The Duterte mystique | Inquirer Business
Point of Law

The Duterte mystique

/ 12:45 AM April 28, 2016

Since declaring his candidacy for the presidency, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has been enjoying an extraordinary rise in poll surveys. He even recently jumped to lead, leaving behind Senator Grace Poe by a wide margin.

What makes him so special? Why the clamor for him?


Duterte is not your typical politician. His views on national issues such as federalism, the West Philippine Sea dispute and same-sex marriage are in stark contrast to what most politicians advocate.

He does not dance to the tune of the public. He speaks his mind regardless of the political consequences. He is rude and boorish. He says something that offends the senses (even against Pope Francis) and retracts thereafter.


He cracks jokes even at the expense of women. He lacks the finesse and tact of the average politician. He appears to have no desire for power or wealth—only women and profanity.

Duterte is many things to many people: a self-confessed killer and womanizer, a man of contradictions, a potential dictator, and “the-end-justifies-the-means” kind of guy.

Then, why do people support him?

Are people so desperate about the state of criminality in the country? Do they see the mayor as their savior from the horrors of crime? Note that even the most powerful and the wealthiest are not immune from the menace of drugs. It victimizes their children. It makes our streets unsafe.  This is a serious concern that cuts across all classes of voters.

Duterte is credited for making Davao one of the safest cities in the world. Davao ranked No. 1 next to Seoul and Dubai (based on July 2015 data) according to Numbeo, the largest global database of user contributed data for cities worldwide. Many Davao citizens credit this to Duterte’s hardline stance against criminality.

But how tough of a crime fighter is he?

Let’s put it this way: He is nicknamed “Duterte Harry” of Mindanao after “Dirty Harry,” a fictional movie character who has no qualms about crossing ethical boundaries to serve justice. Duterte is linked to the Davao Death Squad, a group blamed for the thousand enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Davao City.


In an interview with ABS-CBN, he was asked about his link to the group and he proudly replied: “True, that’s true.” He added: “Alam mo, ’pag ako naging presidente, I warn you, I do not covet the position. ’Pag naging president ako, magtago na kayo. ’Yung 1,000 na ’yan it will reach 50,000 … I do not want to commit a crime. But, if by chance, God will place me there, magbantay kayo. ’Yung 1,000, magiging 100,000. D’yan mo makita na tataba yung isda sa Manila Bay. D’yan ko kayo itapon. (I do not covet the presidency. But if I do become president, you better hide. The number of deaths will rise.)”

There may also be other reasons for Duterte’s surge in the presidential surveys. It could be because his immediate family members do not owe allegiance to any other country, or because he has no history of corruption. It could be because of his “aksyon agad” (act immediately) track record.

It could also be because people are impatient about the ability of President Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” (straight path) to deliver basic services to the country. It could be because, as an overseas Filipino puts it, the mayor is a “different kind of guy who can shake the system.”

Or it could be for a simpler reason—maybe because he is flawed just like the rest of us.

In short, many people do not seem to care about Duterte’s negative traits and believe that his brand of leadership is what the country needs in this day and age.

Many of us say that the Filipino electorate must not forget something very important about the presidency. The president is not only supposed to be a crime fighter, but the representative of the Filipino people to the world.

The president is supposed to deliver on his promises while showing respect for human rights. He must uphold the rule of law. He is supposed to be circumspect about things. He is supposed to be a statesman. His brand of governance must be upright. He must be morally fit to lead the country.

A lot of people say Duterte is not all those. His legions of fans say otherwise.

We, the people, will have to decide one way or the other come May 9. That is our sacred obligation under the Constitution.

The views in this column are exclusively the author’s. He may be contacted at [email protected]


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TAGS: Business, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, economy, News, senator grace poe, Surveys
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