Duterte saying what voters want to hear“Unlike in most seaside cities, our fish in Davao are chewy – because they eat people – criminals thrown into the waters. Why bury them, when the stink will lead to discovery of the corpses?”
“A man being scolded will hold his balls. It’s primordial instinct, to protect his means to transmit his genes from his generation to the next. Whenever I need to discipline lawbreakers, I point my gun to their groin. Invariably they mend their ways.”
“Why are foundlings always left by the church door? Because they’re children of the priests, that’s why.”
“I’m too old and lazy to work 25 hours a day, eight days a week, as President. The pay is low. Meals would be free, but then I own an eatery. Still there’s a call for me to serve, and I want to do something significant for the country.”
“I warn criminals: you do not have a monopoly of evil. I can be cruel, although I don’t need to be.”
Such words turn Filipinos on or off with presidential wannabe Rodrigo Duterte. The eight-term mayor of Davao City made some frown but most laugh, some leave but most stay at a forum this week with a group of professionals. Voters might see in him a madman who brags about murdering crime suspects, or a provincial simpleton way out of his league in national politics. But more view him as savior of this blighted land. Two weeks ago on the eve of reentering the presidential race, he zoomed past four earlier aspirants in a survey of Metro Manilans. One in three, 33 percent, liked his tough talk against crime and abuse. That could well be the trend in Greater Manila, or the so-called Lingayen-to-Lucena Corridor, where resides nearly half the voting population.
It’s what he’d do to criminals that voters prefer to hear more from Duterte. They want him to rid the country of crime the way he did to Davao City. “I’ll start with the drug lords,” he says. Drugs not only lead to other crimes against persons and property, but also corrupts officials. With what he’d do to narco-traffickers, Duterte says he’d surely go to prison after his presidential term. Then there’s kidnapping for ransom, which “has become a cottage industry.” He would send the Army Scout Rangers after the abductors with orders to level their lairs, “with no banana tree left standing.”
Abusers of authority would be treated with no mercy too. There is no “tanim-bala” extortion racket in Davao, Duterte says, because they know he would make them eat the bullets they plant on shakedown victims. One time a tricycle driver cried to him about being bullied by the passenger barker. Duterte reportedly ordered the latter at gunpoint to swallow all the coins he had collected that day. The next morning he checked with the city hospitals if anyone had died of metal ingestion. “I sighed in relief that there was none,” he recalls.
Being once a city prosecutor, Duterte knows that the justice system as it is does not work. The five supposed Pillars of Justice are so weak, it’s a wonder it hasn’t collapsed yet, he says. “Law Enforcement is weak because top-heavy,” he notes. “The National Police has 148 generals – too many, that it’s like a general merchandising. I can make do with only 60.” Too many rules tie down the Prosecution, he adds, and the Courts are bribable. He need not expound on the Correctional: lurid are news about Very Important Prisoners manufacturing meth in cottages, guarded by lower convicts with assault rifles. The will of the Community has been sapped, Duterte laments.
Duterte promises to change all that. “I will not prolong anymore the agony of the people in the past 18 years under three Presidents,” he vows. And if Congress disagrees with him and tries to impeach him, he says he would dissolve it and declare a revolutionary government. “If Cory Aquino could do it, so can I,” he deadpans, referring to the post-Marcos period of constitutional rewriting and administrative purging.
The man takes care not to overpromise. “Crime I can solve, but traffic gridlock on EDSA is unsolvable,” Duterte says. “Perhaps we should use the Pasig River.”
“I will not lie because I have no obligation to,” he adds. “I am always so vocal, especially against crime, because you cannot scare criminals if you do things in secret.” The only problem left with his candidacy, he says, is money – “because I cannot bring myself to ask other people for money.”