Duterte abandons plans to stand for Philippines Senate

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has abandoned plans to stand for the Senate as he faces new elections in July and an uncertain future over his bodyguard’s widely condemned drug killing.

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In a broadcast speech, Duterte apologised to the Senate for the attention it will bring as a result of the campaign to oust him and said he would not use Senate rallies to “emptied.” Duterte added he had done nothing wrong and hoped that a full investigation would clear him of charges.

“Unfortunately, this will mean more attention on me than I had planned,” he said, adding that his lawyers had given him four weeks to withdraw from the race and still consider himself a Senate candidate. “I am not resigning my job, not even the presidency,” he said.

Earlier this month, the supreme court began impeachment proceedings against Duterte, a former mayor of Davao city. The anti-drugs squad of Duterte’s personal bodyguard has been accused of killing criminals without a court warrant as part of Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.

Duterte has not been involved in operations for drugs, though he runs one of the country’s biggest drugs syndicates and other top police officers have testified before Congress saying they were involved in extrajudicial killings.

Rodrigo Duterte on drugs, power and new presidency.

The police have denied they ordered or participated in the extrajudicial killings, saying officers act within the law to bust drug syndicates.

The decision to call an election was a continuation of what appears to be an unwavering commitment by Duterte to remain in office even if impeachment proceedings proceed, though it will be his first chance to reshape his government in the national senate, a key battlefield against powerful and powerful vested interests.

The court started impeachment proceedings on Monday against Duterte after a petition by congressmen Mariano Venegas and Joseph Estrada. Estrada served as president from 2001 to 2006 and lost the election that year to Gloria Arroyo. He has urged the court to probe Duterte’s role in leading a bloody anti-crime crackdown.

Duterte, however, has no direct links to the ex-president’s death squad and Venegas and Estrada have admitted to being involved in violent street fights after failing in their campaigns for president. Duterte came out as a presidential candidate in May 2016 and narrowly won the election.

Speaking at a ceremony for Congress to elect its new senators, Duterte said some lawmakers would support him but did not indicate which ones. He recalled that another senator had acknowledged voting against a law enabling him to run for president.

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“He said it was a mistake because he knows there’s still a lot of things I should do when I become president, but at least I’m still president,” Duterte said.

Duterte dismissed as “ridiculous” the idea that he would flee the country, likening it to accusing other presidents of fleeing when they were overthrown.

To explain his actions as a president, Duterte said he wanted to give more control to congress, a lower house dominated by Duterte’s Liberal party. He said he was hoping to see economic policies that also support fighting drug-related crimes, pushing through plans to upgrade infrastructure and tackling the corruption that is widespread in public life.

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