MANILA (Bloomberg) - Rodrigo Duterte, whose hard-line stance on crime as mayor of Davao City has made him a national figure in the Philippines, will seek to run for president in what's likely to become a five-way race.
Duterte said he would make eliminating illegal drugs a priority of his presidency. He advised "people to put up several funeral parlour businesses" to deal with the drug traffickers that he planned to target, the Philippine Star reported, citing comments he made Thursday upon arriving in Manila.
Weeks after the deadline for politicians to declare their candidacies, Duterte is trying to enter the presidential race by replacing a registered contender from the Philippine Democratic Party-People's Power, or PDP-Laban party. He is also abandoning his original plan to seek another term as mayor of Davao on the southern island of Mindanao.
"The certificate of candidacy was filed by his lawyer in Manila," Duterte's executive assistant Bong Go said by phone.
"He also withdrew his candidacy for mayor" of Davao to run for president and will be replaced by her daughter, Sara, in the Davao race.
Duterte has served more than two decades as mayor of Davao, which was known as the nation's murder capital during the rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Under Duterte, Davao has become one of the country's safest and more prosperous cities.
That peace and order came at a cost, according to Human Rights Watch, which has accused him of giving tacit support to extra judicial killings of more than 1,000 suspected criminals since the late 1990s. Duterte calls the allegations "a myth."
The 70-year-old Duterte joins Mar Roxas, President Benigno Aquino's preferred successor; Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose family had run the Makati financial district for three decades; and Senator Grace Poe, a first-term lawmaker who leads in public opinion polls. Another contender is Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a former judge who is making a third bid for the presidency.
Election laws allow substitution as long as the new candidate belongs to the same party as the one being replaced. Duterte will take Martin Dino's spot to run for the PDP-Laban party. The switch still needs final approval for the country's election commission.
Duterte had repeatedly said he had no plans of running for president. In a June interview, Duterte said priority should be given to Manila-based politicians such as Poe, Binay and Roxas for the 2016 slate. In a Nov 23 televised briefing, Duterte said he will deal with crime, drugs and corruption if he wins.