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Unless “explicitly stated,” candidates in the 2019 midterms election may not assume they have been endorsed by Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a regional party co-founded by Mayor Sara Z. Duterte.

This clarification was issued by HNP-Davao political officer Jefry Tupas, amid a flurry of claims by candidates that they have already secured HNP’s endorsement through Mayor Sara.

One such claim was made by Zamboanga City first district Rep. Celso Lobregat of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bansa (PDP-Laban).

According to Lobregat, the endorsement was made during a “luncheon meeting by invitation” on November 9 in a restaurant in Quezon City. The lawmaker said several senatorial candidates and other HNP officials were present during the event.

A news item about the purported article was even published on a local paper in Zamboanga City Monday, in which Lobregat was quoted expressing his gratitude to Sara for the supposed endorsement. The news item even had an accompanying photo with Sara raising the hand of Lobregat.

But Tupas said he can’t recall that Sara endorsed Lobregat, and that the lawmaker may have made too much out of the photo opportunity.

“I don’t know how a photo can be misconstrued as an endorsement. I believe until it was and explicitly stated that HNP or Mayor Sara has endorsed a candidate can we really say an endorsement has been made,” said Tupas, who is also City Hall’s chief information officer.

Sara is not a member of any national political party, including the PDP-Laban, of which President Rodrigo Duterte is the national chairman.

Even Lobregat’s main opponent, incumbent Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar of the Liberal Party, made light of Lobregat’s supposed endorsement from HNP.

“It seems that the congressman has endorsed Mayor Sara Duterte. It seems it’s the other way around,” Salazar said.

So far, HNP has openly endorsed 14 senatorial candidates. Among them are former special aide of President Rodrigo Duterte Christopher Lawrence “Bong’ Go, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa, former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, former Maguindanao second district representative Zajid Mangundadato, Pia Cayetano, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito, and Francis Tolentino.

Aside from the senatorial bets, the regional party is also backing candidacies of local officials whose local parties have a formal alliance with HNP. (Lilian C Mellejor/PNA)

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