Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared he will run for vice president next year to continue his “crusade” against drugs and insurgents — a move critics said was a “smokescreen” and driven by fear of criminal charges.
Duterte, who was elected in 2016 and is barred under the constitution from seeking another term, has previously flagged the possibility of contesting the country’s second-highest office.
“I will run for vice president,” Duterte said late Tuesday in a pre-recorded speech, confirming an earlier announcement by his PDP-Laban party that he had agreed to contest the position.
“Then I will continue the crusade. I’m worried about the drugs, insurgency — well, number one is insurgency, then criminality, drugs.
“I may not have the power to give the direction or guidance, but I can always express my views in public.”
Since taking power, Duterte has waged a bloody campaign against drug users and dealers that rights groups estimate has killed tens of thousands of people.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors are seeking to launch a full-blown investigation into the killings.
Communist rebels and their alleged supporters also have been targeted as Duterte sought to bring an end to the decades-old insurgency.
– ‘Smokescreen’ –
PDP-Laban is expected to endorse Duterte’s longtime top aide, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, to be its presidential candidate in the May election.
But a party faction loyal to boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao said a Go-Duterte ticket was a “smokescreen” to protect Duterte’s daughter, Sara — who is widely expected to run for the presidency — from political attacks.
The Supreme Court previously ruled that a sitting president enjoyed legal immunity. But there is debate over whether such protection could extend to the vice president.
If either Sara Duterte or Go were to win, they could shield Duterte from criminal charges.
Recent polls show Sara, who belongs to a different party than her father, with the most voter support among potential candidates that include Pacquiao.