MANILA: Rodrigo Duterte snubbed his proclamation as the next Philippine President on Monday, reinforcing his image as a maverick outsider intent on challenging the nation’s political establishment.
A joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate in Manila endorsed the official count of this month’s election, which saw the trash-talking politician who revels in threats to kill criminals win by more than six million votes.
Duterte declined to attend the nationally televised event, preferring to remain more than 900 kilometers (560 miles) away in his southern hometown of Davao that he has ruled as mayor for most of the past two decades and he admits is his comfort zone.
“I am not attending the proclamation. I’ve never attended any proclamation (in) all my life,” Duterte, who will be sworn into office on June 30, told reporters on the weekend.
Duterte, 71, won the elections largely due to an incendiary law-and-order platform headlined by a vow to wipe out crime within six months.
He pledged to give security forces shoot-to-kill orders, and vowed that tens of thousands of criminals would die. Since the election Duterte has continued to encourage police to kill drug suspects, and said he would bring back the death penalty.
Another key message of Duterte’s campaign was his pledge to take on the nation’s political and economic elite, selling himself as an explosive political outsider that could shake up a power structure overseeing one of Asia’s biggest rich-poor divides.
Duterte railed against the elites and promised to fight for the poor, despite having created his own political dynasty in Davao and his own vice presidential running mate coming from one of the nation’s richest families.
Davao new power center
Since the elections, Duterte has refused to travel to Manila and promised to remain in Davao until he assumes the presidency.
This has forced politicians, powerbrokers, business leaders and courtiers to fly to Davao for an audience.
In further blows for so-called “Imperial Manila,” Duterte has named many politicians from the southern Philippines to cabinet posts.
Duterte has also repeatedly expressed his disdain for spending time in Manila, describing it last week as a “dead city” overrun by slums.
He also said he planned to spend as little time as president in the capital as possible, and that he hoped to be able to fly each day to and from Davao.
Duterte’s absence at the Manila ceremony on Monday delivered a message that he would not be beholden to lawmakers, said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute ofPolitical and Economic Reforms.
“As a symbolism he simply doesn’t want to be confined by Congress,” Casiple told Agence France-Presse.
However even some of Duterte’s supporters were disappointed that Duterte shunned such an important date on the Philippines’ democratic calendar.
“We tried to convince him to change his mind but unfortunately, he did not,” Vitaliano Aguirre, who Duterte has named as the next justice minister, told CNN Philippines television, while warning it was a sign of things to come. “I can assure you this is not the only thing that’s going to change.”
At Monday’s ceremonies in Manila, Leni Robredo was also declared the winner of the vice presidential election, narrowly edging out Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator.
Robredo, a member of Aquino’s Liberal Party, climbed to the dais with her three daughters and raised her hands in victory alongside the House of Representatives’ speaker and the Senate president.
But in anti-climactic scenes, the house speaker then congratulated Duterte and, with no-one there to accept, the Senate president quietly declared the session over.
In the Philippines, presidents and vice presidents are elected separately. The constitution limits them to serving a single term of six years. AFP