Duterte: I can choose whether to campaign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he has the option to campaign for candidates in the upcoming elections.

The President said this in his speech during the distribution of land ownership certificates to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Maguindanao on Monday.

"Ako, as a political entity by myself kasi pinili ako ng tao, I can choose whether to campaign. May mga tao lang ako na dapat pasalamatan, one, two or three. 'Yung pagsabi ko tatakbo ako na magsabi 'Magtulong kami sa iyo,' apat lang," he said.

[Translation: I, as a political entity by myself because I was chosen by the people, I can choose whether to campaign. There are people I must thank, one, two or three. When I said I would run, there were four people who said "we'll help you."]

While the President has yet to reveal his personal slate for the senatorial race, he mentioned two names in his speech: Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and Bataan Representative Abet Antonino.

Duterte has also mentioned his trusted aide, former presidential special assistant Bong Go, former national police chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, and former political adviser Francis Tolentino in previous speeches.

On Friday, another name was added: former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who has been accused of plundering government funds.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended Duterte's choice, saying Estrada has not been convicted.

"The President to my mind has not received any evidence of corruption vis-à-vis Mr. Estrada," he said.

On Duterte's support for Marcos, Panelo said, "Utang na loob yata yung kanyang reason [It could be a debt of gratitude]... In the first place, Imee is not charged."

The President's party, PDP-Laban, is set to reveal its senatorial slate on Thursday, but he will have his own ticket.

He has also expressed support for the senatorial bets under Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the regional party of his daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.