Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, 76, announced on Saturday his retirement from politics.
“Today, I announce my retirement from politics,” Duterte said, accompanying loyalist Senator Christopher “Bong” Go from the ruling PDP-Laban party as he registered to run for vice president in next year’s election.
The surprise move fueled speculation he was clearing the way for his daughter to run to succeed him, despite her filing for re-election as mayor.
“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,” Duterte said as he urged the public to support the candidacy of his longtime aide.
According to political analysts, it is important Duterte has a loyal successor that will protect him from potential legal action, at home or by the International Criminal Court, over the thousands of state killings in his war on drugs since 2016.
A maverick leader famous for his embrace of China and disdain for the United States, Duterte remains popular even as his opponents accuse him of being authoritarian and intolerant of dissent.
Despite topping opinion surveys on prospective candidates for president, Sara Duterte-Carpio has but 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.
Candidates have until Friday to register, but withdrawals and substitutions are allowed until November 15, leaving scope for last-minute changes of heart.
More than 60 million Filipinos will vote in May next year for a new president, vice president and more than 18,000 lawmakers and local government officials.