Cabinet men, celebrities in PDP-Laban Senate slate


Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr.

Government officials, including members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet, must resign from their posts if they will run in next year’s national elections, MalacaƱang said on Wednesday.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. issued the statement following Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone’s announcement that some of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan’s (PDP-Laban) senatorial candidates for the 2022 elections will come from Duterte’s Cabinet.

“I do not know if I can confirm this because it did not come from the President, and I only speak for the President. So having said that, I would like to reiterate my gratitude for the trust given to us by PDP-Laban and Governor Evardone,” Roque said in a virtual press briefing.

“You know that there are specific prohibitions once a government official decides to join the elections. As soon as they filed their certificate of candidacy, which is months ahead of elections – more than six months – they need to resign from their posts to prevent an undue advantage,” he added.

Evardone, PDP-Laban’s newly elected vice president for the Visayas, said Duterte and some leaders of the ruling party have discussed the initial list of candidates, which include Cabinet members, former lawmakers and celebrities.

“That’s his (Duterte’s) personal list. Based on his consultations with several leaders and personalities,” Evardone said in a TV interview

“He’s still finalizing it and hopefully it will be finalized before the PDP-Laban national congress in September where all the candidates will be proclaimed by PDP-Laban,” he added.

The initial list included Roque, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Greco Belgica, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

Also included in the pool of possible candidates are House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and former senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.

Entertainment personalities Willie Revillame and Robin Padilla as well as broadcaster Raffy Tulfo were also in the pool.

“They have not confirmed that they are actually running but they are just being considered by the President,” Evardone said.

Roque said he would decide on his political plans for 2022 after the country attained population protection against Covid-19, saying he remained focused on his role as the President’s spokesman.

“Right now, I am focused on my duty. I returned as Palace spokesperson amid the pandemic because I believe that factual and accurate information is crucial in times like this,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said President Duterte’s primary concern at the moment is the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For now, President Duterte and I are focused on the country’s Covid-19 response and economic recovery measures. These are our priorities for now. Vaccines first before politics,” he said.

Go, who was recently elected PDP-Laban auditor, said there are nine Cabinet members, some reelectionists and some comebacking senators who want to be in the President’s tentative senatorial lineup.

“And there are new names who want to be included in the President’s lineup. There is still no final list. The initial list of Governor Evardone was based on discussions with party members,” the senator clarified.

Go said he believes President Duterte will choose candidates who can help him continue the original programs he began in 2016.

“Foremost, the President will choose the candidates who put the interest of the people first,” Go said.

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