DAVAO CITY – Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday extended his hand of reconciliation to political rivals as he called for national healing following a bitter campaign in the race for the presidency that saw all candidates throwing mud at each other.
“I would like now reach my hand to my opponents and let us begin the process of healing,” Duterte said in a well-attended press briefing at The Royal Mandaya Hotel, where he went straight after casting his vote at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School in Matina.
Although acknowledging that the exchange of innuendoes is part of the election process in the Philippines, he admitted that the mudslinging during the campaign period was very intense and virulent.
“Let us begin to forget, and let us be friends,” he said.
The 71-year-old local chief executive is contesting the presidency against administration candidate Mar Roxas, Vice President Jejomar Binjay and senators Grace Poe and Mirriam Santiago.
When asked if he is also reaching out to vice presidential candidate and Sec. Antonio Trillanes IV – his most ardent critic during the campaign -- Duterte said his peace offering is intended for everybody.
Should his rivals refuse his call, Duterte said he cannot do anything about it.
During the past three months, Duterte engaged Roxas and Binay in a fiery verbal clash over issues as they toured the countryside to court votes. But, it was Duterte himself who absorbed the stinging blows in the final two weeks of the campaign when Trillanes went berserk and hurled baseless accusations against the presidential frontrunner.
Duterte was also a victim of a highly controversial political television advertisement allegedly paid for by Trillanes, although this was stopped after his running mate, vice presidential aspirant Alan Peter Cayetano, was able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) that prohibited the television network from further airing the ad.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he is satisfied with the conduct of the national and local elections yesterday.
“So, far I have not received any reports of cheating and violation,” he said. The mayor also made it clear to journalists that he is will not be presumptuous on the result of the electoral exercise. “I remain only hopeful as of this time,” Duterte said.