PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has yet to endorse his preferred successor, his spokesman said on Wednesday after an administration ally claimed that he received a presidential blessing to endorse the candidacy of Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo.

The president won’t support anyone in the presidential race “unless there is a compelling reason,” his spokesman Jose Ruperto Martin M. Andanar told a news briefing on Wednesday.

He said Eastern Samar Governor Ben P. Evardone, PDP-Laban Vice President for the Visayas, endorsed Ms. Robredo in his personal capacity.

Mr. Evardone on Monday endorsed Ms. Robredo, citing the qualifications set by Mr. Duterte himself. 

“We are not sure if that is the official stand of PDP-Laban and the officers of PDP-Laban,” Mr. Andanar said, adding that Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, the president of Mr. Duterte’s party, is in the best position to answer that.

Ms. Robredo would welcome Mr. Duterte’s endorsement provided that it’s not based on political favors, her spokesman Ibarra M. Gutierrez III said.

“She said if that happens, she will welcome it provided that it’s not a transactional arrangement,” he told CNN Philippines. “In other words, it’s not an endorsement in exchange for something else.”

Mr. Duterte at the weekend said the next president should be a lawyer who is compassionate and decisive.

Ms. Robredo and Jose Montemayor, Jr. are the only lawyers among the 10 presidential candidates for the May 2022 elections.

On Monday, Mr. Evardone said the President’s remarks on the traits of his successor was “a virtual endorsement” of Ms. Robredo.

The ruling PDP-Laban has been divided by in-fighting, with two factions claiming leadership over the party. Senator and boxing champion Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, who is running for president, claims to be the rightful party president.

He was ousted last year by the faction led by Mr. Cusi.

Meanwhile, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. said he was not worried that Mr. Duterte preferred a lawyer to become his successor.

“He found that his legal training to be of use, and that’s why he’s saying that,” he told an online forum.

Mr. Duterte last month said he would not endorse the presidential bid of Mr. Marcos even if he’s the running mate of his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The tough-talking leader, who canceled his vice-presidential bid last year, also said he would not endorse any presidential candidate. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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