Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he is backing out of an announced plan to run for vice president in next year’s elections and will retire from politics after his term ends.
Duterte announced the surprise decision Saturday after accompanying his former longtime aide, Sen. Bong Go, who instead filed his own candidacy for the vice presidency at a Commission on Elections center.
‘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.’
His decision potentially paving the way for his daughter to contest the country’s highest office.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he is backing out of an announced plan to run for vice president in next year’s elections and will retire from politics after his term ends
Duterte, who polls show remains almost as popular as when he was swept to victory in 2016 on a promise to rid the country of drugs, is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term.
The authoritarian firebrand 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 could face criminal charges after leaving office.
But a recent poll by PulseAsia Research showed Duterte well back in second place among preferred vice presidents.
A survey by Social Weather Stations showed 60 percent of Filipinos did not think Duterte’s run for the vice presidency was in the spirit of the constitution.
Duterte made the surprise announcement at the venue where he was expected to register his candidacy. He did not specify when he would leave politics.
His close aide, Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go, registered for the vice presidency instead.
The tough-talking leader has not yet announced his preferred successor, but many expect it will be his daughter, Sara, who has been the front runner in recent polls.
She would likely protect Duterte from criminal charges in the Philippines, and International Criminal Court prosecutors probing his deadly drug war, which rights groups estimate has killed tens of thousands of people.
But the mayor of the southern city of Davao – a position held by her father before he became president – has said she would not run if Duterte sought the vice presidency.
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 took office in 2016 and launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups. The International Criminal Court is investigating the killings.
The election season kicked off Friday with candidates vying for thousands of posts from president to town councillor.
The week-long registration process launches a typically noisy and deadly seven months of campaigning for more than 18,000 positions – but the raging pandemic and economic misery caused by Covid lockdowns could dampen the party atmosphere.
Even if Sara misses the October 8 deadline for registration, she still has until November 15 to make a late entry into the presidential race – as her father did in 2015.
Among other front runners for the top job are Duterte’s ally Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, son and namesake of the country’s former dictator, and ex-actor and city mayor Francisco Domagoso – known by his screen name Isko Moreno.
Newly retired boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao registered on Friday to run for president.
International Criminal Court judges last month authorised an investigation into the Philippines’ deadly ‘war on drugs’ campaign under Rodrigo Duterte, saying the crackdown ‘cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation’
ICC judges authorized an investigation into the Philippines’ deadly ‘war on drugs’ campaign, saying last month the crackdown ‘cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation.’
ICC judges gave the authorisation on September 15 after prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought their permission to investigate the deadly government campaign.
She said that a preliminary probe she began in February 2018 found ‘a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed’ in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 under Duterte.
In a written decision, judges who considered Bensouda’s request found a ‘reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation’ into the killings saying they appear to amount to a crime against humanity under the court’s founding statute.
In July, Duterte attacked the court, saying he would continue his fight against drugs.
‘I have never denied (it), and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country – I will kill you,’ he said.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought the court’s permission to investigate the government campaign which has allegedly resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians
Pictured: Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officials inspecting 1,100lbs of seized drugs on September 7. The ‘war on drugs’ in the country has seen thousands of civilian deaths at the hands of the police and security forces
In a written decision, judges who considered Bensouda’s request found a ‘reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation’ into the killings saying they appear to amount to a crime against humanity under the court’s founding statute (pictured: Philippines police)
The court said in a statement at the time that the judges ruled that ‘based on the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called `war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.’
They added: ‘The available material indicates that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to or in furtherance of a State policy.’
When Duterte announced he was withdrawing his country from the court in 2016, he defended the campaign as ‘lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, specially the youth.’
But there are widespread concerns Duterte used the ‘war on drugs’ as a facade to mask ruthless killings enforcing his rule.
Human rights groups accuse Duterte of inciting deadly violence and say police have murdered unarmed drug suspects on a massive scale as part of the campaign.
Police deny this, and Duterte says the police are under orders to kill only in self-defence.
The tough-talking Duterte has repeatedly claimed the ICC has no jurisdiction over him and that he will not cooperate with what he has called an ‘illegal’ probe, even threatening to arrest prosecutor Bensouda
Duterte was elected in 2016 on a campaign promise to get rid of the Philippines’ drug problem, openly ordering police to kill drug suspects if their lives are in danger
In their decision, ICC judges said that even though the Philippines had withdrawn as a state party to the court in 2016, the alleged crimes took place while Manila was still a signature to the court’s Rome Statute, so it could still probe them.
The probe will cover the period from 2011 to 2019.
‘The court retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a state party,’ the judges said.
Set up in 2002, the ICC is a so-called court of last resort and only becomes involved in probing the world’s worst crimes if its member states are unable or unwilling to do so.
The crackdown was Duterte’s signature policy initiative which he has defended fiercely, especially from criticism from Western leaders and institutions which he says do not care about his country.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in over 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to official data, but human rights groups estimate the number of dead could be several times higher.
The tough-talking Duterte repeatedly claimed the ICC has no jurisdiction over him and that he will not cooperate with what he has called an ‘illegal’ probe, even threatening to arrest prosecutor Bensouda.