MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday announced he would be retiring from politics, walking back a previous claim that he would run for the vice presidency in 2022 — and leaving the public guessing as to whom he wants to be his successor.
Addressing the public, Duterte cited a recent survey that found most Filipinos believe a run by Duterte for vice president would be unconstitutional. “So in obedience to the will of the people, who after all placed me in the presidency many years ago, I now say to my countrymen: I will follow what you want, and today I announce my retirement from politics,” he said.
Duterte, a tough-talking populist who is most known for a drug war that has left thousands dead, has previously claimed he would retire from politics. He made a similar pronouncement just before running for the presidency, which he won in 2016.
A faction of the ruling party, PDP-Laban, previously endorsed Go for president, with Duterte as vice president. Go did not categorically accept the nomination, but his move to replace Duterte for the second-highest position opens the door to a partnership with another presidential candidate.
Many think that will be Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is leading pre-election surveys. She and her father previously took turns in running for mayoral and deputy positions in their hometown, taking each other’s spots when the three-term limit was up.
Duterte-Carpio previously said they had agreed that only one of them would run for a national position. But before the afternoon ended, she filed her candidacy for another term as Davao mayor — leaving the public wondering what the Dutertes’ endgame is.
Duterte has maintained unusual record popularity for a president, despite criticism about his pandemic response and human rights record. A Duterte father-daughter tandem previously led a pre-election poll by Pulse Asia Research, but last month, the elder Duterte slipped to second-favorite, with a majority favoring Senate President Vicente Sotto for vice president instead.
The filing of candidacy for next year’s elections opened on Friday and runs until Oct. 8. Candidates can be replaced by substitutes until mid-November — which means Duterte-Carpio still has time to jump in.
Duterte cannot run for president again, as the constitution mandates a single six-year term. But as the International Criminal Court investigates the president for crimes against humanity, Duterte staying in a top position or having an ally there is necessary for his “political survival,” said analyst Julio Teehankee.
Other commentators also expect a possible partnership with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of a dictator who was forced into exile in 1986. Members of the Marcos family, which ruled for two decades in a period riddled with corruption and human rights abuses, have stayed active in local politics. Experts and historians say their continued pursuit of public office, as well as disinformation campaigns on social media, are attempts to rehabilitate the family image.
Political analyst Antonio La Viña warned that a Marcos-Duterte win could signal a new “dark age,” with continued human rights abuses and elite political dynasties further consolidating power. “It will last not just for six years or 12 years, but more — because there are so many Marcoses and Dutertes in the wings,” said La Viña. “Because many of the Philippines’ cities and towns are ruled by families, it will just be [like] Game of Thrones.”
Marcos was nominated for the presidency by the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the party his father founded, last month. “I will answer you when the time comes; you cannot rush these things,” he said in response to questions on whether he would run. “I fully intend to take all the available time that I have to make the decision.”
He ran for the vice presidency but lost to opposition leader Maria Leonor Robredo in 2016. Robredo, a top pick among critics of Duterte for the presidency, also has yet to announce whether she will run.
Among the others who have declared their bids for the presidency are boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso — also known as Isko Moreno, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and labor leader Leody de Guzman.