DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – "I am not running."
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ended on Monday, September 7, what has been a long wait for supporters and political observers, announcing that he would not seek the presidency in the 2016 elections.
He told a crowd of supporters, a number of them crying, that he arrived at the decision after consulting with his family. It is no secret that at least his daughter Sara – also a former mayor of Davao – was against him running seeking the highest post. Duterte's son, meanwhile, had said he would support whatever decision his father would take.
"After consulting my family and everybody else connected to my life, I would like to categorically state now and also for the agony of those waiting for those who believe in me: hindi ako tatakbo pagkapresidente," the mayor said.
"Wala ako ambisyon in 2016. May usapan kami ni Inday Sara, pero hindi pa buo, na I'm asking her to run for mayorship," he said. (I have not ambitions for 2016. I've spoken to Inday Sara, although it's not final yet, I'm asking her to run for mayor.)
"In 2016, I will retire from public life for good. I believe it's no longer my time to be in politics," Duterte said.
Duterte apologized to his supporters and friends during the 14-minute press conference, then hurriedly left the hotel. (READ: Netizens react to Duterte decision)
He was teary-eyed and did not entertain questions from reporters.
The movement to convince Duterte to run for president was launched in March 2014, with thousands of Davao residents showing up at the city's Rizal Park, carrying banners and tarpaulins to show their support.
At the time, the mayor had threatened to quit politics when his term as mayor ends in 2016 if the supporters continued pushing him.
He raised his supporters' hopes, however, when he kicked off in January 2015 a series of regional consultations on a possible shift to a federal system of government in the country – his longtime advocacy that is shared by many residents of the Visayas and Mindanao.
He had also been in sorties even in Luzon. In fact, his schedule for this week included visits to Metro Manila cities.
Duterte was initially viewed as an alternative candidate to Manila-centric politicians. He was also considered as a threat to the candidacy of Vice President Jejomar Binay because they both drew support from the local government sector.
In February 2015, he even graced the anniversary celebration of PDP-Laban, his original party, sparking speculations that it could become the vehicle for his presidential bid.
In May, he told overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong that one reason it was difficult for him to decide to seek the highest post was his fear of failing at the demanding job. In June, despite having conducted "listening tours" and placed paid advertisements, he said people should make him their last choice for candidate, only when there were no other options.
He had ranked 3rd in presidential preference surveys. – with a report from Karlos Manlupig/Rappler.com