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Philippines' Duterte to let God decide his political future

 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (AP photo)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will "leave it to God" whether or not he will run for vice president in next year's elections, his spokesman said on Thursday (May 27), responding to speculation that he might try to stay in power longer.

Duterte cannot seek re-election in 2022 under a constitution that limits presidents to a single six-year term, but he can hold another elected post, including that of vice president.

It is not uncommon in the Philippines for former presidents to run for lower office.

"He's leaving it to God, that's his answer," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told a regular media briefing when asked about a Duterte vice-presidential bid.

Salvador Panelo, the president's chief legal counsel, told One News channel on Tuesday that Duterte may run for vice president if there is public clamor.

Opinion polls show Duterte remains hugely popular in the Philippines, despite his controversial pro-China stance, a war on drugs that has killed thousands of people and public criticism over his government's handling of the country's coronavirus epidemic.

Rumors have swirled that Duterte might try to stay in power by endorsing a presidential bid by his top aide and incumbent senator, Christopher "Bong" Go, while contesting the separate vice-presidential election.

A survey of preferred president/vice president combinations for next year's election by pollster Pulse Asia in February showed the Go-Duterte ticket would come top.

Duterte's daughter, Sara, has topped a different opinion poll on preferred presidential candidates, even though she has repeatedly said she does not want the job.

Political analysts are skeptical about Sara's lack of interest in running and say that as president, she could protect her father from legal challenges and political vendettas once he loses his immunity of office.