FOCUS ON VAX ROLLOUT. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people in Malacañang on May 31, 2021. Malacañang assured on Thursday (June 3) that boosting the country’s Covid-19 vaccination drive and not the upcoming May 2022 elections remains Duterte’s top priority. (Presidential photo by Robinson Niñal)

MANILA – Malacañang assured on Thursday that boosting the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination drive and not the upcoming May 2022 elections remains President Rodrigo Duterte’s top priority.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda disclosed that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte will be gunning for the presidency in 2022.

Salceda’s revelation comes after ruling party Partido Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP)-Laban issued a resolution seeking to convince the older Duterte to run for vice president.

However, Salceda also said that he does not see a Duterte-Duterte tandem in the 2022 polls.

Asked if Duterte has selected a running mate should he run for the country’s highest office, Roque said the President is focused on leading government efforts to respond to the pandemic.

“As of now, siguro nakatutok pa rin ang Presidente po dito po sa pandemya, sa bakuna. Ang importante naman mabakunahan ang pinakamarami natin kababayan ng sa ganun magkaroon po talaga tayo ng eleksyon kung saan ang mga tao at mga kandidato ay magkakaroon ng pagkakataon ng panayam at makaboto ng pinakamabuting mga kandidato (As of now, perhaps the President is still focused on the pandemic, on the vaccine. What is important is to vaccinate most of our countrymen so that we can really have an election where the people and the candidates will have the opportunity to interact and vote for the best candidates),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque admitted that Duterte did mention “options” as to who could be his running mate including Sara Duterte, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Senator Manny Pacquiao, former Senator Bongbong Marcos, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

Despite Sara’s inclusion in her father’s list of potential running mates, Roque said the President advised his daughter on June 31 not to join the presidential race next year.

Sara herself has remained mum on the possibility of joining next year's presidential race.

She said she understands why people are speculating over her potential candidacy to the highest office in the land, attributing it to her "not giving any reasons".

Not prohibited

Amid criticism that Duterte’s possible vice presidential run is against the spirit of the 1987 Constitution since whoever is elected as president can resign and hand the power to the elected vice president, Roque cited the “constitutional construction rule”.

“Mayroon po tayong constitutional construction rule na what is not prohibited is allowed. Kung pinagbabawal po ang Presidente na tumakbong VP, dapat sinulat po ‘yan. Nagkaroon ng teksto sa Saligang Batas na nagpapabawal diyan. Pero since wala pong prohibisyon, it must be allowed (We have a constitutional construction rule that says what is not prohibited is allowed. So if the President is not allowed to run for VP, it should have been indicated there. There should be a text in the Constitution prohibiting it. But since there is none, it must be allowed),” he said.

Political scientist Cleve Arguelles, a lecturer with the De La Salle University political science department, earlier said although Duterte’s possible vice presidential run is “technically allowed”, it still violates the “spirit” of the Constitution.

Lawyer and political analyst Tony La Viña, for his part, said there is no legal impediment to Duterte seeking the vice presidency.

On Wednesday, Roque said Duterte will decide on his possible run as vice president by October this year.

All aspirants for national and local posts will have to formalize their bids for the May 2022 national and local elections by October.

“Abangan na lang po natin dahil sa ayaw at sa gusto naman ng lahat ng mga kakandidato, pagdating ng Oktubre, kinakailangan sila ay magdesisyon na (Let's just wait and see because all the candidates don't want to and want to, when October comes, they will have to make a decision),” he said in an interview over RMN.

Roque, meanwhile, agreed with Senator Imee Marcos’ remark that Duterte has a high chance of winning the country’s second-highest post due to his consistently high trust and performance ratings. (PNA)