MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he would retire rather than continue as vice president next year, a surprise reversal of a plan to keep him in government after his presidential term ends .
It is still possible that Mr Duterte will retain a strong influence if his daughter or close ally, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, wins the first place in the election.
The Philippine Constitution limits presidents to a single six-year term. But Mr Duterte had announced he would run for vice-president in the May election, and his former senior assistant, Mr Go, was due to run for president.
On Saturday, however, Mr. Go submitted documents declaring that he, and not Mr. Duterte, would be running for vice-president. Mr. Duterte then raised Mr. Go’s hand in unity.
Mr Duterte’s announcement appeared to leave the field of candidacy open to his popular daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who had previously said she would not run for the post if her father ran for office.
Referring to opinion polls which indicated public opposition to his previous plan, Mr Duterte, 76, said that “out of obedience to the will of the people, who after all placed me in the presidency he many years ago I now tell my compatriots that I will follow your wishes.
“Today, I am announcing my retirement,” he said, adding “Thank you all”. He has given no indication that he plans to resign before his term ends next June.
Richard Javad Heydarian, political analyst and author of “The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy,” said polls suggested the president would face an “uphill battle” if he continued to serve as vice president. -presidence.
Boxer Manny Pacquiao has announced his candidacy for the presidency. Mr. Pacquiao, a Filipino senator, was once an ally of Mr. Duterte but recently criticized the president, accusing his government of corruption.
Last month, the International Criminal Court authorized a full investigation into Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has claimed thousands of lives since taking office in 2016. Critics of Mr. Duterte in the Philippines have seen his plan to run for vice-president – with Mr. Go as president – as a way to stay in power and protect himself from prosecution.
Mr. Go recently said he had promised to serve Mr. Duterte “as long as he lives”. On Saturday he said he was running for the vice-presidency “so that he can continue the programs of real change started by President Duterte”.
Mr. Go made no apologies for the war on drugs, in which thousands of Filipinos were shot dead by police and vigilantes, allegedly because they were involved in drugs. “Let the public judge whether their children feel safer now with less drug addiction and less crime on the streets,” Go said.
The International Criminal Court said last month that the war on drugs appeared to have been “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population. A lawyer for Mr Duterte said officials from the Hague-based tribunal would not be allowed to enter the Philippines.
Mr Heydarian, the analyst, said Mr Duterte’s handling of the pandemic and its economic fallout was at the heart of much of the president’s recent discontent. Mr Duterte’s government has been accused of bribery in purchasing substandard protective equipment for health workers as the Philippines battles an increase in COVID-19 infections. There was also a lot of public frustration with his insistence on buying vaccines made in China, rather than prioritizing purchases from Western pharmaceutical giants.
Mr. Heydarian added that in the past Mr. Duterte’s fear “may have prevented many Filipinos from expressing their disapproval.” But he said “as Duterte enters his final months in power and there is new hope for a new kind of governance, more and more Filipinos are expressing their discontent.”