PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has agreed to run for vice-president next year so he could continue his campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and insurgency, a political ally said on Tuesday.
The tough-talking Philippine leader “agreed to make the sacrifice and heed the clamor of the people,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, executive vice president of the ruling PDP-Laban, said in a statement.
Staying in office would ensure the continuity of the President’s administration’s programs, he said.
In the Philippines, the president and vice-president are elected separately and may come from opposing political parties. The vice-president usually becomes powerless unless the President gives him a key post in his Cabinet.
Mr. Nograles said PDP Laban members wanted to ensure that the government’s coronavirus vaccination program “will be sustained in the critical stage of the pandemic,” Mr. Nograles said.
The government has been criticized of its slow vaccine rollout amid tight global supply. The Philippines ranked 52nd out of 53 countries in terms of pandemic response, according to Bloomberg’s coronavirus resilience ranking.
Mr. Duterte’s decision came more than a month after Senator Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, who had criticized Mr. Duterte’s anti-corruption drive, was voted out as party president.
The boxing champion, who has also criticized the government’s handling of the sea dispute with China, said he would decide next month whether to run for President in 2022.
Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. declined to confirm Mr. Duterte’s political plan. He did say the President met with PDP-Laban President and Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi on Monday night.
“I will leave it to PDP-Laban as a political party to make their announcement,” he told a televised news briefing.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nograles said Party-list Rep. Rodante D. Marcoleta, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade and Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar would be part of PDP Laban’s senatorial slate.
Legal experts earlier said Mr. Duterte could not run away from potential lawsuits since a vice-president is not immune from suits.
Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III, who was also ousted as party executive vice chairman, said PDP Laban had not yet chosen a vice-presidential bet.
He added that choosing one before naming a presidential bet was “an unusual circuitous convoluted process.”
“We will most likely delegate to our presidential candidate the choice of his or her running mate,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, some congressmen said the President’s vice-presidential ambition is a desperate attempt to stay in power amid possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human rights violations in his war on drugs.
“Duterte wants to run away from possible prosecution by the ICC by taking the VP route, and then later on regaining the presidency through a willing tandem,” Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas in a statement. “This is a desperate ploy to perpetuate his rule and cling on to immunity.”
Former ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on June 14 asked the court’s pre-trial chamber to open a probe into Mr. Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs. The court has also said the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC would not affect its investigation.
“Duterte knows that they will face piles of charges if the opposition wins the elections, thus the red-tagging, arrest and killings against the masses would become more violent,” Ms. Brosas said.
Bayan Muna Chairman Neri J. Colmenares said in a separate statement Mr. Duterte’s vice presidential ambition would be illegal.
Also on Tuesday, Party-list Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite said lawmakers should scrutinize the proposed 2020 national budget because the funds could be misused during an election year. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Russell Louis C. Ku