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Rodrigo Duterte’s withdrawal from politics could pave the way for the possible presidential run of his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is currently the mayor of southern Davao city.KARL ALONZO/The Associated Press

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday announced he was retiring from politics and dropping plans to run for vice-president in next year’s elections when his term ends.

Speaking before reporters, Duterte said many Filipinos have expressed their opposition to his vice-presidential bid in surveys and public forums.

“The overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino is that I’m not qualified, and it would be a violation of the constitution,” Duterte said.

“I will follow what you wish and today I announce my retirement from politics,” he added.

Broadcasting firm ABS-CBN news reported late Saturday Duterte’s politician daughter would run for president in next year’s election and her father’s long-time aide, who filed his vice presidential candidacy, would be her running mate.

Sara Duterte-Carpio is currently mayor of Davao, the Philippines’ third-largest city, and filed on Saturday to run for mayor again. She has previously said she would not run for national office next year.

ABS-CBN news based its report on an interview that Duterte had with a broadcast journalist right after he announced that he was retiring from politics while accompanying his closest loyalist, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, who filed his vice presidential candidacy.

He was asked: “So is it clear, Sara-Go?”

“It is Sara-Go,” Duterte said in response.

When asked to confirm what the president said, Duterte-Carpio’s spokesperson, Mayor Christina Garcia Frasco told Reuters: “The extent of my knowledge is also what was reported in local news. We have no comment on the same.”

Go did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The 76-year-old leader, known for his deadly anti-drugs crackdown, brash rhetoric and unorthodox political style, earlier accepted the ruling party’s nomination for him to seek the vice-presidency in the May 9 elections. The decision outraged many of his opponents, who have described him as a human rights calamity in an Asian bastion of democracy.

Duterte announced his surprise withdrawal from the election after accompanying his former long-time aide, Sen. Bong Go, to register his own vice-presidential candidacy with the ruling party at a Commission on Elections center.

Citing a pattern of human rights abuses and massive government corruption, protests this month vowed to support the ICC investigation against president Rodrigo Duterte, which was recently approved by the international judicial body.

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 if he pursues his bid.

While two past presidents have run for lower elected positions and won 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 any reason.

Duterte’s withdrawal could pave the way for the possible presidential run of his daughter Sara Duterte, who is currently the mayor of southern Davao city. She has been prodded by many supporters to make a bid to succeed her father and has topped independent public opinion surveys on who should lead the country next.

But after her father initially declared that he would seek the vice-presidency, Sara Duterte announced she would not run for president, saying she and her father have agreed that only one Duterte would run for a national office next year.

Citing a pattern of human rights abuses and massive government corruption, protests this month vowed to support the ICC investigation against president Rodrigo Duterte, which was recently approved by the international judicial body.Jes Aznar/Getty Images

Shortly after Duterte announced that he was backing out from the vice-presidential run, his daughter filed her papers for re-election in Davao city, although speculation remains rife that she would withdraw from her mayoral re-election bid and run for the presidency.

President Duterte took office in 2016 and immediately launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups. The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation of the killings but he has vowed never to co-operate with the inquiry and allow ICC investigators to enter the country.

Duterte was a former long-time Davao city mayor, government prosecutor and legislator in a colorful political career that spanned more than two decades. He will be remembered by many for his extra-tough approach to criminality that earned him monikers such as “Duterte Harry,” after Clint Eastwood’s police character who had little regard for the law.

When he exits from politics, he would likely be hounded by lawsuits arising from his violent anti-criminality campaign. He cited that concern in July as one of the reasons why he accepted the ruling PDP-Laban party’s nomination for him to be its vice-presidential aspirant.

A top human rights group said Duterte would do everything in his power to support a friendly successor and would harness his lingering influence in retirement to shield himself from an array of potential criminal charges.

Duterte will back a candidate “who can give him that protection,” said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch. “Eluding accountability for human rights abuses is Duterte’s primary concern as his presidency winds down.”

With a report from Reuters

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

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