Philippine President Reverses Course on Retirement, Files Papers for Senate Run

Camille Elemia
Philippine President Reverses Course on Retirement, Files Papers for Senate Run A vehicle bearing photos of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, passes by outside the Commission on Elections in Manila, Nov. 15, 2021.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte filed last-minute papers as a senatorial candidate in the 2022 general election Monday, reversing course on his planned retirement from politics amid an international court’s investigation into his administration’s bloody war on drugs.

To the surprise of the Filipino public and political observers, the 76-year-old Duterte handed in his paperwork for the Senate election just before the filing deadline expired at 5 p.m. Adding to the confusion was Duterte’s decision to run under the banner of a different political party and not as a candidate from his own party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP)-Laban.

The alliance between the two parties “is further strengthened by President Duterte’s decision to file for Senate,” said Melvin Matibag, secretary-general of the ruling party. “PDP-Laban fully supports President Duterte. Him using the PDDS [to file his candidacy for the Senate] is a strategic decision.”

PDDS (Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan) is a little-known national party accredited by the election commission only in 2018. It advocates for federalism, which Duterte also supports.

Duterte, who is constitutionally limited to a single six-year term as president, now joins dozens of hopefuls vying for 12 senate seats that are up for election in the May 2022 nationwide polls. 

His filing marked a complete turnaround from when he announced in October that he would retire from politics after his term ended next year. His decision to run for the Senate also ended speculation in recent days that he might run against his own daughter in the vice-presidential polls.

Over the weekend, the president’s representatives had said that he was set to vie with Sara Duterte-Carpio, a popular mayor, in the race for VP. On Saturday, she filed her papers for the vice presidential election after withdrawing her candidacy for reelection as mayor of Davao City, a southern town where her father had also served as mayor.

On Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque denied that there was a rift between the president and his daughter.

“The father and daughter have no problems with their relationship. All President Duterte said was Mayor Sara did not consult him about her political plans,” he said during a media briefing.

“I assure you, Mayor Sara is still the apple of President Duterte’s eye,” said Roque, who also filed his own papers for senator.

‘Blood is thicker than water’

Duterte is facing at least two cases brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague by relatives of those who died in his drugs war. In September, the ICC approved an investigation into thousands of extrajudicial killings in the five-year-old Philippine crackdown on illegal narcotics.

Under the Duterte administration, police have killed about 8,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers whose markets are primarily located in the sprawling slums of Manila. The number could be as high as 30,000, according to human rights advocates and drug-war survivors.

Duterte will lose his presidential immunity when he steps down next year.

According to Aries Arugay, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, while it appears that tension exists on the surface between father and daughter, the latter won’t allow anything to happen to the former.

“Blood is thicker than water, and despite the tension between her and President Duterte, she will definitely protect the outgoing president from ICC prosecution,” Arugay told BenarNews. 

Arugay, however, noted that her daughter’s likely alliance with the son and namesake of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is “the strongest tandem to date.”

Duterte-Carpio so far has remained mum on her preference for a presidential candidate, although Marcos Jr.’s party has already said it would adopt her as its vice-presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, President Duterte is supporting another presidential candidate, Christopher “Bong” Go, his loyal aide and a senator, who had initially filed papers for the vice presidency but changed it for president at the weekend.

In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately.

Apart from the president, vice president, and senators, the country of 110 million will also choose to fill all 316 House seats and about 18,000 official positions ranging from governors to mayors and town councilors.

Duterte-Carpio, 43, leads in early presidential preference surveys, although she has now opted to run for the second highest post in the land.

“It’s a path that would allow me to heed your call to serve our country and would make me a stronger person and public servant in the years that lie ahead,” Duterte-Carpio said in a statement on Sunday.

Jeoffrey Maitem and Froilan Gallardo contributed to this report from Cotabato City and Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.


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