DAVAO CITY, Philippines - They are not expecting anything in return, not even publicity. All they want is a crime-free, drug-free, corruption-free and rebellion-free Philippines. "They" are a group of Filipino businessmen who believe Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's policies are good for business and have pledged P1 billion (S$30.5 million) to bankroll his presidential candidacy, according to Duterte's aides.
The businessmen, who call themselves the Anonymous Patriots for Peaceful and Progressive Philippines, or AP4, believe that "by helping Duterte win the presidency, they would be showing their patriotism," said former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, a Duterte friend and supporter.
No strings attached
"There will be no strings attached. They will not even allow their names to be published," said Piñol, quoting businessman Benigno Gopez, who speaks for the group.
Peter Laviña, Duterte's spokesperson, told the Inquirer he could confirm Piñol's claim.
"Yes, I can confirm. Many well-meaning Filipinos rich and not rich are willing to financially support Duterte," Laviña said.
He said it had always been volunteerism that had fueled the campaign to convince Duterte to run for President.
"In fact, the federalism campaign [that Duterte has been running] the past year was largely funded by volunteerism," Laviña said.
His own man
According to Piñol, what has drawn the businessmen to Duterte is his firm stand that no politician should become beholden to interest groups.
That's why, he said, the businessmen are not asking for anything in return for the money they would be contributing to the Duterte campaign-should the mayor finally decide to run.
"Do we want a President who is not beholden to anybody but only to the Filipino people? AP4 believes we should do our part," he quoted Gopez as saying.
According to Piñol, Gopez had told him that "many more are willing to contribute to Rody Duterte's campaign kitty."
These businessmen, he said, did not even have business transactions with any government agency.
Piñol said AP4 was also hopeful that the seed campaign fund would grow with the participation of patriotic Filipinos.
"While the estimated cost of running a presidential campaign is pegged at between P6 billion to P8 billion, Duterte's campaign is not expected to cost that much because most of his local political leaders are not dependent on the traditional party funding," he said.
In August, Duterte disclosed having been called to a meeting by five big businessmen known to be election spenders, who said they wanted to bankroll his presidential campaign.
One of them, he said, owns a large television network, another a communications company, and still another owns and runs a stevedoring company.
There were two others who own various big businesses.
But Duterte said he had turned down their offer because he was not running.
In subsequent interviews, he explained that he did not want to be obligated to any election contributor.
"I have been mayor of Davao City for many years now and no one can say I asked or received money from them during the campaign periods," he said.
Not losing hope
Piñol and Laviña are among the avid Duterte supporters who continue to hope that the mayor will change his mind in the face of his repeated statements that he is definitely not running.
"It's still several weeks away before the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy," Piñol said.
Laviña said there were many others who continued to pledge financial donations and other assistance even after the mayor's rejection of the calls for him to run.
Last week, Duterte urged his supporters not to go to the Luneta on Monday (today) where his supporters are holding a rally aimed at convincing him to run.
A similar rally was also staged at the Rizal Park in Davao City on Sunday, where about 500 people were seen to have already converged as of 4 p.m.
On Laviña's Facebook page, he appeared to be in contact with organizers of the Luneta rally, posting updates and photos. People could be seen putting up tents for the rally.
Duterte has not issued any statement on the P1-billion campaign pledge and his supporters' insistence about holding the rally.