MANILA, Philippines — The daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday she would run for vice president to replace Vice President Leni Robredo in a March election.
Dela Maria Duterte, 37, is the daughter of the Philippines’ self-described “war on drugs” chief executive and is a columnist for the country’s largest English-language daily newspaper, the Inquirer. She made the announcement on Twitter.
She said she had decided to run for the vice presidential slot of the ruling coalition, said Pia T. Reyes, a spokeswoman for Duterte’s party, the Malacañang palace.
Robredo’s sudden withdrawal from the election, accompanied by her campaign team, over concerns about threats against her and her family, has meant one of the highest-profile campaigns in decades in the country. Reyes said Duterte believes she is not qualified to run as vice president.
She is Robredo’s first wife and also a lawyer and a former congresswoman. Her public profile rose sharply under her husband, former Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, a pro-environment activist who is running as a presidential candidate of the People Power Party, on a promise to combat illegal logging. Lopez was removed from office by Duterte amid allegations of mismanagement and abuses, drawing condemnation from civil groups.
“President Duterte would prefer to leave the campaign for a vice president who would protect the presidency from factions of the opposition, and for the vice presidency to guarantee the safety of President Duterte, his family, the Cabinet and Malacañang,” Reyes said in a text message.
Robredo won the vice presidency last May with the backing of a coalition of smaller political parties, upsetting Duterte and its coalition. Robredo held the job until her term expires on May 24.
Duterte won the presidency in a landslide in May.
Duterte has vowed to address the country’s traffic gridlock with the same style of brutal “war on drugs” that has claimed more than 8,000 lives in police operations and vigilante killings over the past 15 months. He has angered international critics, including the United States, by describing drug dealers as “son of a whore” and suggesting that some of their victims may have been family members of police officers, or involved in the trade themselves.
In addition to Robredo, Duterte has five vice presidential candidates on his slate.
Tamao was in the city of Davao and near her family in the East Philippine province of Sarangani on Monday, when Reyes confirmed her announcement to The Associated Press. Tamao’s party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, or New People’s Army, is affiliated with the communist insurgency. She had planned to withdraw from the election Monday evening with other Vice Presidents to join Robredo, Reyes said.
Duterte has denied any political interference in Robredo’s withdrawal and has said he considered her leave of absence “perfectly justified” because her candidacy was “really dividing the nation.”
On Sunday, Robredo flew to China to meet with supporters and to address the nation as an exiled presidential candidate, according to the official report on the event. Robredo said in a video released by her campaign that she would be focusing on the budget for 2021 presidential race.
She reiterated a call that the Marcos family relinquish its control of key government institutions, including the long-stalled University of the Philippines. Marcos’ son, President Benigno Aquino III’s favored candidate for the last two terms, claims those institutions are operating beyond his executive mandate, triggering constitutional challenges.
“Independence of the University of the Philippines is crucial,” Robredo said, according to the official report.