ORMOC, Leyte: Cornered by young student leaders who publicly told him that he was their only hope for a corruption- and crime-free Philippines, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he would be willing to run for President if the whole of Leyte supported him.
In another rare moment where he candidly responded to questions about his position on the presidency, Duterte’s “Ormoc Declaration” was met with a thunderous applause by a huge crowd at the Western Leyte College Auditorium that included the student leaders from five big schools in Ormoc City and political and civic personalities. “But you better watch out. If I will lose in Leyte, I will come back to get all of you,” he told the crowd in jest.
His declaration of willingness to run for President, on certain conditions, was the second such statement made by Duterte, the colorful mayor of Davao City who is being pushed by many sectors to vie for the country’s highest political post because of his reputation of being a no-nonsense local leader who turned his city into the “4th Safest City in the World to Live In.”
He is also known as one of the few government officials who has steered clear of issues of corruption in his over 22 years as Davao City mayor.
On February 18 in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, Duterte also said he was willing to run for President “if only to save the country from being fractured.”
What made his Ormoc visit remarkable aside from the huge turnout at the Western Visayas College Federalism Forum was the apparent unity shown by opposing political groups in Ormoc City.
Duterte was welcomed by Ormoc City Mayor Edward Codilla and the Codilla political clan.
Later, he was also received by Vice Mayor Toto Larrazabal Locsin, an ally of Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, whose husband, movie actor Richard Gomez, lost to Mayor Codilla in 2013.
In his speech on federalism, Duterte pointed out the need to implement institutional changes in the country to address problems of corruption, drugs and criminality and the Bangsamoro issue.
During an open forum, he explained that federalism will be the best back-up to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The BBL is facing rough sailing in Congress and the Senate and is supposedly expected to be rejected by the Supreme Court because of some unconstitutional provisions, like the creation of an independent regional police force for the Bangsamoro and separate armed forces.
Duterte said he also does not approve of an autonomous police force or separate armed forces for the Bangsamoro area because this could create a big security problem in the future.
Duterte was born in Maasin, Southern Leyte, but was later brought to Davao City by his parents, Vicente Duterte and Soledad Roa, where Vicente served as governor of Davao province and Soledad as public school teacher.
When flash floods hit Ormoc City in 1991 killing almost 8,000 residents, he led a relief and rescue contingent from Davao City to help.
In November 2013, when Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated Leyte, Samar and other Visayan provinces, Duterte was also the first among local officials to arrive with relief and rescue teams.
“I was with you in your moments of despair and grief,” he said during a news conference held before the federalism forum.