In shock announcement, Duterte says to retire from politics

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte made a shock announcement Saturday, saying that he would retire from politics and no longer pursue a vice presidential run, in deference to popular opinion that this runs counter to the intent of the Constitution.

Duterte initially said he would run for vice president for continutiy of his administration's programs and to get immunity from suit,a privilege that that office does not enjoy.

"The overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino is that I am not qualified, and it would be a violation of the Constitution to circumvent the law, the spirit of the Constitution," Duterte said after his long-time aide turned senator, Bong Go, announced that the president withdrew his acceptance of nomination as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP-Laban faction controlled by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

"In obedience to the will of the people, who after all placed me in the presidency many years ago, I now say sa mga kababayan ko, sundin ko ang gusto ninyo (I will follow what you want,)" Duterte added. "Today, I announce my retirement from politics."

In a surprising turn of events, Go filed a certificate of candidacy for vice president instead of Duterte. Go was previously the faction's chosen standard bearer, but he had repeatedly refused to accept the nomination. It is now unclear who the PDP-Laban's presidential candidate would be.

While unexpected, it is not the first time that Duterte said he was retiring from politics. He made the same overture in 2015, only for him to eventually run for president.


Late last month, the PDP-Laban faction composed of Duterte's allies announced that the president has formally accepted his nomination to become the party's candidate for vice president.

The party even released photos of Duterte signing the certificate of nomination and acceptance, a document that indicates the nominee of a party for an elective post.

"It's official! President Rodrigo Roa Duterte affixes his signature to the certificate of nomination issued by the PDP-Laban to signify his acceptance of his nomination as the ruling party’s official candidate for vice president in the 2022 elections," a caption of a photo released by PDP-Laban last September 23 read.

The PDP-Laban faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has asked Go to become its candidate for president but the senator declined the nomination.

Duterte's critics had described Duterte's decision to run for vice president as a "mockery" of the Constitution but officials had insisted that the charter does not bar the president from seeking a lower post.

A bid for continuity

Duterte has said that he wanted to run for vice president to ensure the continuity of his administration’s crusade against insurgency, criminality and illegal drugs. 

The president in 2016 ran on a campaign to eliminate drugs, crime and government corruption in just three to six months — a promise which he has admittedly failed to fulfill.

No law explicitly prohibits an incumbent president from seeking the vice-presidency, but Constitution framer Christian Monsod has warned that the move may be an “insidious” way for Duterte to circumvent the provision barring presidents from seeking a second term.

Michael Yusingco, a senior research fellow at the Ateneo Policy Center, told Philstar.com in June that the ban on the president seeking reelection in Article VII, Section 4 of the Constitution signifies that it "abhors the concentration of executive power on a single person." 

"So, even if there is no explicit ban on the incumbent president to run for VP at the end of this term, a rational and historical appreciation of the 1987 Constitution should support the banning of such a move," he said then.

Support for Duterte’s vice presidential bid appears to be waning, with him suffering a four-point drop in the latest Pulse Asia pre-election survey while Senate President Tito Sotto surged to the top with an 11-point lead.

When asked at a press briefing last September 28 to react to the survey results, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte "listens to the pulse of the people" and that the public should just wait for Duterte's decision.

Pressed what would make Duterte drop his plan to run for vice president, Roque replied: "Well, anything is possible, unless and until the certificate of candidacy is filed."

Immunity from suit?

Beyond talk of continuity, Duterte himself has admitted that he is vying for the vice presidency to gain immunity from suit, even though vice presidents are not given the same privilege as presidents.

The Duterte administration is facing an investigation by the International Criminal Court on alleged crimes against humanity committed during the course of the brutal campaign against illegal drugs which killed 

The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into the Duterte administration’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs, which, according to government data, has killed over 6,000 drug suspects. Human rights groups estimate that over 30,000 have perished because of the “drug war.”

Duterte administration officials have said that the Philippines will not cooperate with the ICC probe, insisting that the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over the “war on drugs.” — with reports from Alexis Romero and Bella Perez-Rubio

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