MANILA, Philippines – Two days after supporters waited in vain for him to appear in Manila to file his candidacy for president, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was in the capital but not in a political venue.
Duterte was spotted at the Greenbelt mall in Makati on Sunday night, October 18. Treated like a celebrity, Duterte was mobbed by mallgoers wishing to take selfies with him to chants of “Duterte! Duterte! Duterte!” The mayor attended a friend’s party at the mall.
In an interview with Rappler, the local chief executive reiterated that he does not want to substitute for another presidential candidate but also said that the substitution gives candidates a “window.”
“I do not like [that], parang scheming. Well, let us see. I don’t know. I leave it to God. If he wants me there, he will place me there. Ganoon iyan. (It works that way.) It’s God’s play. It’s not ours,” Duterte said.
Asked if he will still change his mind on the presidency, Duterte said, “Nothing is really final.”
“Whatever it is human endeavor, it is not final. It’s God. Now you are playing with that period where I can still file. Many are playing with that, that maybe Duterte can go for it by December. As I said, ayoko ma-ano ang tao.”
“Let’s leave it to God. If God wants me to be president, he’ll make me president. If God wants me dead tomorrow, I’m gone,” he said.
Duterte’s decision not to file his candidacy on the October 16 deadline disappointed supporters, who were hoping he would change his mind at the last minute. There were even rumors that the mayor was on a private plane to Manila to gun for the nation’s highest post.
The mayor has said several times that he does not want to run for president, but his jokes and statements on a possible presidential run energized his support base to anticipate his candidacy.
His daughter, former Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, even started a campaign to shave heads to urge the longtime politician to seek the national post. The flip-flops and media anticipation have been dubbed on social media as “Duterteserye.”
Questions linger on whether or not Duterte will run for president after his party mate, Martin Diño of Partido Demokratiko Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), filed a candidacy for president. Election rules allow substitution for a party mate until December 10, 2015.
Duterte said of substitution: “That proposal is incongruous.”
The mayor added that substitution offers a window “for those with really the ambition to run.”
Is he one of these people?
“Hindi ako substitute. Ginawa ako ng Diyos, original. Bakit gawin mo akong substitute?” (I am not a substitute. God made me original. Why will you make me a substitute?)
Duterte, 70, is a controversial figure who is both credited for securing peace and order in the southern Philippine city but also accused of human rights violations including vigilante killings. Yet he remains popular, and even the mall’s security guards could not help but ask him for photos.
‘I have no offense against you’
Duterte addressed the perception that he took his supporters on a ride by making them expect his candidacy only to drop it in the end.
The mayor said his supporters and the media did not take his no for an answer.
He quipped: “Sabihin ko ayaw ko, ayaw ninyo maniwala!” (When I said I didn’t want to run, you wouldn’t believe me!)
“Ako sabi ko, time and again, for the nth time, sinasabi ko ayaw kong tumakbo. I’ve said it in front of media 100 times. Kung magsasabi ako, sabihin naman ninyo, ‘Ah!’ Kasi ayaw nilang tanggapin ang sagot na ayaw kong tumakbo. What is acceptable to the people is magtakbo ako. Magsabi ako na mayor na ako, naiinis sa akin. Wala naman akong kasalanan sa inyo,” Duterte added.
(Me, time and again, for the nth time, I said I do not want to run. If I say no, you will say, ‘Ah!’ Because they do not want to accept my answer that I do not want to run. What is acceptable to the people is that I run. When I say I want to run for mayor, they get mad at me. I do not have an offense against you.)
Duterte said he will pursue his re-election bid in Davao.
“That’s what I filed in my certificate of candidacy. I’ve been mayor for 22 years. I really do not know if I can still hack it.”
Yet even his supporters at the mall were not pleased with his answers, repeatedly asking him if he was running.
At one point in the interview, mallgoers began chanting his name.
He barked at them: “Tumahamik kayo diyan!” (Keep quiet!)
Need to save for retirement
Duterte said his supporters must understand that money was one hindrance to a presidential campaign.
He said he was not like traditional politicians born from landed families.
“May pera ako but I accumulated para sa magre-retire tayo balang araw. I will grow old. I will need medicines. Ayoko kasing mag-istorbo ng mga anak ko. I’m getting old. A few years from now, wala na ako.”
(I have money but I accumulated that for my retirement some day. I do not want to disturb my children. A few years from now, I’d be gone.)
He again recalled meeting businessmen and potential funders but emphasized that he could not ask them for money.
“Pinatawag ako, pumunta ako for respeto. Nagtatanong tatakbo ka ba, the next question would really be, the logical thing, may tutulong. But really I cannot bring myself to ask for money.”
(They called me. I went out of respect. Then they asked will you run, the next question would really be the logical thing, help.)
Duterte said he leaves his fate up to God. He is returning to Davao on Monday, and joked that he will soon meet his end.
“It’s God’s will. Human mortals do not craft their destiny. It’s God’s. Sabihin ko mamatay na lang ako bukas. Sabihin ko na lang sa piloto, i-dive mo na lang!”
(If it’s God, there’s no debate there. I will say I will just die tomorrow. I will tell the pilot, make the plane dive!) – Rappler.com