MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted his party’s nomination to run for vice president in the May 2022 polls, the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan said on Tuesday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who is PDP-Laban executive vice president, made the announcement ahead of the party’s national convention next month.
In a statement, Nograles said Duterte — who is approaching the end of his constitutionally mandated single six-year term as president — agreed to “make the sacrifice” and “heed the clamor of the people” to ensure continuity of his administration’s gains in its war against drugs and terror, as well as to sustain the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte … accepted the endorsement of the PDP-Laban party for him to run as vice president in the 2022 national elections,” Nograles added.
He said that Duterte had arrived at the decision after being presented with “popular calls” from PDP-Laban’s regional, provincial and barangay (village) councils, “aspiring for a transition of leadership to guarantee a continuity of the administration’s programs in the past five years.”
These include the “battles against terrorism, insurgency, corruption and poverty, and the scourge of illegal drugs,” as well as the successful implementation of the 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda, among others.
The 76-year-old president has faced intense criticism from the international community over his drug war. According to official figures, more than 6,000 people have been killed during “legitimate drug operations” since Duterte took office in 2016.
However, 2020 figures from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicate at least 8,663 deaths under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, while human rights groups say the figure is three times higher.
Authorities have also been grappling with an ailing economy triggered by an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent months.
On Saturday, the government eased COVID-19 restrictions in the capital region of Metro Manila to try and spur economic activity amid a record-breaking number of cases.
Nograles said that Duterte’s decision to run for vice president would “ensure that the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program will be sustained … during the pandemic, where targets are steadily achieved (now reaching 45 percent in Metro Manila and neighboring regions).”
Nograles’ statement did not mention the party’s presidential candidate, but it did float four names to form part of its senatorial slate.
PDP-Laban will hold its national convention on Sept. 8 at the San Jose del Monte Convention Center in Bulacan province.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Malacanang spokesperson Harry Roque said he was not privy to the president’s acceptance of the nomination to run as vice president. However, he confirmed that Duterte had met with PDP-Laban officials led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Monday night.
“I do not have personal knowledge of what transpired. I will leave it to PDP-Laban as a political party to make the proper announcement,” Roque said, adding that Duterte might also announce it during his address to the nation on Tuesday night.
“Maybe the confirmation on whether or not he will run for vice president ... will come directly from the president’s mouth,” Roque added.
Last month, Duterte said he “may consider” running for the vice president’s seat to avoid facing lawsuits once he completes his presidential term.
“The law says that if you’re the vice president, you will have immunity. I will just run then,” Duterte said in a speech during a PDP-Laban national assembly on July 17.
Among the cases Duterte could face is an investigation by the International Criminal Court over his role in the war on drugs.
In his last state of the nation address on July 26, Duterte taunted the ICC over the probe, challenging the global body by putting his threat to kill drug peddlers on the record.
“I never denied, and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you because I love my country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III, who are expected to launch their 2022 election tandem next month, were unfazed by PDP-Laban’s announcement.
“It won’t matter to my and Senate President Sotto’s determination to run in the May 2022 national elections. We have already declared and, at this point in time, there is no turning back,” Lacson said in a statement.
“That said, we continue to hope that the electorate will not be swayed by entertainment politics, nor affected by fear and intimidation when they choose our country’s next leaders,” he added.