MANILA -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte weighed into a legal battle over the validity of his vice president's election in 2016 by backing her challenger as a potential successor.
Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said Thursday the president would step down if former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. wins a legal challenge to the validity of the election Leni Robredo, in 2016.
The case against Robredo was brought to the Supreme Court by Marcos, the only son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Robredo defeated the younger Marcos in the vice-presidential contest. While the court has begun an manual recount of the vote in one of the three provinces Marcos cited in his complaint, it may take years to settle the dispute.
Duterte, 73, said this week that Marcos and Sen. Francis Escudero, who also ran for vice-president in 2016, would be more capable successors than Robredo.
Asked by reporters to clarify the president's remarks, Roque said: "He has said that he thinks Sen. Bongbong Marcos is one of the better qualified leaders to succeed him."
The president earlier this week reiterated his desire to cut short his six-year term that ends in 2022, saying he was frustrated over rampant corruption and the proliferation of illegal drugs despite his bloody crackdown on suspects.
It is hard to say whether Duterte is serious about giving up power. He has said that he is tired of the role and has raised the possibility of stepping down on several occasions.
The president has said Robredo, who was elected in a separate ballot, would be an "incompetent" leader. He has even suggested that a military junta might be a better alternative.
Robredo, who hails from a rival political party, has angered Duterte by slamming human rights violations under his war on drugs.