President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday that he will step down early, dispelling fears that he desires to cling to power indefinitely.
“I am old. I have no more ambition. I really would like to rest,” the 72-year-old president explained, further remarking, “I will step down by 2020, I will not wait for 2022.”
The strongman president known for his tough, bombastic rhetoric has waged a bloody war on drugs that has resulted in thousands of deaths, as well as a crackdown on government corruption. Since he took power almost two years ago, the Philippine president has also engaged communist rebels and radical Muslim militants, hitting them hard on the battlefield in an attempt to quell domestic unrest.
He has faced criticism at home and abroad for alleged human rights violations in his brutal anti-narcotics campaign, as well as his carefree comments on murder.
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Lately, Duterte has come under fire for proposed changes to the constitution that critics claim would clear the way for the president to become a dictator, much like Ferdinand Marcos, who was overthrown by “people power” in the mid-1980s. The president insists the proposal is an attempt to create a federalist system akin to that of the U.S. Duterte has repeatedly stated that he has no plans to lead forever.
“If I overstay and wanted to become a dictator, shoot me, I am not joking,” Duterte told service members during a visit to an army base in January. “It is your job to protect the constitution and to protect the people. Remember, it is your solemn duty.”
His presidential spokesman said at the time that the president has no interest in staying past the end of his term, arguing that he would much rather retire early, yet critics remain concerned about the proposed constitutional changes that could extend the terms of elected officials, as well as Duterte’s alarming similarity to Marcos.