Philippines: Duterte Agrees to Run for VP in ’22 Polls, Party Says

Aie Balagtas See
Manila
2021-08-24
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Philippines: Duterte Agrees to Run for VP in ’22 Polls, Party Says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks before a ceremony in Manila to award incentives to athletes who brought home medals from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Aug. 23, 2021.
[HO/Presidential Communications Operations Office]

President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to contest the vice presidency in next year’s election, his party said Tuesday, but critics described the move as a rear-door attempt by the Philippine leader to retain power amid potential international prosecution over his drug war.

Duterte’s term is due to end in 2022 because of constitutional limits, but his Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) Laban party said Duterte had unfinished business to take care of, including combating criminality, corruption and terrorism.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte agreed to make the sacrifice and heed the clamor of the people, and accepted the endorsement of the PDP Laban party for him to run as vice president in the 2022 national elections,” Karlo Nograles, the party’s executive vice president, said in a statement.

Nograles said the president made the decision to run for vice president after “popular calls” from PDP Laban’s chapters nationwide urging him to make a run for the second highest office in the land.

In the Philippines, presidential and vice-presidential elections are held separately. The next elections for both offices will take place on May 9, 2022.

The party made the announcement as recent surveys show that the president’s daughter, Sara Duterte, who is the incumbent mayor of Davao City, is the public’s top pick for the presidency. But she is not a member of the PDP and has sought to distance herself from her popular father, who has repeatedly sought to dissuade his daughter from running for the country’s highest office.

The 1987 constitution restricts a president to a single six-year term, but does not bar a post-presidency run for a lower office. Two former Philippine presidents, Gloria Arroyo, and Joseph Estrada, were both elected into public office after their terms expired. Arroyo became a member of Congress, while Estrada served as mayor of Manila.

Duterte is likely going to run as the deputy to Sen. Christopher Go, his former personal aide whose name is being touted as a presidential hopeful, and aims to run the country by proxy if both win next year’s elections, critics have warned.

Sen. Go so far has shrugged off questions pertaining to his plans for the 2022 polls, saying he would rather focus on his work in the Senate.

Apart from his former aide and daughter, other potential contenders include Francisco Domagoso, a former movie actor;  Sen. Manny Pacquiao, an erstwhile boxing superstar who has been publicly feuding with the president; and opposition Vice President Leni Robredo, who observers says is perhaps the most qualified of the potential presidential candidates.

Official filings of candidacies will not be made until October. The various prospective candidates have not yet revealed whether they plan to run for the highest office.

In late June, Duterte publicly indicated that he may run for vice president as well as campaign against Pacquiao, who is from his party.

When he was elected president in mid-2016, Duterte won by 16 million votes, propelled to office on a platform in which he vowed to rid the country of drug addiction and drug traffickers – by violent means if necessary.

Since taking office, human rights groups at home and abroad as well as the United Nations have criticized the Duterte administration for thousands of extrajudicial killings carried out in the government’s war on illegal narcotics.

In mid-June, the outgoing chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague called for a full ICC probe into allegations that crimes against humanity may have occurred in the Philippine drug war under Duterte.

In late July, the Philippine Supreme Court publicized a ruling saying that Duterte could face a trial before the ICC, although he had rejected the ICC prosecutor’s statement and said he would refuse to cooperate with an investigation carried out by the international court.

Ex-congressman Neri Colmenares, a senior adviser to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, blasted Duterte’s nomination for the vice presidency as a stunt for the president to perpetuate his political dynasty.

“It is not only legally insane but also exposes his real fear of going to prison,” Colmenares told BenarNews.

Unlike a president, a vice president is not immune from legal suits, he said, noting that the incumbent, Robredo, had in fact been charged with sedition by the Duterte administration but survived the legal challenge.

Cristina Palabay, the secretary general of the rights group Karapatan, told BenarNews that running was an attempt by Duterte “to evade accountability for his crimes against the people.”

Some observers believe that Duterte could also be maneuvering to cling to power under a scenario in which Go would win the presidency and then resign, enabling Duterte to take over.

“President Duterte started his presidential run with a whole lot of drama and it looks like he will be leaving us the same way – trying to confuse us, and all the more in search of a true leader,” opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said.

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