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No debate unless I’m official candidate – Duterte

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte stressed that it would be presumptuous for him to join the events when the Comelec has not resolved the disqualification cases filed against him. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should first resolve the disqualification cases filed against him and, eventually, declare him an official candidate in the May polls before he would participate in the series of presidential debates the poll body is organizing.

He stressed that it would be presumptuous for him to join the events when the Comelec has not resolved the disqualification cases filed against him.

The mayor also warned inter-agency operatives against pushing a “fabricated” raids aimed at showing his alleged failure to control illegal drug operations in Davao City, which might lessen his chances of winning the May polls.

“Do not ever fabricate to destroy me. I will really go after you. I will kill you,” he said, referring to the operatives who have recently arrived in the city to stage a raid on a supposed shabu laboratory.

In making his point on the presidential debates, Duterte dared reporters to ask the Comelec if he is a presidential candidate or not. 

His name still appears in the list of eight presidential candidates released last week but Duterte said it would be inappropriate for anyone who is yet to be considered an official candidate to join the debates.

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Comelec has scheduled three presidential debates – one each in Mindanao, the Visayas and Luzon starting Feb. 21 in Cagayan de Oro City for the Mindanao leg – but still needs to rule on the disqualification cases against candidates.

The poll body promised to issue a decision on the anti-Duterte cases filed by Rizalito David, Elly Pamatong and University of the Philippines-Diliman student council chair JP delas Nieves on Feb. 8. 

On the raids, Duterte said it is a “set-up” aimed at making it appear that he has failed in his long-time drive to rid Davao of illegal drugs.

“If it turned out to be true, then there is no problem – we will admit our failure,“ Duterte told reporters in a hastily called news briefing almost midnight on Monday. 

He refused to identify the operatives but stressed that his intelligence sources have updated him of the movements of agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the city.

The mayor also called on his political rivals to spare the careers of Davao City police chief Sr. Supt. Vicente Danao Jr. and Task Force Davao commander Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, who both appeared with him at the press conference.

Meanwhile, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Laban (PDP-Laban) also reminded its party members of their official candidates – Duterte for president and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano for vice president – amid the sprouting of splinter groups that support other VP bets.

Ben Ranque, PDP-Laban secretary general, identified these sub-groups as ALDUB or Alyansa Duterte Bongbong, DUHON for Duterte-Honasan, DUROB for Duterte-Robredo, DUTRIL for Duterte-Trillanes and DUCA for Duterte-Cayetano.– With Perseus Echeminada

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