Getting to know: President  Duterte

GETTING IT FIRST HAND. President Rodrigo Duterte chats with the wounded soldiers while inside an ambulance following his visit to over 90 injured combatants confined at Camp Edilberto Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday evening. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
GETTING IT FIRST HAND. President Rodrigo Duterte chats with the wounded soldiers while inside an ambulance following his visit to over 90 injured combatants confined at Camp Edilberto Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday evening. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte – also known as Digong – is the current President – the 16 th – of the Philippines.  He is the first ever from Mindanao to become the country’s highest official and the fourth of Visayan descent.

Now, 72 (he was born on March 28, 1945), he is the oldest person to assume the Philippine presidency (Sergio Osmeña Sr. used to hold the record who was 65 when he became the President).

In December 2016 – six months after he became the president – the Forbes ranked him 70th among the World’s Most Powerful People.

“He is unorthodox as he is popular,” wrote Davao journalist Daisy C. Gonzales of the former mayor of Davao City.  “He gained fame (or notoriety) as a no-nonsense mayor in his fight against criminality. A good source of sound bite, he is his own effective propaganda machine. He is both loved and loathed.”

As a politician, Duterte has never been defeated.  As the mayor of Davao City, he is credited with helping transform Davao into a clean, green, gender-sensitive, and highly urbanized city.

Now, here are some facts about Duterte as reported in the media:

He believes in the Supreme Being.  When he was still mayor, he said: “If I listened to the Ten Commandments or to the priests, I would not be able to do anything as a mayor.”  Yes, he still believes in God but not in religion.  On June 26, 2016, he admitted that he’s Christian, but also added that he believes “in one god Allah.”

He was not born in Davao.  Yes, he grew up in Davao but he came into this world in Maasin, Southern Leyte on March 28, 1945.  He was still three years old when the family moved to Davao where his father, Vicente, became the last governor of then undivided Davao (now composed of five provinces: Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao Occidental and Compostela Valley).

 He claims he’s a Mama’s Boy.  In an interview with Philippine Star ‘s Ricky Lo last year, he said: “Actually, I am a Mama’s Boy, since I’m the eldest.”  He was also quoted as saying: “During the campaign when I was very tired, I felt beat and down that night and I kept on repeating names that I could not figure out.  I was eating alone and I saw a picture of my mother.  Bigla na lang akong nag-breakdown.”

Most people know that he was very close to his mother, Soledad, a school teacher, a plucky civic leader and a philanthropist.  When it was inevitable that he would become the next president,  Rody went to the grave of his parents at three in the morning and cried.  “Tabangi ko ma,” he was heard to be saying.

He doesn’t smoke.  He used to smoke but he has stopped a long time ago.  “That’s why Davao is a no-smoking city,” he said.  Just a few days before the Philippines joined the international community in observing World No Tobacco Day last May 31, he signed the Executive Order 26 making true to his campaign promise of imposing a smoking ban throughout the country.

He loves to sing.  In fact, he is a karaoke enthusiast who loves to spend hours with mic in his hand to unwind from his day job when he was still the mayor of Davao.  So, when he visited Malaysia recently, he sang Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” to the surprise of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who also belted out Cliff Richard’s “The Young Ones.”

He asks for forgiveness.  When he declared martial law in Mindanao and for the havoc wrought by the local terrorist Maute Group, he asked for apology and understanding from the people of Marawi City.

In his speech delivered before the evacuees in Iligan City, he said: “I’d like to say to the Maranao people that I am very, very, very sorry that this happened to us.  I hope you will find a new heart to forgive my soldiers, the government and me for declaring martial law.”

He also asked for “forgiveness” when former President Ferdinand E. Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.   Speaking in Lima, Peru, he said: “Well, it seems to be a very raucous issue for the nation but I would like to pray that everybody would find a space in his heart for forgiveness.”

He cusses.  Wikipedia notes: “(He) is known for his straightforward and vocal attitude in public especially in interview, showing no hesitation in using profanity profusely live on-screen on numerous occasions despite formal requests by media groups and schools beforehand to abstain.”

He needs rest.  Just like all human beings, he can also be tired.  Due to his “brutal” schedule, he was not seen in public for a few days; in fact, he skipped the Independence Day rites in Luneta.  “I think we need to allow him a few rest,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella told the press.  “He was actually on top of the situation but he also needs rest.”

He admits he has health problems.  “My state of health: What you see is what you get.” These were the words he told the audience in Butuan City for not being seen for a few days.

During the campaign last year, Philippine Daily Inquirer had this headline: “DUTERTE ADMITS HE HAS 4 AILMENTS.”  The four ailments, according to the news report, were slipped disc (due to a motorcycle accident), Barrett’s esophagus (a condition in which tissue that is similar to the lining of your intestine replaces the tissue lining of the esophagus), Buerger’s disease (a rare ailment of the arteries and veins in the arms and legs), and acute bronchitis.

“I have no cancer, I have four illnesses but they are not fatal,” Duterte said.

He hates drugs. Drug addiction begets a host of other problems – smuggling, prostitution, killing, gunrunning. “Majority of crimes which occur are basically influenced by drug addiction,” said the late Senator Ernesto F. Herrera, who was then the chairman of the National Citizens Drugwatch Movement.

For that reason and several others, he doesn’t like people doing drugs.  “I don’t like people involved in drugs,” he admitted. “I don’t care if they are soldiers or policemen. I tell them that drug dealers and criminals in my city have only two destinations – the jail or the funeral parlors.”

 He is vindictive.  That’s how former justice secretary Leila De Lima described him.  When she was still human rights commission chief, she had him probed in 2009 for his alleged links to the so-called Davao Death Squad.  When both were elected, she kept on criticizing him.

“But I never, for a single moment, ever imagined that he would be this vindictive,” De Lima was quoted as saying by Rappler.  “I never anticipated that I would be imprisoned ever.  I was a DOJ secretary.  I was putting people behind bars.  Now, I am here.”