PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday instructed the army and police to shoot him if he extends his term in a bid to prevent himself from becoming a dictator.
The firebrand leader made the announcement amid warnings by his foes on him clinging on to power and moves by his loyalists to change the constitution.
Duterte sought to dispel speculation he had ordered loyalists in Congress to change the constitution to introduce a federal system that would let him stay in power beyond 2022, when his single term ends.
“Even before it gets out of hand, if I want to become a dictator, shoot me,” he said, as quoted by Rappler.
Duterte has advocated federalism to tackle inequality, empower provinces and recognise the country’s diverse makeup.
“It is your job to protect the constitution and to protect the people. Remember, it is your solemn duty,” Duterte told soldiers during an army base visit, adding that security forces should not allow anybody to mess with the constitution.
“If I overstay and wanted to become a dictator, shoot me, I am not joking.”
Last week, his lower house allies voted to convene a constituent assembly to revise the charter by May this year, scrapping mid-term elections next year and extending the terms of all elected officials.
Constitutional reform has been a divisive issue, with critics accusing lawmakers of trying to prolong their stay in office, or of seeking a way for the hugely popular Duterte to cling to power beyond the end of his term.
Opponents warn it could lead to a repeat of the oppressive rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, saying they are troubled by Duterte’s admiration for Marcos and his similar authoritarian traits.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, has repeatedly said the president has no desire to stay longer than his term and, if anything, would prefer to retire earlier.
Additional reporting by Reuters