Philippine President Duterte to retire from politics next year, backs long-time aide in V-P race

A majority of Filipinos disapprove of Mr Rodrigo Duterte's now aborted plan to run in next year's elections, according to a recent poll. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday (Oct 2) said he will retire from politics after his term ends next year, dropping his bid to run for vice-president in favour of his long-time aide, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go.

"I now say to my countrymen, I will abide by your will, and today I announce my retirement," he said at a brief press conference shortly after Mr Go filed his certificate of candidacy.

On why he dropped his bid for the vice-presidency, the 76-year-old leader said: "The overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino people is that I am not qualified and it would be a violation of the Constitution."

A majority of Filipinos disapprove of Mr Duterte's now aborted plan to run in next year's elections, according to a recent poll.

A later survey showed him trailing a senator, who had parlayed his fame as a popular comedian into a thriving political career, among candidates running for vice-president.

Mr Duterte has been in politics since 1986, when then President Corazon Aquino appointed him acting mayor of Davao city. He served seven terms as mayor, one term as vice-mayor and a few years as congressman.

Through most of it, Mr Go had been by his side, often carrying a bag containing documents waiting to be signed and medications Mr Duterte needed to take.

Even now as a senator, the 47-year-old Mr Go accompanies Mr Duterte everywhere and retains full control of the president's schedule.

Mr Duterte himself accompanied Mr Go to the sprawling lobby of a hotel where the polling commission has been accepting, since Friday (Oct 1), registrations by candidates seeking more than 70 national positions in the elections set for May.

"Given that President Duterte decided to withdraw his acceptance of nomination, I am here to take on the challenge of being (my party's) vice-presidential candidate," said Mr Go.

He said he agreed to run "to continue the good programmes and real change Mr Duterte stated" and will strive to add to them.

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It was not announced who Mr Go would be running with.

But pundits say that with Mr Duterte withdrawing from the race, his 43-year-old daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, can now formally announce her own run to replace him as president.

She has repeatedly said she would not run for president if her father insisted on running for vice-president.

Ms Duterte-Carpio said last month that Mr Go had offered to be her running mate. But on Saturday, she filed election papers seeking re-election as Davao mayor.

That may still change, as the polling commission allows political parties to substitute their candidates till Nov 15.

Critics doubt Mr Duterte's announcement on Saturday would be the final word on his supposed retirement.

Representative Carlos Zarate, who is himself from Davao and has seen up close Mr Duterte's political career through the years, said "people should no longer take this latest retirement seriously".

Mr Zarate recalled that Mr Duterte had also declared in 2015 that he was quitting politics. Instead, he proceeded to run and win the presidency a year later.

"It is clearly part of the Duterte clique's dubious scheme to hoodwink the electorate once again," he said.

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