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.
Duterte, 76, accompanied his former aide, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who is now a senator, to the filing of candidacy for national elections — then endorsed Go’s run for the vice presidency in what the local press dubbed a “surprise” move.
Addressing the public, Duterte cited a recent survey that found most Filipinos believe a run by Duterte for vice president would be unconstitutional. He said, “So, in obedience to God’s will, which placed me in power many years ago,” and that he would announce his retirement.
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. Although Go didn’t accept the nomination categorically, his decision to take over Duterte’s second highest position opened the possibility of forming a partnership.
Many think that will be Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is leading pre-election surveys. Her father and she previously ran for the mayoral and deputy posts in their respective hometowns, sharing each other’s places when there was no longer a three-term limit.
Duterte-Carpio previously said they had agreed that only one of them would run for a national position. She filed for her candidacy to run again as Davao mayor, leaving many wondering about the Dutertes endgame.
Duterte has maintained unusual record popularity for a president, despite criticism about his pandemic response and human rights record. The father-daughter Duterte tandem led an earlier pre-election poll conducted by Pulse Asia Research. However, last month the older Duterte fell to second place, with most voters favoring Vicente Sotto as vice-president.
The filing of candidacy for next year’s elections opened on Friday and runs until Oct. 8. Duterte Carpio has plenty of time to run for the next election, as candidates can still be replaced with substitutes up until November.
Duterte cannot run for president again, as the constitution mandates a single six-year term. Analyst Julio Teehankee said that Duterte cannot run for president again as the International Criminal Court is investigating him for crimes against humanity.
Other commentators also expect a possible partnership with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of a dictator who was forced into exile in 1986. The Marcos family, who ruled over two decades during a time of corruption and abuses to human rights, has remained active in local politics. Experts and historians believe that their pursuit of public office as well as social media disinformation campaigns are efforts to rebuild the family’s image.
Political analyst Antonio La Vina 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 Vina. “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. He said, “I’ll answer you when it comes. You can’t rush these things.” In response to queries about whether or not he was running for the presidency, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan nominated Marcos. “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 was a popular choice among Duterte’s critics for the presidency. She has not yet announced whether or not 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.