I’ve heard and read about Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of Davao City, but I’ve not had the opportunity to meet him in person. When I’m in the city, the media bureau tells me sorry, but the mayor is out of town, or his schedule simply does not allow interviews. Be that as it may, I learn tons about the guy from taxi drivers and men on the street and the local newspapers, about 90 percent of whose pages are devoted to pushing him to run for president of the Republic!
Who is Duterte, and why is he being considered (by Dabawenyos) as the alternative presidential candidate in the 2016 election? Let me tell you what a driver told me. “He’s the best leader we could have. Every year, as early as September, he has trucks bring down the Bagobo tribesmen to the city where they are allowed to beg in the streets.
They are given places to stay and sleep, and they are taken back to their villages with sacks of rice, canned goods and plenty of cash.”
What about crime in the city, I asked him. I don’t have the figures to check out what the driver, and most others I talked with, said about it’s being safe walking down the city streets. He must have forgotten that a popular restaurateur was kidnapped and killed by a couple. The tabloids carry a sprinkling of stories on petty crimes. Thus the city is considered the fourth safest city in the world, and one of the best in Asia.
If that claim is correct, it’s because the mayor runs it with an iron fist. My driver friend said, “We drivers really follow rules because the police are strict.” And then, the mayor is a good example of not breaking the law. He himself follows rules, he was once apprehended for driving a motorcycle without a helmet. He turned over his driver’s license and attended a drivers’ seminar before he was given back his license.
The papers, particularly the Durian Post, praise him to high heavens. When reports came out about a rice smuggler, he said if he had his way, he would have him obliterated without a second thought. He vowed to have a coffin ready for a drug lord if he came to the city.
“He should be made president of the Philippines, so crime and corruption will not be tolerated,” said another guy I talked with. His comments have upset human rights groups, and compelled the presidential office to issue a statement saying, “Killing a person is against the law. The President has been firm in the belief that no one is above the law. We must not resort to extralegal methods.”
A Time magazine called him “the punisher.”And a Manila Times editorial condemned “the mentality of lawlessness and vigilantism.” The paper said “ the culture of impunity enabled those in power, including officials, private warlords and businessmen to make retribution against those they felt acted against their interests.”
But his well-meaning, but extralegal methods are what impress people who are sick and tired of criminal elements roaming around free, and the justice system moving excruciatingly slow..” True or not, he is suspected of being involved with the vigilante outfit Davao Death Squad, which has been criticized by human rights groups for tolerating extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals.
Several months ago, the Duterte for President movement gained ground; this Duterte was reported to have shunned. Lately, however, he has made a turnaround, saying he had his ears open to the people’s clamor for him to take a crack at the presidency. He changed his mind after a televised interview where program host Tina Monzon Palma said he had topped a survey on likely presidential candidates.
Duterte was born 69 years ago in Maasin, Southern Leyte to Vicente G. Duterte, who served as governor of Davao and Soledad Roa, a school teacher, and moved to Davao in 1951. Their son Rodrigo has a bachelor of arts degree from Lyceum of the Philippines University, and a law degree from San Beda College in 1972, the same year he passed the bar exam.
Attorney Duterte served in the city prosecutor’s office from 1977 up to the Edsa Revolution in 1986, when he was appointed officer-in-charge mayor. He then ran and won the city mayor’s seat in three elections (1998, 1992, and 1995). In 1989, because he had served out his three terms, he ran for the House of Representatives and won as congressman of the 1st district of Davao City. After his congressional term ended in 1998, he again ran and was elected city mayor in three elections (2001, 2004 and 2007.) Having served the three allowed terms, he ran for office again in 2010, not for mayor this time, but for vice-mayor, as his daughter Sara Duterte Carpio was running for mayor in that year’s mayoral election. In 2010, he was reelected mayor for the eight time, and continues to serve as such.
One thing that non-admirers say about him is his not willing to give up power. After his third mayoral term, his daughter, Inday Sarah, ran to replace him, and the father, Rodrigo ran for vice-mayor and won.
The current vice-mayor is Mayor Duterte’s son, Paolo, who is said not to tolerate hanky-panky either. His style is like his dad’s: do this, or else. Mayor Sarah, was no softie, either. She once punched a sheriff for not obeying her order to start demolishing a squatter’s area only after she arrived at the scene.
When she was no longer mayor, Inday Sarah was reported by GMA News’ Unang Balita, as driving at 57 kph, violating the 40 kph-speed limit. She had her driver’s license confiscated and was issued a ticket. That same day, she paid the fine and got back her license.
Under Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s term, the city won the National Literacy Hall of Fame award for being a three-time first place winner in the Outstanding Local Government Highly Urbanized City Category.
His drive for a clean city includes prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages from 1 p.m. to 8 a.m. in public places. Executive Order No 39 limits vehicle speed within the city to 40 kph. He has ordered all shopping and commercial centers to install, operate closed circuit television cameras.
Finally, the papers tell that Duterte is backtracking on his position not to consider running for president in 2016.
His views: He think federalism is the right step to peace and progress in Mindanao. He is against amending the Philippine Constitution to give foreigners the right to own land. He is hopeful about the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law otherwise there will be no end to the conflict in Mindanao.
Durian Post writer Antonio Montalvan II writes in his article, “Is the Philippines ready for Duterte?” that no mayor has ever made the long jump from City Hall to Malacañang. In fact, no one has yet made a succesful leap from Mindanao to the presidential palace by the Pasig river, not to this day.”