(Photo shows Duterte addressing his campaign leaders from a stage with a backdrop in tribal and ethnic colors. In the front table, Duterte’s Vice Presidential running mate Alan Peter Cayetano, listens intently. Manny Piñol)

Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, who admits he lacks funds for a nation-wide campaign, yesterday set a new ethical standard in Philippine politics when he said he will refuse money and contributions from groups and individuals doing business with government.

“I will not accept money and contributions from people and groups who have transactions with government because I will have to pay them back with favours when I become President,” Duterte said during his address to his campaign leaders from all over the country who gathered for two days in Davao City Jan. 5 and 6 to prepare for the Presidential campaign.

Duterte said while his campaign lacks the funds for an extensive national campaign, he has directed his campaign finance committee members to ensure that campaign contributions would only come from people and groups with no vested interests.

“The presidency is a long shot. We do not have the machiney and we do not have enough funds. But we will not receive money from companies doing business with government,” he said.

Duterte said accepting campaign funds from people and companies with interests in government projects and contracts would compromise his independence in decision making as President.

“If I compromise myself, I’d rather not be President. Ayaw ko na may utang ako. The Presidency is not mine to give,” he said.

Duterte told his campaign leaders that he has just rejected offers of financial help from individuals known to have dealings with government.

“I don’t want to reveal their names but I have just refused contributions from five people, just recently,” he said.

Duterte’s campaign finance head, former agriculture secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez who was his high school classmate and friend, has been given clear guidance to be discriminating in accepting campaign contributions.

Even as Mayor of Davao City for 23 years, Duterte has been known to refuse contributions from people whose intentions are not very clear to him.

In the 2013 elections, he ordered the return of campaign contributions to at least three big companies saying he did not need the funds as he was running unopposed.

Duterte is the poorest among the five Presidential candidates with less than P10-M in his savings account which he said he has set aside for his medicines and hospitalisation when he grows old.

While his father, the late Vicente G. Duterte, was Governor of the undivided Davao Province, the Presidential candidate stays in a low-cost housing subdivision in Matina, Davao City.

In a recent report by an advertising survey firm, Nielsen, Duterte was reported to have the least expenses for advertising at a little over P120-million in TV ads which were paid for by his personal friends.

Administration candidate Manuel Roxas III was the biggest spender for advertising at nearly P800-M, Vice President Jejomar Binay spent almost P700-M and disqualified Presidential candidate Grace Poe almost P500-M.

All of these gargantuan amounts were spent even before the actual election campaign could start.

Duterte’s pronouncement on how his campaign finance committee would handle contributions has set a new ethical standard in Philippine politics which is now rife with corruption where candidates accept money from interest groups, criminal syndicates and even drug lords.

“This is a tough act to follow,” said campaign spokesman Peter Tiu Laviña.

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