The 76-year-old leader, known for his lethal drug abuse, cheeky rhetoric and unorthodox political style, previously accepted the ruling party’s nomination for vice-president in the May 9 elections. The decision outraged many of his opponents, who have described him as a human rights disaster in an Asian bastion of democracy.
Duterte announced his surprise withdrawal from the election after accompanying his former longtime advisor, Senator Bong Go, to register his own run for the ruling party on an electoral commission.
Filipino presidents are limited by the constitution to a single term of six years, and opponents have said they will question the legality of Duterte’s announced Supreme Court vice presidential election if he pursues his bid.
While two former presidents have run for lower elected positions after their terms ended in recent history, Duterte was the first to consider running for vice presidency. If he has pursued the candidacy and won, that could elevate him back to president if the elected leader dies or becomes incapacitated for any reason.
Duterte’s withdrawal could also pave the way for his politician daughter’s possible presidential candidacy
Sara Duterte is currently the mayor of the southern city of Davao and has been urged by many supporters to apply to succeed her father. She has led independent opinion polls on who should run the country next.
But after her father originally stated that he would seek the vice presidency, Sara Duterte announced she would not run for president and said she and her father had agreed that only one Duterte would run for national office for the next year would run.
The president’s daughter, who is on a week’s sick leave, did not give an immediate response.
Duterte took office in 2016 and immediately cracked down on illegal drugs, killing more than 6,000 mostly minor suspects and alerting Western governments and human rights groups. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into the murders, but has vowed never to cooperate with the investigation and to allow ICC investigators to enter the country.