By Karen Lema
MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may be excluded from another term, but do not be surprised if he still rules the country after a presidential election next year.
The popular Duterte gave the strongest hint yet that he might want to seek the vice presidency, saying on Wednesday that he was “sold for the idea” and seriously thinking about running for the largely ceremonial number two.
For Christian Monsod, a lawyer and one of the authors of the 1987 Constitution, Dutter’s real intent is clear.
“There is a plan to use a backdoor approach to stay in power,”
Duterte, 76, is trying to circumvent the limited period of six years set by the constitution to prevent abuse of power, said Monsod, a former election commissioner.
He suspects Duterte was asked by allies to choose a running mate to campaign with to help the candidate win the presidency. That president would then step down and let Duterte resume the post.
Duterte’s spokesman and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
Duterte, who has portrayed himself as a reluctant president with no desire for power, says he wants his media-cloud longtime aide Christopher “Bong” to be his successor.
His joining in 2019 helped Go become a senator, a job he combines with being Duterte’s personal assistant. Go says he is not interested.
Duterte daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has surpassed Go in opinion polls as possible presidential candidates. But Sara and her father are against the idea of her running.
Temario Rivera, head of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, said Duterte’s motivation to stay in power is obvious – to avoid jail and courtrooms.
Political vendettas are common in the Philippines, and former leaders minus their immunity from office have been prosecuted and even imprisoned after power changes.
“The question he faces is what is the best strategy to tackle the existential problem,” Rivera said.
Duterte has repeatedly baited the International Criminal Court (ICC) and dared to put him on trial for crimes against humanity. The ICC’s prosecutors have since sought a clear signal to launch a formal investigation into war killings on drugs.
“The strategy for Duterte is to make sure the opposition does not win,” Rivera said.
“The ICC can now proceed with their investigation in a clearer way if you have an opposition president in power.”
(Reporting by Karen Lema; editing by Martin Petty)