Andanar on February 25 said President Rodrigo Duterte will not endorse any presidential candidate and will stay neutral.

“Kung magtanong kayo kung may e-endorse ako – I may or I may not. But preferably, I’d like to stay neutral. Ibig sabihin wala akong susuportahan na kandidato.

Unless, again, having said that I’ll say it again, it will be a compelling reason for me to go out and tell the people what it is. I’d like to bide my time.

I’m not in a hurry,” Duterte said.

“However, little that it may look for some people but in reality, it is really the interest of the people which is at stake, ‘yun mapipilitan ako maglabas. Then maybe, just maybe, I will choose a candidate to support,” Duterte said.

The President noted that “some candidates” sought his support and “even set up a meeting” but he “respectfully just declined to say, (it’s) anybody.”

When asked to clarify his neutral position on his daughter’s running mate, presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Duterte refused to give details.

“I have talked to my daughter Inday only once since months ago. We do not talk about politics except for once pero ayaw ko na lang i-discuss kasi hindi maganda. It was between father and daughter,” Duterte said.

“It was a discussion about politics pero sa amin na yun… Hanggang ngayon, wala akong masabi sa bagay na yan,” he added.

The Moreno-Carpio tandem

In a report by ONE News, acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles insisted that Duterte has not endorsed a candidate for president despite some of his supporters backing the candidacy of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and pairing him with his daughter and vice-presidential aspirant Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

“The President said he (will) not endorse any presidential candidate unless there is a justification or he sees the need to do so but so far, up to now, up to this point, he has not endorsed anyone, just like what he said during his past Talk to the People address,” Nograles told a press briefing on February 22.

Among the pro-Duterte groups backing Moreno’s presidential campaign is Mayor Rodrigo Roa, Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee while posters pairing Moreno with Duterte-Carpio surfaced.

In a public address on February 7, Duterte remarked that all presidential bets “are qualified but he is not supporting any of them at this time.”

“Almost all of the candidates, in one way or the other, communicated to me to… ask for support. I may, in the end, if I see that it would be… my advice and maybe endorsement would help if needed. But at this time, I am saying that I am not supporting anybody,” Duterte said.

“Unless there is a compelling reason really for me to change my mind and decide to support a candidate,” he added.

Publicus Asia: Duterte’s endorsement can influence presidential race

In another report by The Manila Times, the pollster behind the Pahayag Election Survey series, Publicus Asia, believes a Duterte endorsement will impact the public’s choice of a presidential candidate.

Publicus Chief Data Scientist Dr. David Yap said the presidential candidate Duterte will endorse “will be viewed by the voters as someone who will most likely continue or advance reforms established by his administration.”

“I would think that there would be voters who would place a lot of value in President Duterte’s endorsement and switch votes,” Yap said.

“Going back to the point about brand affinity, or how people view a particular candidate vis-à-vis President Duterte, the effect of his endorsement would be influenced by how close or how similar people view that candidate when comparing that candidate to President Duterte,” he added.