President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not endorsing any presidential candidate, Malacañang reiterated Tuesday.

Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar made this remark after Duterte, in a recent event in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, told the Ilocano crowd to choose the Ilocano leader they favor.

Citing Duterte, Andanar said the President will not support any presidential candidate but may change his mind if there is a “compelling reason” to do so.

“The President has repeatedly said that he does not support any presidential candidate unless there is a compelling reason at kung maalala niyo po dun sa interview na ginawa natin (and if you remember in our interview) with the President, he clearly said he may or may not,” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Andanar, who is also Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), said it is best to wait for the President to make a final decision on whether or not he would endorse any presidential candidate.

“Antayin nalang natin ang magiging desisyon ng ating mahal na Pangulo. Kung ano ang sinabi ni Presidente sa Ilocos (Let’s just wait for a decision from our dear President. Whatever he said in Ilocos), you know the President, he likes to play with words, he loves to horse around,” he added.

During the inauguration of a farmers’ market in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur on Friday, Duterte told the Ilocano crowd to choose the Ilocano leader they favor.

"Kaya ibigay ko na lang ito isang buwan aalis na ako sa Malacañan, mamili na kayo kung sinong Ilocano na lider ilagay ninyo doon (That's why in a month, I will leave Malacañan, you choose which Ilocano leader you will put there)," Duterte said.

Without mentioning presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, who is the only Ilocano candidate vying for the country's top leadership, Duterte went on to say that many Ilocanos are members of his Cabinet, with several of them seeking a slot in the Senate.

Even if his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is married to an Ilocano from Paoay, Ilocos Norte, is the running mate of Marcos, the President has stood firm in his decision to “stay neutral.” (PNA)