Speaking to reporters, Duterte said many Filipinos have expressed opposition to his vice presidential bid in polls and public forums.
“The overwhelming feeling of the Filipino is that I am not qualified and that it would be a violation of the constitution,” Duterte said. “In obedience to the will of the people…I will follow your will and today I announce my retirement from politics.”
The 76-year-old leader, known for his deadly anti-drug crackdown, brash rhetoric and unorthodox political style, previously accepted the ruling party’s nomination for him to seek the vice presidency in the May 9 election. The decision infuriated many of his opponents, who described him as a human rights disaster in an Asian bastion of democracy.
Duterte announced his surprise withdrawal from the election after accompanying his former longtime aide, Senator Bong Go, to register his own vice presidential candidacy with the ruling party at an Elections Commission center.
Philippine presidents are constitutionally limited to a single six-year term, and opponents had said they would question the legality of Duterte’s announced vice presidential proceedings before the Supreme Court if he proceeds with his bid.
While two former presidents have run for lower-level elected positions after their terms ended in recent history, Duterte was the first to consider running for the vice presidency. If he pursued the candidacy and won, that could elevate him back to the presidency if the elected leader dies or is incapacitated for whatever reason.
Duterte’s withdrawal could also pave the way for the possible presidential election of his politician, daughter Sara Duterte, who is currently mayor of the southern city of Davao, and has been urged by many supporters to make an effort to succeed her father. She topped independent polls on who should lead the country next.
But after her father initially stated that he would seek the vice presidency, Sara Duterte announced that she would not run for president.
There was no immediate response from the president’s daughter, who has gone on a week-long medical leave.
Duterte took office in 2016 and immediately launched a crackdown on illegal drugs, killing more than 6,000, mostly petty suspects, and alerting Western governments and human rights groups. The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into the killings, but has vowed never to cooperate with the investigation and to allow ICC investigators into the country.