NYT: Duterte says he will retire rather than run for vice president

MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday he would retire rather than continue as vice president next year, in a surprise reversal of a plan to keep him in national politics after the end of his presidential term.

The Philippine Constitution limits presidents to a single six-year term. But Mr Duterte had announced he would run for vice-president in the May election, and his former senior aide, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, was due to run for president.

On Saturday, however, Mr. Go submitted documents declaring that he, and not Mr. Duterte, would be running for vice-president. Mr. Duterte then raised Mr. Go’s hand in unity.

Referring to opinion polls which indicated public opposition to his plan, Mr Duterte said that “in obedience to the will of the people, who after all put me in the presidency many years ago, I now tell my compatriots that I will follow your wishes. ”

“Today, I am announcing my retirement. Thank you all, “he said. He gave no indication that he was planning to step down before his term ends next June.

Mr Duterte’s announcement seemed to leave the field open to his popular daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who had previously said she would run for president only if her father dropped out of the race. Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao has also announced his candidacy for the presidency.

Last month, the International Criminal Court authorized a full investigation into Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has claimed thousands of lives since taking office in 2016. Critics of Mr. Duterte in the Philippines have seen his plan to run for vice-presidency, with a close ally as president, as a way to stay in power and protect himself from prosecution.

Mr. Go once said that he promised to serve Mr. Duterte “as long as he lives”. On Saturday he said he was running for the vice-presidency “so that he can continue the programs of real change started by President Duterte”.

Mr. Go offered no apologies for the war on drugs, in which thousands of people were shot dead by police and vigilantes, allegedly because they were involved in narcotics. “Let the public judge whether their children feel safer now with less drug addiction and less crime on the streets,” Go said.

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