“I am old. I have no more ambition. I really would like to rest.”
That’s how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his retirement. In a speech on Wednesday, he dismissed allegations that he’s seeking to change the constitution to rule for life, like his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Instead, Duterte plans to step down early, two years before his six-year term ends.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has conducted a bloody war on drugs that has left thousands dead.
This week the Communist Party of China announced plans to amend the constitution to do away with the two-term limit for presidents, which paved the way for Xi to remain in his current position for as long as he likes.
Even if he steps down in 2020, Duterte believes he can achieve his long-held goal of introducing a federal form of government to the Philippines, with the aim of reducing the large wealth gap in the country. He’s proposing replacing the unitary form of government currently in place, where all power and is centered in the capital Manila. It’s a system critics say is prone to abuse.
Some had speculated that planned changes to the Phillipine constitution would also allow Duterte to stay in power beyond his single six-year term.
In a bid to bring about this change, Duterte last month established a 19-member panel including constitutional law experts and headed by a retired chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court judge. The panel has proposed a federal model similar to the U.S.
Duterte has often said “nothing short of federalism” will solve the problems in areas such as his home region of Mindanao. As recently as December, however, Duterte said he felt most citizens were not ready for a shift to federalism.
Despite his push to change the way the Philippines is governed, Duterte’s time in charge is likely to be remembered primarily for his bloody war on drugs, where he has openly advocated for extrajudicial killings.
The International Court of Justice recently announced it was opening a preliminary investigation into Duterte’s drug war, which could lead to a conviction for war crimes.
Cover image: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing Filipino Overseas Workers who were repatriated from Kuwait, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in suburban Pasay city southeast of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)