Philippine President Duterte to retire from politics

He is facing a growing number of domestic challenges

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced he will retire from politics out of respect for "the wishes of the public".

Mr Duterte's announcement on Saturday will lead to the end of one of the more controversial periods of modern politics in the Asian nation of 100 million people.

Mr Duterte, 76, who came to power in 2016, was known for his outspoken and sometimes contradictory views on the foreign alliances of his country.

Early in his presidency, he showed strong support for Donald Trump, US president at the time, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, but later strongly criticised the policies of both countries.

A harsh crackdown on the drugs trade, which became one of his signature policies, drew widespread condemnation after police were accused of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings.

Mr Duterte was due to run for vice president in 2022, a move critics said was an attempt to shield him from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

The ICC has investigated allegations of human rights abuses committed during Mr Duterte's crackdown on drug dealing.

Mr Duterte, who polls show remains almost as popular as when he was swept to victory in 2016 on a promise to rid the country of drugs, is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term as leader.

Duterte faces constitutional crisis

"The overwhelming ... sentiment of the Filipinos is that I am not qualified and it would be a violation of the constitution to circumvent the law, the spirit of the constitution" to run for the vice presidency, Mr Duterte said.

"Today I announce my retirement from politics."

He has also faced a constitutional crisis in recent weeks following an investigation into government corruption in the health sector.

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On Thursday, he attempted to block Cabinet members from attending a Senate hearing on the allegations.

After Mr Duterte's surprise announcement, Bong Go, a Filipino senator, will now run for vice president in 2022. Mr Duterte did not specify a date for when he would step away from politics.

Mr Go was previously announced as a presidential candidate in national elections, scheduled for May.

“Given that President Duterte decided to withdraw his acceptance of nomination, I am here to take on the challenge,” Mr Go said.

He pledged to continue Mr Duterte’s policies, including the crackdown on drug dealing.

New challenger's for May election

Mr Duterte’s announcement that he will leave the political scene – 35 years after entering politics working for the Corazon Aquino mayor's office – comes as the 2022 election campaign officially begins.

Candidates have registered for 18,000 local and national government positions, but the playing field will be seen by many as more equal after the Duterte era.

As a presidential candidate Mr Duterte was viewed by some analysts as an outlier, hailing from the impoverished island of Mindanao, but quickly shot to national prominence following a populist line on crime and corruption.

Former House of Representatives member Mong Palatino said Mr Duterte's wilfully controversial approach to electioneering has given rise to a “Duterte effect,” that could see many imitators step forward.

Aside from Mr Go, Ferdinand "Bongbong," Marcos, the only son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is prime candidate to continue Mr Duterte’s policy programme when the vote is held in May.

Sara Duterte, Mr Duterte’s daughter and the Mayor of Davao City, has said she will not run but analysts believe she may follow her father’s example by entering the race at the last minute.

Their challengers include politician and actor Francisco Domagoso, known by his acting name Isko Moreno, a former supporter turned rival of Mr Duterte, who is currently mayor of Manila.

Former boxer Manny Pacquiao, who like Mr Duterte has promised to take a tough stand against corruption, is also in the running having retired from sport on Thursday.

Updated: October 02, 2021, 2:18 PM