Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: September 22, 2021 10:42 AM GMT
Dr. Willie Ong announces at a Sept. 22 press conference in Manila that he is running for vice president in Philippine elections next year. (Photo: YouTube)
A well-known doctor in the Philippines has confirmed that he will put himself up against President Rodrigo Duterte and run to become the country’s next vice president in elections next year.
Dr. Willie Ong, who has made at least 1,300 YouTube videos addressing people’s health concerns, will stand as the running mate of current Manila mayor Isko Moreno.
The announcement was made on Sept. 22 at a press conference in Manila.
Ong, who failed in a bid to become a senator in 2019, said the Philippines needs someone from the medical field to lead the country, especially during this time of pandemic.
He said he felt compelled to run for national office because of the “bleak” situation in the Philippines caused by Covid-19.
The doctor said Covid-19 will be around for a long time and that now was the time for the government to offer medical solutions to the pandemic instead of “militaristic” ones.
I have no enemy in politics here. I will not even criticize any of my opponents. They are not my enemy
“It was never my plan to run for vice president. I know people will criticize me for entering politics but health workers need representation. I saw health workers crying while asking for help from the government,” Ong told reporters at the briefing.
He was referring to recent protests by health workers claiming benefits and bonuses promised to them were withheld by the government.
Ong vowed to fight for health workers’ rights.
“I promise to be the voice of my fellow health practitioners and patients. Now is the time for us to have a [medical] representative while there is an opportunity to make things better,” he said.
“I have no enemy in politics here. I will not even criticize any of my opponents. They are not my enemy. We all have one common enemy here — that is, Covid.
“We need someone in government who understands how to defeat a medical problem as we are facing a medical problem.”
Ong’s decision to take on Duterte, who is running for the vicepresidency when his single six-year-term ends, came as a surprise to many.
Tony La Vina, a former dean of the Jesuit-run Ateneo School of Government, said Ong’s decision to run for vice president was a “stroke of genius.”
“I expected someone else who’s also a populist candidate. He’s the perfect choice for the pandemic. He’s a doctor. He’s a serious doctor,” he said.
Father Emman Afable of Sorsogon Diocese said Ong was challenging popular politics in the Philippines by presenting himself as a competent candidate because of his medical degree.
“Certain government officials do not have the skills to solve the pandemic, which is a medical problem. Now there is someone in the medical field who presents himself as an alternative,” Father Afable told UCA News.
He said the elections in 2022 should challenge the majority of Filipino people to vote on the basis of a candidate’s platform rather on who appeared to be doing well in surveys.
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