Philippine leader Duterte announces his retirement from politics

MANILA, Philippines (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced Saturday that he will retire from politics and abandon plans to run for vice president in next year’s election when his term expires, avoiding a legal battle with opponents who question such a move.

Duterte, speaking to reporters, said many Filipinos have expressed opposition to his candidacy for vice president in opinion polls and public forums.

“The feeling among Filipinos is that I am not qualified, and that would be a violation of the constitution,” Duterte said. “Obeying the will of the people… I will follow what you wish and today I announce my arrest from politics.”

The 76-year-old leader, known for his deadly anti-drug campaign, vociferous rhetoric and unorthodox political style, earlier accepted the ruling party’s nomination for him to run for vice president in the May 9 elections. The decision angered many of his opponents, who called it a human rights disaster in the Asian heartland of democracy.

Duterte announced his abrupt withdrawal from the elections after he accompanied his former aide, Senator Bong Joo, to register his candidacy for the position of vice president with the ruling party at the center of the election commission.

The constitution limits Philippine presidents to a single six-year term, and opponents said they would question the legality of Duterte’s running for vice president before the Supreme Court if he continued his bid.

While two former presidents ran for fewer elected offices after their terms ended in recent history, Duterte was the first to consider running for vice president. If he goes on to run and wins, he may return him to the presidency if the president-elect dies or becomes incapacitated for any reason.

Duterte’s withdrawal could also pave the way for his daughter’s possible presidential run

Sarah Duterte is currently the mayor of the southern city of Davao, and has been urged by many supporters to make a bid to succeed her father. It has topped independent public opinion polls on who should lead the country next.

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

There was no immediate reaction from the president’s daughter, who went on medical leave for a week.

Duterte took office in 2016 and promptly launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that left more than 6,000 people dead, mostly minor suspects, 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 cooperate with the investigation and to allow court investigators into the country.

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