Palace: Duterte endorsing allied candidates in events 'not intentional'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — President Rodrigo Duterte did not mean to turn events he attended into campaign sorties for allies running in the 2019 elections, Malacañang said Tuesday.

"Those candidates happen to be there. These candidates are very creative. They know the schedule of the President so they go there," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing. "It's not intentional on his part."

He stressed it is just normal for Presidents to endorse allied candidates.

"Walang masama dun (There is nothing wrong with that). All Presidents do that mas grabe pa nga yun (those were even worse)… There's nothing wrong with endorsing or praising someone who's running for the Senate," Panelo said.

He said he does not know who among the senatorial aspirants asked the President's help, but believes former Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go would be one of them. Go was seen in most of Duterte's events. The President even called him "senator" in at least one event, expressing confidence Go would win come May 13.

In recent speeches, Duterte also vouched for former Presidential Adviser Francis Tolentino and former Bureau of Corrections Chief Ronald dela Rosa, saying they are dedicated and honest public servants, along with Go.

The campaign period for the May 13 elections begins February 12, although the Commission on Elections said it cannot stop aspirants from campaigning early.