PDP-Laban 'convincing' Duterte to seek Senate seat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — A faction of the ruling PDP-Laban party now wants President Rodrigo Duterte to run for senator in 2022 after the chief executive dropped an earlier plan to seek the vice presidency.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who leads a faction of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, was quoted in a press statement released on Wednesday, saying the party has been trying to convince Duterte to run for the Senate.

He said should Duterte heed their suggestion, he could also serve as the campaign manager for the tandem of Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa and Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go.

Cusi believes the President is the "best" fit for the job and that he would help boost the Bato-Go tandem's chances in next year's polls.

Dela Rosa has filed his candidacy for president, but there are speculations that he would be replaced before the Nov. 15 substitution deadline. Go, meanwhile, is running for vice president.

Duterte, who sits as chairman of the PDP-Laban Cusi wing, initially accepted his party's nomination, but later withdrew from the vice presidential race, saying he was retiring from politics. He was then replaced by Go.

"If the President would not run (for vice president) because he is firm on his decision not to go back on his word, I said, why not run for the Senate, so he could bring change there? That will be good for the country," Cusi said.

He added Duterte, who has been launching attacks against the Senate due to its investigation into the government's controversial procurement of pandemic supplies, "can continue to push all the reforms needed in the legislature."

The PDP-Laban earlier said it was considering substitutions in its senatorial slate, but it did not mention who among its current candidates might be replaced.

Cusi also said the party was still open to fielding a Go-Duterte tandem, which was its original choice, but that it was leaning on supporting the team-up of Dela Rosa and Go.

"What is good is that we will offer to the public [candidates] for president and vice president, who both believe in the program of government that we are pushing," he said, referring to the administration's "Build, Build, Build" projects, among others.

While the Cusi wing admitted Dela Rosa has so far not led election surveys, "it doesn't mean he can't catch up."

"Based on our studies and the recent surveys that we are seeing, his future is looking bright," it said.

On Monday, Dela Rosa met with presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to "remind" her of the substitution deadline, which happens in over two weeks.

The PDP-Laban standard bearer has repeatedly said he would give way to the presidential daughter if she eventually seeks the highest position.

Dela Rosa and Mayor Duterte's meeting comes two days after the latter met with another presidential aspirant, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr, which fueled speculations for a potential BBM-Sara tandem.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.