Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday he was retiring from politics, a surprise move that fueled speculation that he was clearing the way for his daughter to run to succeed him.
“The overwhelming feeling … from Filipinos is that I am unqualified and it would be a violation of the constitution to circumvent the law, the spirit of the constitution” to run for vice presidency, Duterte said.
“Today I announce my retirement from politics,” he added, accompanying loyal Senator Christopher “Bong” Go of his ruling party, PDP-Laban, as he signed up to run for vice presidency.
Duterte, who according to polls remains almost as popular as when he was swept to victory in 2016 with the promise of ridding the country of drugs, was expected to run for vice president in 2022. He is not eligible to run again for office. principal. since the constitution establishes a term limit of six years for the president.
Political observers had long suspected that Duterte could come as a surprise, such as a presidential race for his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, next year.
But Duterte-Carpio, who replaced her father as Davao mayor, said last month that she would not run for higher office next year because she and her father had agreed that only one of them would run for national office in 2022.
Major Duterte’s decision not to join the race next year would clear the way for her.
“This allows Sara Duterte to run,” said Antonio La Viña, professor of law and politics at Ateneo de Manila University. But La Viña said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that Duterte senior could change his mind and be Go’s replacement.
Probable ICC probe protection
The authoritarian activist declared in August that he would run for the vice presidency in the next election, a move that critics said was a smokescreen and was motivated by fears that he could face criminal charges after leaving office.
Rodrigo Duterte made the surprise announcement in the place where he was expected to register his candidacy. The tough-talking leader did not specify when he would leave politics, nor has he yet announced his preferred successor.
Candidates have until Friday to register, but withdrawals and substitutions are allowed until November 15, leaving room for last-minute changes of opinion, such as Duterte’s entry at 11 a.m. for the 2016 election, which won by a wide margin.
His daughter Sara, who has been the frontrunner in recent polls, would likely protect Duterte from criminal charges in the Philippines and prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigating his deadly war on drugs, which human rights groups say has killed tens of thousands of people.