A closer look at President Rodrigo Roa Duterte



    TOKYO, JAPAN: What makes President Rodrigo Roa Duterte tick? What is it about him that despite his vulgar and profane language and unpresidential demeanor, his popularity and the people’s trust in him have not diminished?

    A caveat: I am neither a medical practitioner nor a psychiatrist so that my opinion of the man carries no medical weight whatsoever. I will attempt to divine him from the point of view of a former Public Relations practitioner who had handled politicians of note during past elections.

    Duterte is no angel. He doesn’t claim to be, in fairness to him. That we already know since his name first cropped up as a presidential wannabe months before the start of the filing of the certificate of candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections.

    As early as when he was still mayor of Davao City, he was accused of heading the dreaded Davao Death Squad (DDS), yet Davaeños speak glowingly, admiringly of him for maintaining peace in Davao by ridding it of drugs and criminality.

    On the campaign trail, he cursed the Catholic Church, Pope Francis and fantasized about abusing a beautiful Australian missionary who was gang-raped and killed in the hostage-taking drama inside the Davao Penal Colony in 1989.

    His opponents and quite a number of political analysts said that Duterte had imploded and had written him off for the presidential race. To their consternation, rather than implode, his poll numbers continued its upward trajectory.

    Duterte confounds his allies and detractors alike. He possesses all of the No-Nos of a respected leader. He is profane, vulgar, amoral. He does not have a clear path to economic deliverance. His campaign against drugs does not distinguish between the user and the pusher and the innocent bystander.

    Yet, despite all those negatives, people gravitate to him. They adore him. They are all too willing to turn a blind eye to his alleged abuses and excesses. Why?

    Have we lost our moral compass? Have we lost our moral sense to distinguish between right and wrong?

    Not at all.

    Filipinos are God-fearing. They are also loving, compassionate and quick to forgive and forget. That they welcome Duterte’s profane language is a reflection of their frustration with the government and our leaders. Laughing at every “P—–inamo” allows them to release their anger at those who oppress them. At the airport, at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and in various government agencies, they are subjected to various levels of extortion and oppression and even humiliation.

    On the issue of extrajudicial killings, the people are solidly behind Duterte in his campaign to rid the country of illegal drugs despite the deaths of some innocent civilians. I know it is wrong. But it is not difficult to sympathize with a mother whose daughter of 12 or younger, was raped and killed by a drug user. Neither is it hard to feel for a poor family whose son or daughter who just graduated from college or just started to work was brutally slain by a neighborhood toughie who was high on drugs.

    Duterte is highly intelligent. Years of being a mayor and congressman sharpened his natural talent of crowd control. His speech in Tokyo before more than 2,000 Filipinos was a classic illustration of his brilliance as a politician. He said nothing new. It was a refrain of his previous speeches before and during the campaign and in his first 100 days in office. No mention of policies, programs or vision for the country.

    Instead, he mused and talked about his personal experience as a young man and laughed about himself – his follies and shortcomings. His audience would laugh as he self-deprecates. He has this cunning ability to connect with the crowd.

    He would joke about his friends and some members of his Cabinet. He would tell the crowd why he had chosen them to be members of his official family. He would recall their YMCA days. In Lyceum where I first heard him speak before a group of students, he recalled his Lyceum days and said of his former classmates, “Sila matatalino. Mga 90 ang grade. Ako, pa-75-75 lang. Ok lang. [They’re all bright. Rating 90 percent. I used to get about 75 percent. That’s ok.]” And the audience would burst into uncontrollable laughter.

    In Tokyo, Duterte did not make any policy speech, either. Neither did he mention a program of government that will impact the lives of the Filipinos living in Japan. But the audience did not mind at all. They wanted to hear the vintage Duterte and his signature “P” word. And they were not disappointed.

    Looking at House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, he first asked him not to get mad at him, “Huwag kang magalit sa akin, ha.” (Don’t get mad at me, please.) And pointing his thumb at Alvarez, “Ito, (Alvarez), pareho kami dalawa” (meaning we both have two wives.) The audience laughed, clapped and cheered Duterte as if asking for more.

    The crowd went wild when he advised them not to be cowed and make a scene if a policeman or customs official tries to extort money.“Pag hiningan kang pera, sampalin mo, murahin mo. P—–ina mo.” (If they try to extort money from you, slap him, curse him.) The crowd roars into laughter. “Pag may nakitang bala, ipakain mo sa kanya ang bala. P—–inamo, ipakain ko sa iyo ito.” [If he says he has found a bullet in your luggage, let him eat the bullet. ‘You SOB, I’ll have you eat this.’]” That finally brought the house down.

    That’s precisely why they adore him. It is those words that our poor and battered returning Filipinos they themselves would want to tell the mulcting policemen and customs personnel at the airport but couldn’t. And it takes a Duterte to say it for them, to bring it out of their system.

    They associate themselves with Duterte with his folksy demeanor. They fantasize about standing up to the corrupt policemen, customs personnel and politicians, cursing them and slapping them as Duterte advised. With every “P—–inamo,” that comes out of Duterte’s mouth, they are empowered. Surreal but it is the kind of mood that prevails in every Duterte gathering. Life imitating art.

    And that’s what makes President Duterte a tough nut to crack. The masa are with him. And for as long as he is in the embrace of the people, he will be safe against the importunings of his detractors.

    I hope, however, that the President does not miscalculate, for if he does, he would be bringing the more than 100 million Filipinos to perdition. That is why keeping the adage in mind, “For every action, there’s a corresponding reaction” should serve him in good stead.


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    1. Contrary to what the author thinks, Duterte is one of the few politicians who has long-term vision for the country, not just for the next few years but he is thinking of the next generation. It was in Japan when he said that he doesn’t want the next generation of Filipinos to work abroad. When he told them to stand-up against vulturing police and customs officers, he was encouraging Filipinos to be assertive of their rights. Educated and rich Filipinos might be used to this and throwing their weight around, but not ordinary Filipinos.

      He wants the country to industrialize so that millions will be lifted out of poverty. By standing up to the US, he wants Filipinos to shake off their colonial mentality and at the same time, he wants us to forge closer relations to our fellow Asians. Lastly, the fight against drugs is to secure the youth, to ensure that the next generation is not compromised.

    2. Mr. Ang nice piece, separate him from the oligarchs of your kind, he is the voice of the pinoys whose voice are not being heard of. Unlike you with lots of powerful friends all around just one phone call away

      This Pres. is all the have, I wish he is younger at 71 he is easily get tired. But, I am in my middle age now saw politicians come and go. I think before he leaves office he will give a legacy to the pinoys that they won`t forget
      getting rid of criminality/corruption/drugs and massive infrastructure Luzon to Mindanao.

    3. He has Goos Priorities, but a MISPLACED ONE. We are on the road t
      tisto another DICTATORSHIP

    4. Duterte is the Lawful President as Comelec declared him to be. I may not like him as a Christian but, he is the President and he thinks he is doing the best for the Pinoys.

      I had hurts when my brother did campaign for Duterte and even urged my mom to vote for him| when I was an applicant for the PH 2016 Election too, even if I was disqualified due to lack of machines and funds: I was hoping that my brother wouldn’ t vote for any Candidate in the last Election as President. Mr Dante Ang| I have accepted that maybe we can just live with what we have right now in the government: Duterte as President. We don’ t have any other choice: either we live with him in the PH or migrate to other country, for us to have no presence of his governance.

      What I do is that I try my best to do what is right within my social circle| focus on those who and what I can change, then just ignore those I can’ t :)

      God bless Sir Ang. Jesus Cares.

    5. Our crab mentality is in full swing, our previously rising economy is now collapsing at high speed, the few in the world that take any notice of us Filipinos now view us as foul mouthed, untrustworthy back stabbing people with our hands out to the Chinese and Russians or any highest bidder, even the Chinese don’t trust us. Sad to say, most of my people have no education and will have no understanding of what is happening until those remittances stop…the damage is done.. Shèngdàn jié kuàilè

      • Speaking of Mentality: Have you ever wondered who the “Crab” is? Krusty or not. It is YOU! Oblivious to the things around you. Your dignity is overshadowed by the dollar. Your hypocritical values and persona reflect the disgust to what you have thwarted yourself with… “Your Own”. Coining a rising economy under Pnoy??? Get Real!!! That Abnoy is a Colonial Puppet of the United States. I doubt Obama will appreciate you even if you grovel at his feet. Pag sure! oy!

      • You’re so blind . Read some more and you’ll see what’s real.. There is no damaged, just CHANGE.

      • And you’re one of those people that has crab mentality. The man hasn’t been in office for 6 mos. but have accomplished so much already. The previous administrations never even tried. People like you who like to focus on the negative instead of the positve that’s why the country can’t get ahead!!!

    6. Probably the admirers of DU 30 come from the 39% who positioned him to be where is now. What happened to the 61% who did not vote for him? Can someone elaborate an answer or answers?

    7. DDAA Thank you! Thoroughly enjoyed the piece and this is one of the best decoding of the Digong. Strange, yet true: the matrons of Ayala-Alabang voted for the man, Digong. All what has been said is the living Digong, rare! Bless your pen!

    8. President Duterte and is one of the Filipino hybrid that we are looking for. I admire his stance against United States. Hindi mga Filipino ang nakikinabang ng mga Natural Resources natin kundi yong Imperialist na Kano kasabwat ng mga oligarch nila. Now it is the time for us Filipinos to stand our feet. If you noticed United States is the worst human rights violator in the world. Who created the terrorists? It’s them. I agreed also the idea of visa requirements for American visiting the Philippines.

    9. Leodegardo Pruna on

      PDu30 is just being himself- pragmatist and a realist. He has his own mind but also appreciative of what others have done good in the name of service. He however knows when a person would like to dominate and make one over him. The case of FVR is an example. PDu30 appreciated the advise of FVR but when FVR started to impressed his mind on Du30, that definitely ruined the partnership. FVR wants to dominate but he had his time. God bless the Philippines.

    10. President Duterte is an excellent orator. He knows our weaknesses, our fear, our distrust with politicians and police and our intense hatred with drug addicts. I can feel the release of my anger with the government when he attacks politicians and praises adulterers like him. Most Pilipinos are polygamist practicing or by self indulgence. He connects and lately he is referring to our children that will be affected if drugs will not stop. He appears to be a thug, an Asiong Salonga, a Nardong Putik. Now tell me why Pilipinos are mesmerized with this guy? I will call it Mass Hypnotism.

      • you missed leon guerrero my friend,i remember the time yun nag kampanya si sen lito lapid sa pampanga hindi sya naka sipot pero yun kabayo nya proxy,believe it or not dagsa ang tao pa rin at lahat feeling nakita yun sikat na artista,mass hysteria?

    11. DU30 is a smart 71 year old. He has his own style. He is tough talking and action oriented. It is easy to listen when he speaks. He talks using a friendly neighbor to neighbor style. He formed many opinions on what needs to be corrected in the PH in order to make the PH better. We are now watching this headstrong and action oriented man do his thing.

    12. The Great Defiant on

      we’ll said sir…
      we are tired of our politicians and the oligarchs who makes our lives miserable here in the Philippines.
      we are about to explode in anger and DU30 is our dynamite!!!!

    13. Duterte’s way of thinking is not something new. His thought pattern is very limited and can be defined as pure ‘anthropocentrism’. Whereby he does not subject himself to a higher being or he wants to have autonomy of decisions subjective only to rationalistic humanism. All his decisions and proclamation are geared based on pure humanism. The disaster is the de-spiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness that he tries to sell to the masses. All the cusing and temporary promises of antidotes to a common malady. The people have placed too much hope in political and social reforms only to find that they are being deprived of our most precious possession our spiritual life. You ask “Have we lost our moral compass?”..the answer is YES. This is the real crises. If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die his task on earth evidently must be more of spiritual in nature. We need to refute false prophets as a people with common sense we have every right to rise where our body and spiritual nature is not trampled upon. Yes, we lost our moral compass…the damaged is done and the effect will be felt long after we are gone.

      • Misunderstood. That’s why many pinoys like him is that for the first time we have a president who loves the country, not corrupt, and works tirelessly. Look at the end of the tunnel! Look at the results. He would make PH like Davao and everyone is excited to see that. Look st what he’s done for just a short time. Look beyond his weaknesses and see what he’s bringing on the table. He’s the greatest president that PH ever had,

      • ” Yes, we lost our moral compass…”

        Yet it’s the absolute moralists who presume to know what is and what is not moral who are the most dangerous people on Earth guiltiest of the vilest crimes.

    14. Thelma Maelarsten on

      Exactly! No one can ever explain better than this author did. The president is like one of us. We feel that he feels what we feel.. As you said we associate ourselves in his demeanor, being like us, the poor, hard working filipinos who are looking for some emphati and fair treatment from the government officials and workers instead of showing us their abusive behavior,

    15. Yonkers, New York
      02 October 2016

      Okay, let us postulate as given that in a national poll, around 80 percent of those polled support Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte–barbaric and contemptible personal behavior plus his warrantless genocidal extrajudicial mass-murder of his own people, specifically those SUSPECTED of being involved one way or the other in the illegal drug problem, a ruthless lawless drive that has netted for him some 4,000 hapless victims so far, with his target set at 3 million.

      That “high” approval rating, however, must pale in comparison to the near-unanimous approval rating Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin and Pol Pot–all notorious mass murderers–achieved in their own time.

      Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte’s high approval ratIng should be construed in this context.


      • Agree. Our guiding principles in choosing our leader should be the Bible and not to follow the one who speaks the loudest. DU30 is no where near in most traits of a good leader based on the Word of God. Here are some of them;
        1. A Leader must be husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. 1Timothy 3:2
        2.The one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:8.
        3. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Mathew 23:11.
        4. That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:15
        5.Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
        6.Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4
        7.For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him. Leviticus 20:9, etc.

      • There goes another amerikano. Shut the F up. You are there, you are no longer one of us. Tell your government not to fire drones at targets 10,000 km away from mighty america. Mind your own problems. You might say you send dollars, this I say to you, stop sending dollars, we will survive as your great grand parents did long time ago. May US address pa , f u c k off!

    16. Herman P. Hondojare on

      Finally a true honest writer analyst on who is Rodrigo Duterte and for me and he is the only nationalistic President, none politics and genuinely wise person who really loved our country for goodness and prosperity of every filipinos in the near future to come and next generations.

      God Bless The Philippines

      Mabuhay Tayo