Duterte scraps vice-presidential bid and says he will quit politics
Receive free Philippines updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Philippines news every morning.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday that he was retiring from politics and scrapping a vice-presidential bid that would have allowed him to stay in power in the number two job for another six years.
The move came after recent opinion polls showed a decline in the 76-year-old populist leader’s popularity, and signalled that most Filipinos thought that his vice presidential run would violate the constitution.
“Today, I announce my retirement from politics,” Duterte said in remarks quoted by Reuters. Duterte spoke alongside his close aide Senator Christopher “Bong” Go as Go registered to run for vice-president for the ruling PDP-Laban party in next year’s election.
“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 your wish,” Duterte said, as he encouraged voters to support Go’s candidacy.
Duterte has, since taking power in 2016, been one of the most popular presidents in Philippine history, but his support has declined during the coronavirus pandemic.
A poll published this week showed falling support for him and his daughter Sara Duterte, the mayor of the family’s hometown of Davao who many Filipinos believe may launch a presidential bid.
A Pulse Asia survey published on Wednesday showed Mr Duterte falling into second place behind Senate president Vincente Sotto as the most popular potential candidate for vice-president. The same survey showed Ms Duterte as the most popular of possible candidates for the top job but her support dropped from 28 to 24 per cent.
The Philippine constitution bars presidents from seeking a second term, but analysts said that staying on as the number two to his daughter or another ally might help shield Mr Duterte from future legal consequences at a time when the International Criminal Court is investigating killings in his anti-narcotics campaign.
“I think he’s reading the writing on the wall, and the writing on the wall is saying he’s a liability if he runs himself,” said Richard Heydarian, a political analyst. “He thought he was a shoo-in for the vice presidency — but there is a clear frontrunner, and it’s Senate president Tito Sotto, who has a huge lead over him.”
Manny Pacquiao, the boxer, and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno are among those who have filed their candidacies for the presidency. Filipinos have also speculated that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator and a political ally of the Dutertes, might enter the race. Marcos been endorsed by the KBL political party of his late father.
The deadline for filing candidacies is October 8, but parties can until mid-November replace a candidate who dies, withdraws, or is disqualified by the country’s election commission.