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Rodrigo Duterte: ‘Winning presidency is destiny’

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Davao City Mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

EDITOR’S NOTE:

 We are running the profiles of the presidential and vice presidential candidates to offer voters insights into their character, hoping these will help the electorate make an informed choice on May 9.

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RODRIGO Duterte says if he wins the presidency on May 9, it will be the will of God.

The Davao City mayor entered the election race late, and then only as a substitute candidate of PDP-Laban. But in the last two voter preference surveys, the self-styled local incarnation of Dirty Harry, the fictional San Francisco police inspector who, in a series of hit movies, guns down bad guys, has surged ahead of his rivals.

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The 72-year-old whose campaign speeches are spiced with cuss words denies his late entry was meant to spare him the focus of demolition jobs in the mud-spattered hustings.

It is “destiny,” he says. The holy grail is to stop Sen. Grace Poe on what had seemed to be an unstoppable march to Malacañang, riding on the residual adulation star-struck masses held for her adoptive parents, action king Fernando Poe Jr. and movie sweetheart Susan Roces.

Duterte says he can’t bear to see an American becoming the country’s leader, referring to Poe abjuring her Filipino citizenship to become an American and fabricating her bona fides to enter the presidential race as a natural-born citizen although her biological parents remain unknown in violation of an explicit mandate of the Constitution. The Supreme Court would later accept her candidacy and her “misrepresentations” as nothing more than honest mistakes.

“I will be the last card of the Filipino people. And if God wants me there I will be there,” Duterte told the Inquirer.

Foot-in-mouth disease

He basically suffers from a foot-in-mouth disease. He had surged to the top in one early popularity survey, only to crash after he cussed Pope Francis purportedly for causing a massive traffic jam during the papal visit in Manila early last year that forced him to relieve himself in his car using a soda bottle.

His most serious blunder came two weeks ago, when he said he recounted at a campaign rally—to guffaws from the crowd—how he saw an Australian lay minister who was held hostage and gang-raped during a jail riot in 1989, and who he said looked like a movie actress that he should have been first in line of her violators.

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What was meant to be a joke caused a widespread firestorm, including statements of condemnation from the American and Australian ambassadors in Manila.

Duterte’s retort was for the two diplomats to shut their mouths, threatening to sever ties with their countries if he is elected President.

Political rivals hate Duterte, a lawyer who went to San Beda College. They call him a monster, callous, uncouth, abrasive, a murderer, a human rights violator, a womanizer, a megalomaniac.

They released a purported annulment decision of his marriage from his wife of 27 years, Elizabeth Zimmerman, who bore him three children and who found him  afflicted with an “antisocial narcissistic personality disorder.”

 

‘A good man’

But for people who have worked with the Davao mayor for more than 20 years, he is a good man and has the people’s interest at heart.

“Behind his strong and sometimes intransigent persona seen in public is a compassionate, sincere and principled man, ” said Leoncio Evasco Jr., his longtime chief of staff. “He is the most sincere, simple but dedicated leader I have ever worked with. He inspires people who know him very well,” Evasco said.

“He most especially hates persons who discriminate, take advantage and assault vulnerable sectors of our society—the lumad, the people with different gender preferences and most especially women,” Evasco said. “The elitists are trying to impose their myopic rules on our people,” he said. “Duterte is not in this elitist circle and he is definitely out–of-the-box.”

He is a night person, a night owl, as it were. So that in many of his public engagements, he normally arrives late. Asked to explain once, Duterte said, “The airplane had a flat tire.” Still, crowds in his campaign rallies love  him and patiently wait for him.

Duterte is unapologetic. “For every profanity, there’s a story behind it. People should go beyond my cussing,” Duterte said.

Campaign against drugs

What apparently appeals to Filipinos is his campaign mantra to eradicate illegal drugs and criminality within six months of his presidency, otherwise, he said he and his running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, would resign. He vows to be a decisive leader in this nation where he says drug abuse is so rampant even farmers have become victims.

Philippine National Police Director General Ricardo Marquez brushes aside Duterte’s boast as nothing more than mere words. He said even the most advanced countries had pervasive drug problems.

Davao City, the country’s largest in terms of land area with a population of more than 1.5 million, is the showcase of Duterte’s presidential agenda. Most people say he really did a good job here, cleaning it up of communist death squads—one district had the sobriquet Nicaragdao after the dissension in guerrilla-wracked Nicaragua in the ’60s and ’70s—and transforming it into one of the nation’s safest cities—a supposed renown disputed by his rivals.

Mindanaoan

Duterte says that if it is written in the stars, he will be the first leftist and the first Mindanaoan to occupy Malacañang. And not only that, the Moros, locked in a bloody separatist war over the past decades, would have a foot in the Palace with a President that would right a historical wrong.

Because of his communist leanings, he had been accused of being soft on China in the country’s fight over territorial waters.

In his moments of playful banter, he says he would jet-ski and install the Philippine flag in the disputed West Philippine Sea to dramatize the country’s sovereignty in the area in the event that China will not honor an international arbitration ruling favorable to the Philippines.

Decisive leadership

The son of a former governor of the then undivided Davao province and a schoolteacher,  Duterte currently is on his seventh term as city mayor. He was a one-time congressman  in 1998. In 2010 he served as vice mayor to his daughter, Sara.

He rides a motorbike and owns an expensive Harley-Davidson, but uses an old pickup truck as he goes around the city.

The truck is equipped with a megaphone Duterte uses in reprimanding abusive motorists and constituents. He used to patrol the city in a convoy with blaring sirens accompanied by armed men with long firearms.

For Mike Canuto, a medical student, Duterte has done a lot of good in the city. “He built a  rehabilitation and treatment center for drug users which provides 24-hour services to everyone who wants to get clean,” he said.

Apart from peace and order, Duterte also espouses federalism, but is yet unclear on how he will go about pursuing this program, apart from saying that the resources of local governments should stay with them to ensure progress and development.

With respect to the monster problem of transportation and traffic gridlock in the Philippine capital, he says he will transfer various government offices outside of Metro Manila.

The thing he offers is decisive leadership to set the nation, adrift in what he says is a rudderless Aquino administration, on course to prosperity, the same way he did when he took over Davao City two decades ago.

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