By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is expected to actively campaign for the “presidential slate” in the May elections in the hopes the “Duterte magic” would rub off on his preferred senatorial bets.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said there was no law prohibiting the President to campaign for certain candidates in the elections.
The campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list organizations will start on February 12 and end on May 11.
“The President will be, as he said, he will endorse certain candidates of his choice so presumably he will be actively campaigning since he is not prohibited by law to do so,” Panelo said in an interview with reporters at the Palace.
“The President, under the law, can campaign for or against candidate by reason of the provision under the law that officials by reason of their political offices can campaign. The rest, all employees of government, AFP (Armed Forces), police cannot campaign for or against any candidate nor can they use any resource of the government,” he added.
Panelo invoked a provision in the Omnibus Election Code that states “Any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member or the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all other para-military units that now exist or which may hereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any partisan political activity, except to vote or to preserve public order, if he is a peace officer.”
Panelo acknowledged that the President’s endorsement could help enhance the chances of his senatorial bets in the upcoming elections.
“An endorsement could translate into votes given the popularity of the President but then again the ultimate judgment will be on the part of the people,” he said.
Asked if there was any “Duterte magic” to rub off on the President’s candidates, Panelo said: “Most likely. I think there will be. Sigurado ‘yan.”
The President recently asked his Cabinet members not to campaign for candidates in the elections, even though the law allows them to campaign. Duterte, in prohibiting the official family from campaigning, sought to avoid issues of impropriety such as use of state resources to advance the candidacies of certain individuals.
The military and police were earlier asked by the President to remain neutral in the May polls and instead ensure peaceful and orderly democratic exercise.
Panelo explained that the President has made “personal preference” about senatorial candidates even though the ruling PDP Laban party and regional Hugpong ng Pagbabago have their separate tickets.
“By endorsing them, he’s telling the people these are my personal choice. It’s not illegal,” he said about the “presidential slate.”
He said if the President supports the senatorial slates of the two parties, it still showed that the administration has “a deep bench of senatorial hopefuls.”
“The situation where there are so many candidates being supported by the administration can only mean we have a large number of highly qualified candidates that any one of them winning will make the President pleased and confident they will support measure that will rebound to benefit of people,” he said.