Philippines President Duterte announces retirement from politics

Duterte drops plans to run for vice president when his term ends, avoiding legal battle

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. Photograph: Lisa Marie David/AP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced he is retiring from politics and dropping plans to run for vice president in next year’s elections when his term ends, avoiding a legal battle with opponents who questioned the move.

He told reporters many Filipinos have expressed their opposition to his vice-presidential bid in surveys and public forums.

“The overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino is that I’m not qualified, and it would be a violation of the constitution,” Mr Duterte said.

“In obedience to the will of the people... I will follow what you wish and today I announce my retirement from politics.”


The 76-year-old, known for his deadly anti-drugs crackdown, brash rhetoric and unorthodox political style, earlier accepted the ruling party’s nomination for him to seek the vice presidency in the May 9th elections.

The decision outraged many of his opponents, who have described him as a human rights calamity in an Asian bastion of democracy.

Mr Duterte announced his surprise withdrawal from the election after accompanying his former long-time aide, senator Bong Go, to register his own vice presidential candidacy with the ruling party at a Commission on Elections centre.

Philippine presidents are limited by the constitution to a single six-year term and opponents had said they would question the legality of Mr Duterte’s vice presidential run before the Supreme Court if he pursued his bid.

While two recent presidents ran for lower elected positions after their terms ended, Mr Duterte was the first to consider running for the vice presidency.

If he had pursued the candidacy and won, that could have elevated him back to the presidency if the elected leader died or was incapacitated for any reason.

Mr Duterte’s withdrawal could also pave the way for a possible presidential run by his daughter.

Sara Duterte, mayor of Davao city, has been encouraged by many supporters to make a bid to succeed her father. She has topped independent public opinion surveys on who should lead the country next.

But after her father declared he would seek the vice presidency, she announced she would not run for president, saying she and her father had agreed that only one Duterte would run for a national office next year.

There was no immediate reaction on Saturday from Ms Duterte, who has gone on a week-long medical leave.

Drugs crackdown

Mr Duterte took office in 2016 and immediately launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.

The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into the killings but he has vowed not to co-operate with the inquiry and allow investigators to enter the country.

Mr Duterte was a former long-time Davao city mayor, government prosecutor and legislator in a colourful political career that spanned more than two decades.

He will be remembered by many for his extra-tough approach to criminality that earned him nicknames such as “Duterte Harry”, after Clint Eastwood’s police character who had little regard for the law.

When he exits from politics, he is likely to be hounded by lawsuits arising from his violent anti-criminality campaign. He cited that concern in July as one of the reasons why he accepted the ruling PDP-Laban party’s nomination for him to be its vice-presidential candidate.

A top human rights group said Mr Duterte will do everything in his power to support a friendly successor and will use his lingering influence in retirement to shield himself from an array of potential criminal charges.

Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said: “Eluding accountability for human rights abuses is Duterte’s primary concern as his presidency winds down.”–PA