Malacañang confirmed reports that presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. paid President Rodrigo Duterte a visit over the weekend.
Marcos Jr., however, did not receive his hoped-for endorsement from Duterte.
Sen. Bong Go said the meeting did occur but refused to state the exact time and place. The one-on-one was described as “civil” and the two chatted for about an hour with Duterte doing most of the talking. The President gave Marcos Jr. some advice on how to handle the presidency in the event he wins the May election.
The secretive nature of the meeting was odd as the President’s schedule is usually known to Malacañang officials as well as media practitioners covering the President.
Go said the President hogged “about 80 percent” of the conversation, as he was in a chatty mood that day.
Acting presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said Duterte was keeping his word to remain neutral in the fight to succeed him, which is widely seen to be between Marcos Jr. and Vice- president Leni Robredo. Andanar described the meeting as “cordial and productive.”
Political pundits pointed out that the PDP-Laban (Cusi wing) endorsed Marcos Jr. shortly before the meeting without consulting with the President, who serves as honorary head of the party. Officials of the party may have presumed that Duterte would endorse the son and namesake of the late dictator to succeed him.
Surviving founders of PDP-Laban lambasted the Cusi wing’s endorsement of Marcos Jr., reminding Energy Sec. Al Cusi that the party had been founded to counter the abuses of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Go was originally the choice of PDP-Laban (Cusi wing) to run for president with Duterte serving as his vice-presidential running mate but the freshman senator backed out, saying his family was against his candidacy. The President then gave up his plan to run for VP, first opting to run for senator instead but later also scrapping that plan.
Andanar said it was “unclear” if the President agreed to PDP-Laban’s backing of Marcos Jr. as Duterte had said on more than one occasion that he preferred to remain neutral on the presidential race. He has, however, asked that his supporters vote for Marcos Jr.’s running mate, his daughter Sara Duterte.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Kris Ablan also said that despite the meeting, “the President has not endorsed any candidate.”
Earlier, the candidate’s sister, Sen. Imee Marcos, admitted that they were seeking more talks with the President in order to receive his endorsement.
Marcos Jr. has also said that he would continue with Duterte’s policies, including his foreign affairs policy that veers heavily in favor of China.
Duterte, however, is said to be balking at the idea of supporting Marcos Jr. as he had earlier described the presidential bet as a “weak leader” and a spoiled brat, who was also a cocaine user.
But his close advisers were asking him to endorse Marcos Jr. as the best candidate to protect him from arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Duterte steps down.
The ICC filed a case against Duterte for the thousands of mostly young men who were killed as a result of the President’s anti-drug war.
Most of the victims were simply shot to death without warning by policemen, who also had no arrest warrant. Estimates on the total casualties of Duterte’s drug war range from a low of 10,000 to a high of 30,000.
The Marcos camp was mum on the meeting, only confirming that it did take place over the weekend.
The President said late last week that anyone seeking the presidency was “gago,” or a fool.