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Regional News

Official: Duterte wants term cut if Philippines goes federal

MANILA (AP) — The Philippine president wants a draft of a new constitution shifting the country into a federal system to require the election of a new leader before that change to cut short his presidency, his spokesman said Monday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said a committee, which submitted the 114-page draft federal constitution to President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, agreed to his request and would rewrite a provision.

There has been speculation that the proposed constitution is designed to allow the 73-year-old Duterte, who has faced growing criticism over his bloody anti-drug campaign and human rights record, to cling to power beyond the end of his six-year term in 2022.

“It’s to remove all suspicions and I am tired, ready to give it to somebody else,” Roque quoted the president as saying, adding that Duterte was ready to step down as early as next year if the overhaul of the country’s political system is approved.

Duterte has argued that federalism would be key to ending a decades-long rebellion by Muslim guerrillas, who have demanded their own autonomous region in the country’s south.

Left-wing groups and nationalists, however, have long been wary that opening the constitution, which was ratified a year after the 1986 ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to changes could endanger democracy and safeguards against a return to authoritarian rule.