Isko Moreno-Willie Ong launch 2022 bid, neutral on political color

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 22) — Manila Mayor Francis "Isko Moreno" Domagoso on Wednesday officially declared his presidential bid in the 2022 national elections with Dr. Willie Ong as his running mate, making it clear they don't identify as administration nor opposition bets.

Moreno, a former actor who grew up in the slums of Tondo, acknowledged he doesn't have an extensive educational background and he doesn't come from a powerful political clan. Although he doesn't have experience in a national position, he said his plans for the Philippines will be based on the programs and projects he has carried out in the country's capital during his first term as mayor.

"I do not run on promises. I run on prototypes," he said during their campaign launch in Tondo.

During his speech and press conference, the 46-year-old presidential hopeful slammed the government's COVID-19 response and threw shade at Duterte's foul language, but he did not give a straight answer if he is the candidate of the opposition.

"I can work with anybody, opposition, administrasyon. If we're going to define ourselves based on political colors, ang makikinabang ay ang politiko lang," he said.

[Translation: I can work with anybody, opposition, administration. Only politicians will benefit if we define ourselves based on political colors.]

Moreno and Vice President Leni Robredo are 1Sambayan’s top bets to lead the opposition in 2022.

At the same time, he denied that he is a "rebrand" of Duterte given the job opportunities he received during the early years of the administration's term. He said he sees it as an opportunity to serve the public, not as service to the country's top leader.

Moreno, who has recently been at the receiving end of Duterte's insults, said he respects the president. In fact, he said he will continue projects under the administration's big-ticket infrastructure program "Build, Build, Build" that are deemed beneficial to Filipinos.

He was also asked by the media about issues hounding Duterte, such as the non-renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise and the investigation of the International Criminal Court in the administration's war on illegal drugs. He cited the rule of law for both instances. For media franchises, he said he will sign it if it passes Congress.

Ong, meanwhile, refused to criticize the current administration. He said the fight should be focused on the ongoing health crisis.

"I will stay as myself. Wala akong babatikusin [I will not criticize anyone]," he said.

Ong, who has been often photographed with Duterte allies like Mocha Uson, said he has close ties to members of the administration, opposition, and everything in between.

Moreno will face Senators Ping Lacson and Manny Pacquiao in the upcoming elections, while Ong will battle it out with President Rodrigo Duterte and Senate President Tito Sotto in the May 2022 polls. The official filing of candidacy is set next month, where more candidates are expected to emerge.

In a June survey on probable candidates, Moreno placed second among Filipinos' top bets for president as well as vice president. Ong, who has 16 million followers on Facebook, lost in the 2019 senatorial elections, placing 18th out of the 62 hopefuls.