Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will not run for vice president in next year’s elections and will retire from politics after the end of his term.
Duterte announced the surprise decision on Saturday after accompanying his former longtime aide, Senator Bong Go, who instead filed his own candidacy for the vice presidency at a Commission on Elections centre.
“The overwhelming … sentiment of the Filipinos is that I am not qualified and it would be a violation of the constitution to circumvent the law, the spirit of the constitution” to run for the vice presidency, Duterte said. “Today I announce my retirement from politics.
Philippine presidents are limited by the constitution to a single six-year term and opponents had said they would question the legality of Duterte’s announced vice presidential run before the Supreme Court.
Duterte’s move fuelled speculation he was clearing the way for his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, to run to succeed him.
Duterte-Carpio, who replaced her father as mayor of Davao, said last month she was not running for higher office next year because she and her father had agreed only one of them would run for national office in 2022.
“This allows Sara Duterte to run,” said Antonio La Vina, professor of law and politics at the Ateneo de Manila University. But La Vina said he could not rule out the possibility the firebrand leader could have a change of heart and be Go’s substitute.
Candidates have until Friday to register, but withdrawals and substitutions are allowed until November 15, leaving scope for last-minute changes of heart, like the 11th-hour entry of Duterte for the 2016 election, which he won by a huge margin.
“This is very much President Rodrigo Duterte’s political style keeping everybody on their toes, making sure that everybody hangs on to his word. But he’s also had the reputation of being a leader who does not keep his word,” Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan reported from the capital, Manila.
“During the 2016 election campaign, he repeatedly said that he would not run for public office. He did not show up at the filing of candidacy only to be filed a month later by somebody who stood in for him.”
Duterte declared in August he would contest the vice presidency in the next election – a move critics said was a smokescreen and motivated by fear that he could face criminal charges after leaving office.