Duterte ‘retiring,’ Go runs for VP – but eyes still on Sara
MANILA, Philippines — In a surprise move, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Saturday that he was retiring from politics, and his longtime aide, Sen. Bong Go, took his place as the administration’s vice presidential candidate in next year’s elections.
“The overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino is that I am not qualified and it would be a violation of the Constitution to circumvent the law, the spirit of the Constitution,” Duterte said after Go submitted a certificate of candidacy (COC) for vice president.
“And so, in obedience to the will of the people, who after all placed me in the presidency many years ago, I now say to my countrymen, I will follow your wish, and today, I announce my retirement from politics,” the president said.
His announcement, however, was met with skepticism.
House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate, a Bayan Muna party-list representative, urged Filipinos not to be hoodwinked by the president.
“In September 2015, he also announced that he was retiring from politics; yet he did not. Instead, the people and the country were then taken for a ride with a last-minute candidacy switched,” Zarate told reporters.
“People should no longer take this latest retirement statement seriously; it is clearly part of the Duterte clique’s dubious scheme to hoodwink the electorate once again,” he added.
Duterte said he would not run for president in 2016 but withdrew his candidacy for reelection as Davao City mayor and joined the presidential race as a last-minute substitute for Martin Diño, who was the standard-bearer of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte would now focus on seeing to the country’s recovery from the pandemic and on campaigning for his candidates.
“The chief executive would spend the remainder of his term guiding the country toward post-COVID-19 recovery,” Roque said.
“Moreover, to ensure the legacy of his programs and projects and the continuity of his reform initiatives, the president would proactively campaign for his candidates and make sure that the conduct of the coming 2022 elections would be free, honest, peaceful, and credible,” he added.
Roque did not say who would get Duterte’s support for president in the May 2022 polls.
Same-day move by Sara
While there was skepticism, the president’s “retirement” also fueled speculation that it would clear the way for his daughter, Sara Duterte, to run for either president or vice president in the May 2022 elections even though she filed, also on Saturday, her COC for a third and final term as mayor of Davao City.
Duterte had said that if his daughter would run for president, neither he nor Go would run in next year’s polls.
In an Aug. 25 interview, Roque quoted the president as saying: “Should Sara decide to run, Bong Go is out. For my part, out of ‘delicadeza,’ it won’t do for the two of us to be there. If she runs, I’m out, too.”
On Sept. 9, when there was no indication that the president would withdraw his candidacy for the vice presidency, Mayor Duterte told reporters: “I am not running for a national position as we both agreed only one of us would run for a national position in 2022.”On Saturday, as her name was being posted on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) billboard in Davao, the mayor released a statement on Facebook thanking her supporters, including those who did not know her—a reference to people outside of Davao, or the rest of the country.
“I have been honored with the gift of trust and respect of many of our fellow Filipinos,” she said. “Like the other millions of Filipinos, I share with you the same goal of living a peaceful and prosperous life in our country, today and in the many years to come. I call on everyone to work together for an honest, orderly, and credible election in May 2022.”
Peter Tiu Laviña, a spokesperson for Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign, said the filing of her COC did not remove the possibility that she would eventually run for president.
Laviña said Mayor Duterte — who is taking a leave for a medical trip abroad from Oct. 5 to 8 — could still withdraw her candidacy and run for president.
The Comelec’s deadline for substitution of candidates is on Nov. 15.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez earlier said that a candidate could still substitute for someone running for a national post as long as he or she belonged to the same political party as the candidate to be replaced. He also said a substituting candidate would still qualify for substitution even if he or she had just taken an oath to the same party.
Go said Duterte withdrew his acceptance of his nomination as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP-Laban faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
The senator was previously the group’s nominee for president.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that the majority of Filipinos believed Duterte’s vice presidential bid was against the Constitution.
Malacañang has been defending Duterte’s candidacy for vice president, saying that the Constitution did not specifically prohibit an incumbent president to run for that position.
Critics said, however, that the move would give Duterte a backdoor to return to the presidency, which would be contrary to the intent of the 1987 Constitution that was crafted as a response to the Marcos dictatorship.
Duterte had said that he planned to run for vice president so that he would be immune from suit, but legal experts quickly pointed out that the position enjoyed no such privilege.
In explaining his decision to run for vice president, Go said he would want to continue and improve on the programs and changes made by Duterte.
He said he would pursue the campaign against illegal drugs, the centerpiece program of the Duterte administration that has earned condemnation for the thousands killed in the antinarcotics campaign.
Go said he would continue fighting corruption and crime, and pursue the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program,
“I will not be just a spare tire or a reserve. I will fulfill my duty not just in word, but also in deed,” he said.
“I don’t want to be remembered as just another senator or vice president. I want to be remembered as a public servant who ordinary people can approach and who will wholeheartedly work for the betterment of the country,” the senator said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO AND CARMELITO Q. FRANCISCO
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