Rodrigo ‘Digong’ Duterte | Will his penchant for shooting from the hip propel him to the presidency?

(Photo by R. Olea/Bulatlat)

During the first presidential debate, he said, “Criminals, well I go after them…As long as I do it in accordance with the rules of law, I will continue to kill criminals.”


Dubbed as “The Punisher,” Rodrigo ‘Digong’ Duterte spews out profanity in his speeches, admits being a womanizer and says he would kill all criminals in the country.

Yet his atypical approach to his candidacy for president has pushed him in the front of poll surveys.

Despite his claim of a “crime-free” Davao City, data from the Philippine National Police revealed that Davao City posted the highest murder rate and the second among the cities with the highest rape incidents with 843 cases from 2010 to 2015.

In another report, the Davao City Police Office said that in 2014, there were 6,548 crimes against persons and properties.

With regard to the campaign against illegal drugs, the DCPO City Anti Illegal Drug Special Operation Task Group (CAIDSOTG) was hailed as the best in the country for 2015. According to the DCPO, out of 465 operations against illegal drugs, a total of 470 personalities involved in drugs abuse and trade were arrested.

Just like in his sorties, Duterte publicly warned illegal drug pushers that they would be killed once caught. Such pronouncements and statistics on the victims of the Davao death squad drew criticisms from human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch said the brutal death squads have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people during Duterte’s tenure as Davao City mayor. According to the Tambayan Center for Children’s Rights, at least 80 minors were among the victims of summary executions, with the youngest victim aged 12.

Duterte has made it a campaign platform. During the first presidential debate, he said, “Criminals, well I go after them…As long as I do it in accordance with the rules of law, I will continue to kill criminals.”

On two major issues affecting the majority of Filipinos, Duterte has not been consistent.

On the issue of landlessness, Duterte initially criticized the failure of previous agrarian reform programs. “The land reform was a farce. There was no support for farmers,” he said in a February 3 forum organized by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Duterte also said if elected president, he would get agriculture experts to study the issue further before he can push for a new land reform program.

A day after, however, Duterte told reporters he is open to allowing foreigners to lease land in the Philippines for 40 years that could be renewed for another 40 years. He added he is comfortable with a 70 to 30 percent arrangement in favor of foreign businessmen. Under the Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, foreign ownership of property is restricted to a 40 percent baseline share.

The KMP was dismayed, saying Duterte’s proposal would be “worse than the current law allowing foreigners to lease lands for 50 years renewable for another 25 years.”

On issues affecting workers, Duterte vowed to end the practice of contractual labor, which endeared him to workers’ groups.

On the first day of the campaign period, however, Duterte said, “I will establish economic zones. Mag-imbita ako… Dito kayo magtrabaho. Wag kayong magmamadali. Tapos kayong mga KMU, medyo pigilan na muna ninyo ang mga labor unions. Ako na ang nakikiusap sa inyo. Magkasama tayo sa ideolohiya. Wag ninyong gawin iyan. Kasi sisirain mo ang administrasyon ko. Kapag ginawa ninyo iyan, patayin ko kayong lahat. Ang solusyon dito, patayan na. E pag-usapan mo, ayaw. Do not do it now, iyung active labor front. Kasi kapag ginawa ninyo, nagsasara. (I will invite [foreign investors] … here you can do your work. Don’t rush. And you, KMU, restrain your labor unions a bit. It is I who is requesting you. We’re comrades in ideology. Don’t do that. Because you would destroy my administration. If you do that, I will kill you all. The solution here is killing. If we talk about it, you refuse. Do not do it, those active labor fronts.Do not do it. Give the Philippines respect for about 10 years.)”

As expected, KMU said Duterte’s statement against unionism is unacceptable.

With regard to peace talks with the Left, Duterte is among the candidates who support the resumption of peace talks.

Like Aquino, however, Duterte said he wants the New People’s Army (NPA) to lay down its arms or else he would have to fight them.

Anti-U.S. military intervention

What he has not retracted is his critical stance on the U.S. military intervention in the country.

In 2013, Duterte said he rejected requests from the United States government to make use of the old Davao Airport as a station for its drones or spy planes.

Duterte said that allowing the presence of US facilities would make Davao a target of attacks.

Duterte said that the U.S. is engaged in covert operations against Muslims in Davao City.

Duterte branded as an “affront to Philippine sovereignty” the whisking away of American Michael Meiring from a Davao City hospital by alleged agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2002. Meiring was injured in a bomb explosion inside a hotel room in the city on May 16, 2002 and investigations revealed that the bomb belonged to Meiring.

In a news report, Duterte’s running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano expressed the former’s misgivings about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines. Cayetano added that Duterte is willing to continue with the said agreement “but from a position of strength.”

The said report further quoted Cayetano explaining Duterte’s position: “Even if the United States is our friend and ally, we won’t depend on them completely,”

Duterte has been widely criticized for his proclivity for shortcuts, most especially with regards human rights. In elaborating on what he plans to do if he becomes president, his favorite expression is that he would kill all those who go against his laws and policies. And this has often angered some but endeared him to others. Why?

Perhaps Duterte has been able to project himself as the antithesis of what the people hate about the Aquino administration: its slow response to major problems, issues, and disasters, its perceived incompetence in solving problems from the most mundane matters such as traffic, MRT/LRT breakdowns to the most complicated issues such as corruption and poverty, its bungling of major operations such as the Luneta hostage crisis and the Mamasapano operations, and its veto of laws and policies that would have been greatly beneficial to the people such as the wage increase and SSS pension hike.

A quick fix is defined as an expedient temporary solution but one which does not address the overall problem. But who could blame those who have grown weary of the no-fix of the Aquino government, as well as the previous administrations. There has been hardly a dent on the problems of poverty, landlessness and joblessness, corruption and the politics of guns, goons, and gold, dependence and backwardness afflicting Philippine society. (

Share This Post