By Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – The popular daughter of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday joined a new political party and could run for a national position, its top official said, just days out from a deadline to firm up candidates for 2022 presidential elections.

Sara Duterte-Carpio, 43, has led opinion polls throughout this year as the most preferred candidate for the presidency, a post she has repeatedly said she had no interest in pursuing.

But this week she withdrew from next year’s contest for mayor of Davao city, setting off speculation about a bigger role.

Duterte-Carpio is a promising leader and a tremendous asset, said congressman Martin Romualdez, president of Lakas-CMD, the party controlled by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that she joined.

“She joined Lakas-CMD for a possible national run,” Romualdez told DZMM radio.

The party has nominated candidates for president and vice president, but those are widely seen as placeholders who can switch at the last minute. The deadline for changes is Nov. 15.

A spokesperson for Duterte-Carpio did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her plans.

Her father’s PDP-Laban political party said on Wednesday it was watching “with keen interest” Duterte-Carpio’s moves, adding that a decision to seek a national post “will most certainly affect the political landscape”.

Duterte once said the presidency was no job for a woman but later suggested his daughter could team up with one of his loyalists for a run.

The 76-year old leader, who cannot seek re-election, was also an 11th-hour replacement in 2015 ahead of an election he won convincingly.

Political observers have anticipated his daughter might do the same.

Political analyst Temario Rivera said it was “very clear” Duterte-Carpio would seek a national post, but the possibility of her teaming up with another presidential aspirant, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., remains.

The son and namesake of the late Philippines dictator, who has registered to run for president under a different party, has not yet named a vice president.

“If they run together, whether it is Marcos-Sara or Sara-Marcos, it will be a formidable team,” Rivera told Reuters.

The Southeast Asian nation of 110 million people holds elections in May 2022 for positions from president down to governors, mayors and local officials.

Apart from Marcos, other presidential aspirants in next year’s polls include former boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, vice president Leni Robredo, Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso, senator Panfilo Lacson, and Duterte’s former police chief Ronald dela Rosa.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty and Sanjeev Miglani)