Bato also meets with Sara, says it’s ‘in relation to’ substitution

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 25) — Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, standard bearer of the ruling PDP-Laban party, met with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on Monday – two days after the presidential daughter’s meeting with another presidential aspirant, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

The Marcos camp has been coy about the meeting with the mayor on Saturday. Marcos' spokesperson, Vic Rodriguez, even called their simultaneous visits to Cebu a “beautiful coincidence.”

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa frankly admitted he flew to Davao City to remind Mayor Duterte of the November 15 deadline for substitution of political candidates.

Asked if they explicitly talked about the possibility of Sara Duterte replacing him in the presidential race, Dela Rosa in a phone interview said: “Basta niremind ko lang siya na November 15 is fast approaching... that’s in relation to substitution na di ba?”

[Translation: All I can say is I reminded her that November 15 is fast approaching… that’s in relation to substitution, right?]

Dela Rosa said he had a “serious” discussion with her, and believes it yielded a positive outcome. He said he will let the mayor announce her decision.

“Let's wait for her. Siya na bahala magsabi kung anong final niya… Nabago ko ba yung pag-iisip niya o hindi,” he said.

[Translation: Let's wait for her. It's up to her to announce her final decision... If I was able to change her mind or not.]

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ News Night, Dela Rosa said he cited “national interest” in urging the Davao City mayor to run for president, as he believes electing another Duterte would be best for the nation.

“Maganda na ‘yung takbo ng six years ng Duterte administration, and for continuity purposes, another six years of Duterte brand of leadership...gaganda yung ating bansa, kasi six years is not enough,” he said.

[Translation: The past six years of the Duterte administration has been smooth-sailing, and for continuity purposes, another six years of a Duterte brand of leadership will help the country, because six years is not enough.]

Sought for comment on Mayor Duterte's regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago supporting Marcos’s presidential bid, Dela Rosa said nothing is final yet.

He added, “Walang problema sa amin kung manalo si Bongbong Marcos, eh...kaibigan din namin 'yan, wala namang problema. Hindi mahirap mag-adjust."

[Translation: There's no problem if Bongbong Marcos wins. He’s also our friend, so that’s a non-issue. It’s not difficult to adjust.]

Dela Rosa has publicly admitted he would give way if Mayor Duterte eventually seeks the presidency instead of reelection. Officials of PDP-Laban, particularly the faction that nominated Dela Rosa, said this may be his personal opinion, since there are no talks of substitution within the party’s leadership.

The PDP-Laban faction led by its president, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, and backed by its chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte, at the same time maintains there’s nothing wrong about substitution, since it’s an option provided to political parties under the Omnibus Election Code. A number of lawmakers and legal experts, however, said the provision has been abused.

On Monday, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed a bill removing the withdrawal of one’s candidacy as a ground for substitution. It seeks to amend the law to allow substitution only in case of the death, incapacity, or disqualification of a candidate.

Gatchalian earlier offered to be Sara Duterte's vice presidential running mate. He filed a certificate of candidacy for senator as the mayor opted for reelection. A frontrunner in pre-election surveys, Duterte on Sunday maintained she still has no plans to run for President.

READ: Sara Duterte reiterates no presidential, VP run; in talks to support Marcos