Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday he would retire from politics, a surprise move that fueled speculation that he would pave the way for his daughter to take over from him.
“Today I announce my retirement from politics,” said Duterte, accompanying the loyalist Senator Christopher “Bong” Go from her ruling PDP Laban party as he applied for the candidacy for vice president.
It was expected that Duterte would run for vice president. He cannot run for the top position again because the constitution provides for a single term of six years for the president.
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Political observers had long suspected that Duterte could cause a surprise, such as a presidential election for his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio next year.
Duterte-Carpio, who replaced her father as mayor of Davao, said last month she would not run for higher office next year because she and her father had agreed that only one of them would run for national office in 2022.
The elder Duterte’s decision not to take part in the race next year would pave the way for her.
“That allows Sara Duterte to run,” said Antonio La Vina, Professor of Law and Politics at Ateneo de Manila University. But La Vina said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that the arsonist leader might have a change of heart and be Go’s replacement.
Candidates have until Friday to register, but resignations and substitutions are allowed until November 15, which leaves room for short-term changes of opinion, such as Duterte’s eleventh hour for the 2016 elections, which he won by a large margin.