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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to be the ruling political party’s vice presidential candidate in next year’s elections, the PDP-Laban party said on Tuesday, laying the groundwork for the leader to stay in power beyond his term.

The PDP-Laban party made the announcement ahead of a national assembly on Sept. 8, when it is also expected to endorse Duterte’s aide and incumbent Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go to be its presidential candidate in the 2022 polls.

Duterte is making “the sacrifice” and heeding “the clamor of the people,” Karlo Nograles, executive vice president of the ruling PDP-Laban party, said in a statement.

In the Philippines, the president is limited to one six-year term and Duterte’s term is due to end by June next year. His vice presidential run is seen by political observers as a backdoor to the presidency, however.

Nograles said the move would “guarantee continuity of the administration’s programs during the past five years,” including those meant to address illegal drugs.

Duterte’s critics believe he could be making a play for retaining power through the number two post, by taking over as president in the event ally Go wins and then resigns.

Duterte, who has portrayed himself as a reluctant president with no desire for power, has on several occasions said he wanted Go to be his successor. His endorsement in 2019 helped Go to become a senator, a post he carries out alongside his duties as Duterte’s personal aide.

Go has been the 76-year-old’s closest aide since the late 1990s, when Duterte was a congressman representing Davao City in the country’s south.

“I am still not interested (in the presidency),” said Go, who chairs the senate committee on health. “Vaccines first, before politics.”

Duterte has said he wants to shield himself from possible legal action when he leaves office.

That may include a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity. The ICC’s prosecutor has sought the go-ahead to launch a formal investigation into the killings committed during Duterte’s war on drugs.

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