TODAY, President-elect Rodrigo Roa Duterte, 71, will take his oath as the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines, the first president from Mindanao.
Called “Digong” by his supporters, President Duterte is the son of a public school teacher, Soledad, and a former politician, Vicente. He worked as a lawyer before being appointed as vice mayor of Davao by former President Corazon Aquino.
After that, he won as the vice mayor and considered as among the longest-serving mayors in the Philippines, totalling more than 22 years. He also served as congressman.
Duterte had been offered government positions by then presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Quino but he declined telling them “he is not qualified.”
He was also urged to run for the Philippine presidency numerous times but he refused until he declared his candidacy on November 21, 2015 for the 2016 elections and won with a landslide victory, garnering 16,601,997 votes.
Fierce leader of Davao
Over a period of 20 years, Duterte turned Davao City from a “murder capital of the Philippines” to what tourism organizations now describe as “the most peaceful city of southeast Asia.”
Dubbed as “The Punisher,” by Time magazine, he has been critized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for tolerating extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals via vigilante Davao death squads.
In 2009, Duterte said; “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a ligitimate target of assassination.” In 2015, Duterte confirmed his links to extrajudicial killings in Davao, and warned that, if elected president, he, may kill up to 100,000 criminals. After the said confirmation, Duterte challenged human rights officials to file a case against him if they could provide evidence to his links with vigilante groups.
“I don’t care if I go to hell as long as the people I serve will live in paradise,” he said.
The other side of Duterte
A day after the May 19, 2016 elections, Rodrigo Roa Duterte surprised his detractors by reaching out to his presidential opponents, “Let us begin the healing now,” declaring that he was accepting the public’s mandate.
Ten hours after the polls had closed on May 11, after three in the morning, Duterte asked his aides to bring him to the public cemetery in Davao to visit the grave of his parents.
As he approached his parents’ grave, the tought-talking and crime-crushing mayor began to break down in tears. Clenching his fist on top of his mother’s tomb, he sobbed like a child.
“Ma, please help me,” he said in the local Visayan dialect. “I can’t believe this. Who am I? I’m just a nobody.”
He told one of his aides that he have long wanted to cry aloud like that.
Be ready for the change
Duterte’s stern stance on law and order and his human side won the hearts of many Filipino voters and hope that with this new president, change is indeed possible. In voting for Duterte, the people sent a resounding message: we’re tired of waiting for progress—and we’re ready to try somebody new.
Duterte, meanwhile assures the Filipino people that he will also behave after the oath-taking. He said, “When I become president, I will really behave.”
Let’s all hope for the best and support the 16th president of the Philippines.