Davaoeños on Independence Day: Duterte can free PH

Paterno Esmaquel II
Davaoeños on Independence Day: Duterte can free PH
On Independence Day, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's long-time constituents say he can save the Philippines from different kinds of bondage

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – More than Philippine flags, banners honoring President-elect Rodrigo Duterte continued to adorn Davao City on Sunday, June 12, as the country marks its 118th Independence Day. 

Duterte, too, remains the talk of the town in restaurants and coffee shops in Davao City. In a place called Duterte Town Square, even a little boy can be seen posing with a life-size cut-out of Duterte on Saturday evening, June 11 – a sign of the president-elect’s rockstar status here. 

Indeed on Independence Day, what reverberates here is Duterte’s victory, as Davaoeños believe he can free the Philippines from different kinds of slavery.

“It is an honor to be part of the national celebration of the 118th Independence Day. This year, Davao City is celebrating it with high spirits as we commemorate not just freedom from bondage and oppression. This year, we celebrate it knowing that in a few days’ time, a Davaoeño will take the highest seat of the country,” Davao City Councilor Marissa Abella said in a speech during their Independence Day rites on Sunday morning. 

In an interview with reporters, Davao City Administrator Jesus Melchor Quitain said Duterte can help the Philippines uphold its gains on June 12, 1898, when it declared independence from Spain. 

“This is a time for us to reflect on whether we have remained true to the promise of the revolution in 1898,” Quitain said.

Referring to Duterte, the city administrator added, “He can do a lot of things to make things different not only for Davaoeños but for the entire citizenry.”

Quitain led the Independence Day celebration in Rizal Park, Davao City, as Duterte did not attend it.

On where Duterte is, Quitain said, “Sa totoo lang, hindi ko alam kung nasaan siya ngayon. Pero alam ko tulog, dahil umaga pa e.” (To be honest, I don’t know where he is right now. But I know he is asleep, because it’s still early morning.)

Known as “The Punisher,” Duterte has served as Davao City mayor for more than two decades. (READ: The Rapture of Rodrigo Duterte)

He won a landslide victory in the May 9 elections, on a platform of a ensuring peace and order as he did in Davao City. His critics have warned, however, that Duterte is showing characteristics of a dictator like Ferdinand Marcos. 

‘Kaya niya ‘yan’

Like their city officials, many Davao City residents believe Duterte can help free the Philippines from crime, corruption, and illegal drugs as he assumes the presidency on June 30. 

Rappler interviewed some of them on Saturday, June 11, about their thoughts on Duterte and Independence Day.

Regina Cabaral, a 48-year-old woman selling Duterte T-shirts outside the Davao Cathedral, said Independence Day this year is special because Duterte won the presidency. She is hopeful that Duterte can replicate his success in Davao across the Philippines.

On criticisms that Duterte will find it hard to fight crime and corruption nationwide, Cabaral said, “Alam ko, sir, kaya niya ‘yan.” (I know, sir, that he can do it.)

Asked to explain why she believes this, Cabaral said, “Ewan ko, sir, basta alam kong kaya niya ‘yan.” (I don’t now, sir. I’m just sure that he can do it.)

Ken Badiang, 20, said of Duterte’s performance as Davao City mayor: “Sobrang epektibo po.” (He is very effective.)

Badiang cited Duterte’s fight against illegal drugs. 

Duterte, after all, has minced no words against drug pushers. He has said that policemen and even ordinary citizens can kill any suspected drug pusher if he or she resists arrest.

“Those among you in your neighborhoods, feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun. You have my support,” Duterte earlier said.

Badiang himself has seen at least 3 people dead in his community. “Involved daw sila sa maraming krimen at saka sa droga,” he said. (They were reportedly involved in many crimes as well as drugs.) 

‘Yes to Duterte, no to death penalty’

Teresita Pascua, for her part, said she hopes other parts of the Philippines can be as safe as Davao City is.

A 65-year-old Davao City resident, she recounted her experiences in Pasay City in the 1980s, when she lost necklaces to robbers in two separate instances.

Once, her neck even bled after a robber snatched the necklace she was wearing. She said she will never forget this as proof that Metro Manila is unsafe compared to Davao City.

In Duterte’s city, she said: “Ni minsan hindi pa ako nagano’n. Kahit gabi hindi ako natatakot.” (Not once have I experienced that. I’m not afraid even at night.) 

Pascua’s companion, 50-year-old Priscilla Cabungcal, agreed that Duterte can do for the Philippines the things he did in Davao City. “Maraming tauhan si Mayor,” she said. (The Mayor has many people.)

Cabungcal, however, disagrees with Duterte on one thing: the death penalty. 

Duterte wants to reimpose the death penalty, but Cabungcal, like many others, believes in giving people a chance.

Hindi tayo Diyos,” she said. (We are not God.)

In any case, 24-year-old Jed Mozar said he is happy that the Philippines, for the first time, is having a president from the southern island group of Mindanao. 

Mozar also said Duterte can uphold the independence that heroes gained for the Philippines in 1898.

For one, he said, Duterte can free the Philippines from illegal drugs. “Mas uunlad ang kalayaan ‘pag wala ang mga krimen, walang mga droga.” (Our freedom will bloom if there is no crime, if there are no drugs.) – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.