Duterte says he may quit

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attends a South Korea-Philippines business forum in Seoul on 5 June, 2018. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP Photo)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he may step down as early as next year once a new constitution, which will pave the way for a federal shift in government, is in place.

Duterte, in a televised speech late Friday, rejected suggestions that a recently concluded review of the nation’s charter is meant to prolong his stay beyond his six-year term, which ends in 2022.

“I suggest and I would like Congress to approve it – make my term co-terminus with the beginning” of a new constitution, Duterte said. “Make me stop being president during the transition. In other words, elect a president before you make the transition from unitary to federal.”

Duterte promised the shift to federalism during the 2016 election campaign to bring peace to the southern Philippines. A panel of advisers he formed in February has proposed dividing the Southeast Asian nation into 18 federal regions and to fix the term of the president and vice-president to four years with one re-election. These suggestions are to be considered by Congress.

This isn’t the first time the firebrand leader has said he doesn’t want his stay in office prolonged. In January, he also dismissed calls from allies to extend his term.

Duterte said Friday that he’s no longer keen on holding peace talks with Maoist rebels and ordered the police to exercise maximum tolerance to those joining protests during his state of the nation address later this month.

In a speech on Saturday, Duterte said he would resign if someone can prove that they went to heaven and spoke to God. Last month, he called God stupid and expressed disbelief in the Bible story of creation, sparking an uproar in Asia’s biggest Catholic nation.

Duterte is set to meet the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Monday, his spokesman said on 3 July. – Bloomberg