All year round, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte grabbed national attention when he figured in key issues and his supporters begun their signature campaign for him to run for Philippine president in 2016.
Calls for him to run as President Benigno Aquino III’s successor started last year, but has gained momentum after his appearance during a senate hearing last January, where he pronounced his willingness to kill an alleged rice smuggler should the latter set foot in Davao City.
His pronouncement was met positively by the public at a time when the prices of rice were at its record high. Unregulated rice importation and smuggling have not only spiked the prices of the country’s staple food, it has also gravely affected lowly farmers who suffer from low farm prices of palay (unhusked rice), according to militant peasant groups.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap reportedly said “Rice smuggling happened with government consent. It is a bane to the local rice production because smuggled rice released in the local market further pulls down the prices of palay produced by local farmers.”
Duterte’s participation during the Senate’s inquiry pinned down one Davidson Bangayan for the latter’s alleged involvement in smuggling imported rice. Duterte presented the Senate committee on agriculture a photograph from intelligence sources identifying Bangayan as David Tan. Bangayan was arrested for violation of the Anti-Electricity and Electric Transmission Lines or the Materials Pilferage Act of 1994.
Playing his cards
As Duterte gained pogi points, supporters sprouted everywhere in Davao, calling for him to run for president. Tarpaulins bannering Duterte for President Movement were placed strategically along main road as supporters like Mar Masanguid, Barangay Captain of vote-rich Agdao, made the rounds in getting signatures calling for Duterte’s bid.
It was a major shift for Duterte, who has been known as the punisher behind the Davao Death Squad, tagged for the spate of summary executions of suspected drug traffickers, criminals and gang members in Davao City.
Duterte has topped polls conducted by the two biggest universities in the city and a national cable tv program. The University of Mindanao’s Institute of Popular Opinion (IPO) survey which was conducted last October 6 to 17 showed that 7 in 10 Dabawenyos will vote for him as president should he run in 2016.
All throughout the year, Duterte played the reluctant presidentiable, saying he was not interested and did not have the funds to win the highest post.
This as members of the Rody Duterte for President Movement eventually managed to gather in San Juan City last October 13 for a caravan in Metro Manila to convince the mayor to run for president. Prior to this, the group started their tour in Mindanao going to the Visayas, and eventually in Manila.
Last month, Duterte ordered to remove the billboards and tarpaulins.
Former North Cotabato governor Manuel Pinol in his facebook page, announced that Duterte finally said “okay” to the prodding that he should first give a chance to listen to the people.
Piñol said that “the prayers, the tears and the cries of the people, plus the two day rest here in Hong Kong, which somehow gave him (Duterte) the luxury of time to look deep into himself, have softened Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte’s hardline position against the call to run for President.” Duterte and Pinol were together in Macau to watch the fight of Manny Pacquiao and Chris Algieri last November.
In an earlier online interview with Davao Today, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison shared his view on Duterte as a possible presidential candidate for 2016 saying that the CHR which has “repeatedly accused Duterte of violating human rights” is “The same commission (that) has never said anything critical of the gross and systematic violation of human rights by the Aquino regime and its military, police and paramilitary forces.”
Sison said that if Duterte becomes president, “he can act like a statesman and negotiate with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines).”
“But will the big financiers and media lords allow him to win the presidential elections?” Sison asked.
Ariel Casilao, regional spokesperson for Makabayan Coalition in an interview with Davao Today, said they take note that Duterte committed to be part of Kapayapaan as a network working for the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP.
Asked if the alliance of progressive partylists would endorse Duterte for president, Makabayan said they would first consult the grassroots.
“We are ready to talk programs with him before endorsing his candidacy,” Casilao said.
Duterte has only made jokes on his purported candidacy.
The most recent was during the release of the New People’s Army’s two prisoners-of-war where the mayor assisted.“My aim here is to talk to you. If I run, will I win here?” he said. Duterte also offered the communists to build a coalition government if he does run in 2016.
Ka Oris, National Democratic Front spokesperson in Mindanao, for his part when asked by reporters covering the CPP anniversary last December 26 in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur said “Maganda yan. Ang kailangan lang ay ano yung concrete. Sabi niya sosyalismo yung kanyang perspective, sabi niya pag nanalo siya magkaroon nga coalition government between the revolutionary forces and the government. Maganda pero sana magbigay siya ng more concrete program (That’s good. What is needed are the concrete steps. He says his perspective is socialism, and he says if he wins there will be a coalition government between the revolutionary forces and the government. That is good but we hope he will give more concrete programs).”
CPP’s Sison said that “Mayor Duterte should become president if he is willing to have a democratic coalition government with the revolutionary forces and other patriotic and progressive forces of our people.”
Sison’s facebook comment on Davao Today article Monday said “(W)e can have a common program of action: real national independence and territorial integrity, democratic empowerment of the working people, economic development through national industrialization and genuine land reform, social justice, a patriotic and progressive culture and international solidarity with other peoples for peace and development. What the revolutionary forces want is what the people demand.”
Duterte might be keeping a card in his hand by not flaunting his real intentions. He knows well how trapos are looked at by the educated voters in the country. But there are challenges to Duterte with the kind of electoral system in the Philippines.
“It has been proven from previous elections that the electoral system that we have is unchanged. Programs, platforms, and credible pro-people candidates stand no chance without the official and unofficial support of the United States government,” Casilao said.
“And with a corrupt and fraudulent track record of the Automated Election System implemented by the Commission on Elections, Digong stands a lesser chance if no chance at all,” he said.
Makabayan Coalition believes that a presidentiable should be able to “lift the majority of the people from poverty” by providing work and decent wages for the workers, land and subsidies for farmers, food security and access to basic social services.”
“He should also terminate unjust policies imposed by the United States here in the Philippines including that of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization,” said Casilao.
Casilao said that a candidate should also be able to put a stop to the political repression of activists, including journalists and other critics of government.
This was the typical description for Duterte by his campaigners when they place high marks for Duterte’s penchant for extreme measures like firecrackers and smoking ban and slow speed limit.
In a press conference January this year, Duterte was quoted as saying “I want smuggling of rice in my city stopped. But if you still do not stop your smuggling activities, I will kill you.”
During the Senate hearing of the committee on agriculture with regards to the issue of rice smuggling, Duterte said, “Sabi, may bumaba ditong smuggled goods. Sabi ko pagbababarilin ko kayo. If this guy goes, I will gladly kill him. I will not hesitate. I will do it for my country”.
The Commission on Human Rights, which has been engaged in a tit-for-tat with Duterte regarding the DDS issue, warned Duterte against his pronouncements in the senate.
Department of Justice secretary Leila de Lima said she was “disturbed” by the threats issued by the mayor saying “You cannot just do that. Rule of law tayo, na hindi ka na lang basta magpapatay ng tao.”
The mayor’s blatant pronouncements even earned the city the number 4 spot as the safest city in the world based on a survey by Numbeo.
In June this year, Duterte mobilized at least 1,000 police personnel and 350 members of Task Force Davao as he placed the city in heightened alert after President Benigno Aquino III called to warn him of a possible security threat. Groups were quick to say that the security threat posed by alleged bomb-making terrorist Abdel Basit Usman was false and meant to justify US military presence in Davao region.
Duterte revealed that he turned down to lease the former Davao airport in Sasa for the US military drone operations, a refusal consistent with his opposing stance on US military intervention in the country. “I turned down the proposal from this retired general on using the old airport. I told him that is difficult as I will not allow this airport to be used to attack Filipinos,” he told reporters.
Duterte’s local rules have also been hailed as landmark legislations in the country.
The landmark legislation of the Comprehensive Anti Smoking Ordinance in Davao City has named the city as the first 100 % smoke-free city in Southeast Asia by the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) July last year.
The ordinance was approved by Duterte last November 9, 2002. In 2013, it was strengthened with City Ordinance No. 0367-12 where violators are issued with citation tickets.
President Aquino during his visit in the city this year was reported to have complied with the city’s no smoking ordinance.
On October 2013, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 39 which sets the “speed limits for all kinds of motor vehicles within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.” His daughter, former Mayor Sara Duterte, was once apprehended for violating speed limit regulations.
In 2002, Duterte approved City Ordinance No. 060-02 which prohibits firecrackers. Since then, Davao City has earned the reputation as the only city in the country to have a zero casualty during Yuletide seasons. (davaotoday.com)