Davao City—While President Rodrigo Duterte skipped the miting de avance of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago senatorial candidates in his own bailiwick on Thursday night, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, the Lakas-CMD party national president, appeared here to show their support to the candidates.
Arroyo and Romualdez, who was earlier declared by HNP campaign manager Davao Mayor Sara Duterte as the “next Speaker of the House,” shared the stage with the 13 senatorial bets backed by the regional party.
HNP, led by Sara Duterte, has been campaigning for the 13 candidates gunning for the 12 Senate seats up for grabs in the midterm elections on Monday.
Former Senator Bong Revilla, recently acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of the plunder charge over the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam after being in prison for over four years, is the lone Lakas candidate in the HNP senatorial slate.
Arroyo, also of Lakas-CMD before joining the ruling PDP-Laban party and Romualdez pitched the HNP senatorial candidates in their home provinces in Pampanga and Leyte, respectively.
The HNP campaign kicked off in vote-rich Pampanga and ended in Sara Duterte’s turf in Davao City, where she is seeking reelection with her brother Sebastian “Baste” as her running mate.
Another presidential son, erstwhile Davao Vice Mayor Paolo “Polong” Duterte, is eyeing the city’s congressional seat.
“I apologize, he [the President] cannot come,” the Davao mayor announced toward the end of the campaign rally. “The President can’t make it, but he saw our event via livestream.”
She said the President is thankful for all the support for his candidates.
A podium equipped with a bulletproof glass panel was set up on the stage at the San Pedro Cathedral Square for the President.
While Sara Duterte did not mention the reason for the President’s absence, his former aide, Christopher “Bong” Go told reporters the Chief Executive was tired and had to take some rest.
Go noted the President came from a campaign sortie in Bohol on Wednesday to support the gubernatorial bid of former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco.
Had the President showed up in the HNP miting de avance, it would be the first time, since he only attended the campaign sorties of PDP-Laban where he sits as national chairman.
Duterte said she invited her father to attend the HNP miting de avance to which he agreed, but reminded him “to behave” when he delivers his speech.
The President campaigned for his own candidates which included Go, reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, former Bucor and PNP chief Ronald “Bato, dela Rosa, outgoing Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, and former presidential consultant Francis Tolentino.
HNP’s “guest” candidates include reelectionist Senators Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, and JV Ejercito, returning Sen. Pia Cayetano and outgoing Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, Freddie Aguilar, and former Interior Secretary Raffy Alunan.
An estimated 20,000 people stayed at the quadrangle to finish the program despite the heavy downpour.
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