Duterte took office in 2016 and launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte attends the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit in Singapore, November 15, 2018.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte attends the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit in Singapore, November 15, 2018. (Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he was backing out of an announced plan to run for vice president in next year’s elections and will retire from politics after his term ends.

"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, Duterte said on Saturday. 

"Today I announce my retirement from politics," he added, while accompanying his former longtime aide, Senator Bong Go, who instead filed his own candidacy for the vice presidency at a Commission on Elections centre.

Philippine presidents are limited by the constitution to a single six-year term and opponents had said they would question the legality of Duterte’s announced vice presidential run before the Supreme Court.

READ MORE:  Shunning the US, who will the Philippines turn to next?

Surprise presidential candidate?

Political observers had long suspected Duterte could spring a surprise, such as a presidential run by his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, next year.

Duterte-Carpio, who replaced her father as mayor of Davao, said last month she was not running for higher office next year because she and her father had agreed only one of them would run for national office in 2022.

The older Duterte's decision not to join the race next year would clear her way.

"This allows Sara Duterte to run," said Antonio La Vina, professor of law and politics at the Ateneo de Manila University. But La Vina said he could not rule out the possibility the firebrand leader could have a change of heart and be Go's substitute.

Candidates have until Friday to register, but withdrawals and substitutions are allowed until Nov. 15, leaving scope for last-minute changes of heart, like the 11th-hour entry of Duterte for the 2016 election, which he won by a huge margin. 

Duterte took office in 2016 and launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups. 

The International Criminal Court is investigating the killings.

READ MORE:  Philippines' Duterte to pursue "relentless and chilling" war on drugs

Source: TRTWorld and agencies