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Mar to Duterte: Suntukan na lang

Liberal Party presidential bet Mar Roxas said he was not able to control his emotions when he said he was ready to have a slapping match with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. File photos

MANILA, Philippines - There might be no slapping match between Liberal Party (LP) presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte after all. 

But a fist fight between two presidential bets is now possible. 

While admitting that he was disappointed with himself for challenging Duterte to a slapping match, Roxas said he is ready to engage in a fist fight with the tough talking mayor, whom he branded as a bully.

“Just do what you want to do. And the slapping match? Bakit pa sampalan? Pambabae ‘yan. Suntukan na lang? Di ba? (Why a slapping match? That’s for girls. How about a fist fight?),” Roxas told reporters on Tuesday at the LP’s Balay headquarters in Quezon City.

“This is very simple. I am very sober and I am focused on what is good for the country,” he added.

Roxas said he was not able to control his emotions when he said he was ready to have a slapping match with Duterte.  

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“I was disappointed with myself and I was distracted,” he said.

The LP standard bearer, however, remained provocative and even gave his address in Quezon City in case Duterte wishes to go there to slap him.

“Talk. Talk. Talk. That’s all you do Digong. You keep on talking… (gives address in Cubao, Quezon City). I will wait for you,” Roxas said, referring to the mayor by his nickname.

“I am angry with bullies. I am angry with those who take advantage. I am angry with those who act like kings. I am angry with those with heavy fists. I am angry with people who think they are the only powerful ones in our country,” he added.

Roxas said bullying is already a worn out technique and he is unfazed by Duterte’s recent statements against him.

“Kung hindi ka pa nakahanap ng iyong katapat Digong, nandito ako. Hindi kita aatrasan (If you haven’t found your match yet Digong, I am here. I won’t back down on you),” the LP standard bearer said. 

Word war

The rift between Roxas and Duterte started last October when the mayor accused the LP camp of spreading rumors that he has throat cancer. Roxas, who used to be a close friend of Duterte, has denied the allegation. 

The word war resumed early this month after Roxas said that Davao City under Duterte is one of the safest places in the country. Citing statistics from the local police, Roxas said there were about 18,000 crime incidents that transpired in the city last year.

The comment appeared to have hit a raw nerve with Duterte, who has been perceived as a strong anti-criminality crusader.

The mayor responded to Roxas’ statement by claiming that the LP presidential bet is not a graduate of Wharton School of Economics. He also threatened to slap Roxas if they see each other during the campaign period.

Roxas, however, stressed that his statement about the criminal incidents in Davao was based on data from the Philippine National Police. He went on to say that he should be allowed to slap Duterte if he was able to prove that he really graduated from Wharton, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania.

Roxas was included in the list of notable alumni in the University of Pennsylvania website.

According to the website, Roxas earned his Bachelor of Science in Economics at the Wharton School in 1979.

Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid spokesman and Akbayan Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez expressed doubts that Roxas would really engage in a slapping match with Duterte. 

“Well, I doubt that he actually meant it literally right?” Gutierrez said.

“If you are repeatedly bullied, it has to end. You have to stand up against it,” he added. 

Mindanao officials back Mar

Meanwhile, local officials from Mindanao yesterday reaffirmed their support for Roxas amid the surge in Duterte’s survey ratings.

At least 24 lawmakers and governors met with Roxas at the LP’s Balay headquarters to assure him that the so-called “Duterte fever” would not hurt his chances in Mindanao.

Local officials of Mindanao assured Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas that the so-called Duterte fever will not kill his chances for presidency in the region.

"Well, definitely you have a regional bias because Duterte is really from Mindanao. But it doesn't mean that everybody from Mindanao will go for Duterte," Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat said.

"We might be branded as traitors for not supporting Duterte as a presidential candidate as a Mindanaoan. But my answer is that the 2016 election is not about where you're from, or your personality. The 2016 elections is about performance and what we can deliver to the people in the upcoming administration," Lanao del Norte Gov. Khalid Dimaporo said.

Roxas’s supporters remain optimistic that he will win in Mindanao even if Duterte is running for president.

“We can still see victory for Sir Mar Roxas in the areas of Mindanao especially in our areas in ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali said.

Other officials who attended the meeting were Gov. Roberto Uy and Rep. Isagani Amatong of Zamboanga del Norte, Reps. Ann Hofer and Belma Cabilao of Zamboanga Sibugay, Rep. Imelda Dimaporo of Lanao del Norte, Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte, Misamis Oriental Rep. Peter Unabia, Reps. Rolando Uy and Juliette Uy of Cagayan de Oro, Compostela Valley Rep. Maricar Zamora, Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo, Davao Oriental Rep. Nelson Dayanghirang, North Cotabato Rep. Jose Tejada, South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez, Butuan City Rep. Lawrence Fortun, Agusan del Sur Rep. Evelyn Mellana, Lanao del Sur Rep. Hooky Adiong, Reps. Bai Sandra Sema and Zajid Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, and Sulu Rep. Maryam Nabi Arbison. 

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