[WATCH] Duterte: The Wartime President

[WATCH] Duterte: The Wartime President
Watch the interview with President Rodrigo Duterte and get a preview of the political landscape in 2017

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte sits down with Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa for a one-on-one interview in the Malacañang Palace on Thursday, December 29.

Just a little over a year ago, in October 2015, when he was still a Davao City mayor fending off rumors that he would seek the presidency, Duterte sat down with Rappler. At the time, he had already given two press conferences saying he would not run.

Fast forward to December 2016: Duterte holds the fort in Malacañang, making waves as one of the country’s most controversial and popular leaders after just 7 months in office.

He promised change – and that has happened, powered by the justified anger of the marginalized, overturning the status quo and old power structures.

During this time, he has made good on pronouncements he made during the first Rappler interview. He warned of a “bloody” presidency. Today, the death toll of suspected drug personalities, both in and outside police operations, continues to rise.

Duterte now faces the challenge of the 3 wars he has declared: against drugs, against corruption, and against government ineptitude.

Has he lived up to his promises? Has the presidency changed him? What can the country expect in the next few years with him as leader? 


MARIA RESSA: Hello, I’m Maria Ressa. Welcome to “Duterte: The Wartime President.” It was a little more than a year ago when I spoke with then-mayor Duterte in Davao laying out his vision, what he wanted to do, and what he promised to do if he became president of the Philippines. There’s no surprise in any of this. I came out of that interview saying that this is a man of contradictions. A year later, take everything that he said and it has become a reality. He’s pushing it in place. Change is here. Mr. President, thank you so much for speaking with us again.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: Maria, again, thank you for your time.

RESSA: You mentioned a year ago that you will declare war on corruption, war against crime, drugs, and then the third is war against government bureaucracy, government ineptitude, right? It’s been almost seven months — six months, now that you’re president, what are you most proud?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Those are the three basic fundamentals that I promised to do if elected as president. In the matter of the first promise that I would maybe minimize or stamp out corruption totally. I think that we are making progress. If you go to the airport now, it’s not as disturbing, not as stressful as in the past. But those are also the first impressions. But those small things about making follow-ups, land title nila, that is also a famous corruption. Walang papel, walang ano, walang panahon, and most of the time in Davao city even, nag-retire na ‘yung iba, you are not in your offices, most of the time, or worse sa labas at you are into… pumapasok pa ng casino even during daytime, you do not do this under me. Do not do it. You would end up not only losing your pants, you’ll lose the job, and maybe a total humiliation. Ayaw kong mapahiya kasi those are sacred things. This is a covenant between the people and the president. Ayaw kong mapahiya. So hiyain mo ako, it’s either mapuntahan kita. I said, Filipinos should learn to be assertive. Huwag kayong matakot magsabi, “Hindi ako bibigay sa’yo.” Sabi ni Duterte. Now this time, may mame-mention ka ng pangalan. Noon kasi ayaw kong magbigay kasi wala akong pera. Pauto-uto kayo, you’re being oppressed. Nobody was taking notice of it but those things, small things in government activity that creates a bigger … almost hanggang malaki na. It develops into something like a virulent typhoon. What are added, things, small things, taxi drivers, ‘yung Uber, ‘yung Grab. You do it right, beginning today or kayong mga sakay, kunin niyo yung body number because I will now require every public utility vehicle to have their driver IDs placed at the back of the front seat para makita ng pasahero whatever that’s important – pangalan. And if you fall into, itong mga predator, you’re the prey of something, minolestiya kayo, huwag kayong pumunta sa LTFRB. Those agencies have nothing to do with law and order. Well order in the sense that there has to be order in government but the disciplining or forcing people to obey not to commit crimes and not be criminals, you report directly to the police and the police would have to act on it. Then, we will now look for the driver, arrest him, and bring him to the station, detain him for investigation. Pagka nagka-areglo, if it’s a minor one and they want to maybe kalimutan na lang, okay lang. But for the rape, mga ano, no deal ka diyan because that is a public crime so it has to be reported and prosecuted. The law says that every kilometer ‘yan lang ang patak mo, so you are only entitled for example from the airport to a place in Paranaque which is very near, maybe you’d get to say something like 30-50. But if you are charged more than that, the usual counts registered sa meter, you get the number, I said, it would be easier now because I would require everybody to use it, must do it ‘yan, must do it, so you can report to the police because that’s Estafa. That is a crime. Swindling ‘yan eh. Don’t report to the LTFRB, that’s the 2nd relief. The first relief is to put the guy in prison over something stupid and being… ayoko ng oppression.

RESSA: But Mr. President, these would be the concerns of a mayor. Essentially, this is something you’ve done since you won as mayor in 1988. So, now that you are president, what’s the change from mayor to president, what surprised you, how are you changing, what you are you going to do?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Ganito kasi, Maria. You know, I thought all the while … I was also very parochial then. I was mayor. It was not really something that is terribly wrong but I miscalculated everything. Davao is a peaceful place. Walang police dun na humihingi, walang checkpoint. If there is one, clear agad. It’s either sipa, sampal, or pakulong. Behave kami dun kasi we respect each other’s rights. The problem in this world today, including the criminals, tayo, we do not respect each other’s rights. You do not bother to think that this guy, poor guy, eh kung mayaman, may karapatan ‘yan. Respect it. Kaming mga mayor noon, punta kami sa labas, pagdating namin dala mga asawa, ilang bagahe diyan, wala they’ll just swim by. But this poor girl from Hongkong or so, kasabay ko, ‘yung TV maliit para sa pamilya niya. When I was mayor, she was last to ano … she was struggling and everybody was out. Tinitignan ko lang and sinabi ko sa customs, “Putangina naman padre, ‘yan ba naman…” You scrape the barrel of the … I’m not quite adept with the… “‘Yan ba naman, anuhin mo pa. You scrap, you scrape the barrel of a…” ‘yung mga ganun. So those are the things that would hurt the… ‘yung mga mayaman bigyan mo lang yan ng one thousand, lusot ka. That is corruption. We better stop it because I said, first whiff, malaman ko ‘yun. Alam ninyo, there’s millions of Filipinos very well-educated, fresh from college, full of idealism, wants to work. Kayong mga police, I will not have second thoughts of firing you. Maraming Pilipino na walang trabaho naghihintay na pumalit sa inyo, leche kayo. Naaasar tuloy ako sa inyo.

RESSA: Mr. President, a man of contradictions again. You support the police and the you’re also willing to …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Go out and hunt for them, arrest them if it’s still possible but if they present a violent resistance, facing your life in jeopardy, pati ikaw mamatay, putangina mo patayin mo na yan papatayin ka talaga. Because, most of the drug people, have shrunk brains already. That is why about four million now, kasi four million nakumpleto, I was able to get the four million to add to the previous nnumber of Santiago.

RESSA: Pero iba ho ‘yung number ng Dangerous Drugs Board. Dangerous Drug Board says only 1.8 million and then you said originally 3 million and then it’s 4 million. Where are the facts in that?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Because hindi naman lahat nare-report. And they do not admit it.

RESSA: Will you release those numbers?

D: Ganito ‘yan eh. ‘Yung … Let me get this. This is the drug industry of the Philippines. ‘Yung may mga X, huwag mo na lang pansinin ‘yan. ‘Yang mga generals, ‘yan. Ito ang mabigat na problema ko. About 6,000 policemen, barangay captains, city mayors, governors.

RESSA: But Mr. President, what people are afraid of… So first is the threat, right? And this is something you’ve said from a year ago. You’re saying that drugs has the protection of the police, has the protection of government officials and it goes all the way and you want to rip it out but is this all verified? Do we know …

D: No, because when you do intelligence, I am not building a case to convict you beyond reasonable doubt. That is beyond the realm of … I can only give you a prima facie case. For example, dito bilhan ko ang drug lord na ito. Bili ako ngayon tapos sige ulitin ninyo, bili ako. Tapos bili ako ulit. Then I try to arrest you, lalaban ka pa. Eh di talagang papatayin kita. May galit na ako sa’yo eh. But that is the prima facie.

RESSA: The problem, though, sir, is what happens if they were wrong or somebody who didn’t like them reported them to whoever made the list.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Would you believe it, I have about -00 margin of error. ‘Yung margin of error …

RESSA: I would love to get a copy of all these.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Those are what I would call, there are always miscalculations. Now, remember, since it’s so widespeard that when I got hold of all those things, which was not available to me when I was mayor, then I started to squeeze now. That’s the visual drug industry of the Philippines. So, sabi ko, I am not going to order a police punitive action. Baryo-baryo lang tayo dito. Sabi ko, I’m declaring war. And I said, do not destroy my country and do not destroy our young because I will kill you. But it doesn’t mean to say na I’ll kill you na mag-uutos ako, kill the guy even if he’s kneeling down with his hands tied behind his back. Because itong mga pulis, pati itong mga graduate, mga official from PMA, mga PNPA, hindi mo mautusan ito ng illegal. Unless, kung sila mismo ang nandiyan. Because, they are only told. Babalik-balik yan. I was a professor sa police academy. It’s only when it is lawful to do it.

RESSA: Mr. President, after 21 years of Ferdinand Marcos, it took almost a decade to bring human rights back into the police and the military, right? It took that long. Now that you’ve opened this Pandora’s box and you’ve essentially said, “Go ahead and kill.” And it could be these people could be innocent people. How are you going to control and make sure that the police aren’t killing people who aren’t… killing the wrong people? ‘Cause the minute you kill …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: In the first place, the police should know who the person [he] is arresting. So, you must have at least the probable cause. The probable cause is that is he a criminal? If he is, is he the one who might have committed the crime? Walang police na magsabi, “I have to look for a proof o proof beyond reasonable doubt.” That’s impossible. Now, ang ayaw ko diyan, if you do it for personal reason. Kung pulis ka tapos ginawa mong ganoon, may sindikato. ‘Yan ang ayaw ko. Sa Davao maraming nadisgrasya diyan. ‘Yung ipalabas mo ‘yung kalaban mo nasa droga ‘yan, intrigahan mo ako, I have my way of checking out. This time kasi mayroon akong NICA, ISAFP, mayroon akong military intelligence, mayroon akong MIG, so if it’s a report coming from the police, it goes to the army. The army naman goes to the police. Ito namang MICA goes to the MIG and the MIG goes to…They will check. If I am not… For example, the last time I was talking about it then I said I wanted to validate three more times. Tapos hindi ka nakuntento so this is the fourth time they have validated this report. ‘Yung DILG minsan, local government, ‘cause they have connections because they are there on the ground. Okay, ngayon sabihin mo na personal, ito rin this is my personal … this is not for everybody’s consumption. You might want to hear it. Ako tatay, hirap ako sa buhay. Wala namang mayaman dito sa atin sa kwartong ito otherwise ‘di tayo magtatrabaho ng ganito. Tapos, paaralin ko ‘yung anak mo dito sa Manila tapos ‘yung barangay malayo, magsakay pa ng tricycle. Tapos, i-waylaid, rape at patayin mo. Ako ang tatay, anong gagawin mo? Ito ngayon, there is war against drugs tapos alam ko it would never seem alright. And then I remember my daughter raped and  killed, what do you think will I do to you?

RESSA: This is why you were elected, right? People feel … You feel what they’re going through, right? But, violence, and you say this, violence is okay …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Violence is my strength. 

RESSA: Violence is your strength! But let me ask you, is violence, actually we talked about this a year ago, is violence necessary?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes, it is. Unfortunately, it is. 

RESSA: You use violence in language … Is it necessary to lead?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: There is a need because there is a war. And with that kind of problem (points to drug papers), in my hands now. I tell you, Maria, until I see the last pusher is out of the street, until the last drug lord is killed, this campaign will continue until the very last day of my term.

RESSA: Is it important that people be afraid of you?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes. ‘yan ang na-realize ko. Because … parang akong Machiavelli. Kasi, bakit sa Davao, ‘yang mag-parking, gusto nilang mag-parking diyan. Oo, wala namang police, wala dito si Mayor, talagang no parking ‘yan kasi takot. Kasi ‘pag nakita kita mag-park, ingungudngod kita sa no-parking sign, basahin mo ulit, stand there and read it a thousand times sige. ‘Pag firecrackers, sabi “Talaga itong si Duterte, kinuha ‘yung sinusunog namin.” Lapitan ko siya, may binulong ako sa kaniya, may ginawa akong hindi maganda. Kita mo, sunod lahat. Eh kung ganito sa Pilipinas, tao por tao, aabutin ako ng siyam-siyam, aabutin ako ng 6 years to keep up with my promises. No. I am a man of honor, whether it is really bad or really good for you, negative or what, I am a man of my word. Kapag sinabi ko na papatayin kita, tumabi ka. Ngayon, kapag nagkamali, eh di sorry. Pero do not give us an inkling o magsuspetsa ako sa’yo.

RESSA: But Mr. president, as president, you now also defend the Constitution. And so again, this is a contradiction from the past interview. You break the law, you threaten to break the law, you said you had killed. A year ago, you told me that. And yet, you now have the task of keeping the rule of law and you said you would do that also. How would you …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Because the rule of law, there must be fear. The problem with the law is, alam mo kasi, ‘yung batas ay ganito. Bakit ngayon kay Duterte maraming namamatay samantalang walang namatay noon. Because noon ayan nandiyan, may mga generals, may mga … then they have bodyguards, dalawang army, dalawang police. Sino ba namang gagong police na maglapit na ano. Tapos, hulihin mo, kalabanin mo ‘yung mayor, tawag ng Malacanang ‘yan, “President, itong si ano, tanggalin mo ito. Mawawalan tayo ng boto dito.” Magawa ba ‘yan sa akin? Remember, I won almost on my own. Apat lang ang gobernador ko and to think na wala akong isang barangay captain dito sa Manila.

RESSA: So what are your political debts?


RESSA: None at all?


RESSA: Earlier, you mentioned you have three, that Imee Marcos was one of them. Do you remember?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: It was for support. Nagbigay ng pera pangbili ng… Ang binigay niya, sabi pagdating … Sabi magbili tayo ng empanada eh pati ba naman ‘yan ilagay ko ang presyo niyan, habulin ako sa Comelec, magtago pa kayo rito.

RESSA: I’m just curious because there is great hope that if you do not have these political debts that you would overturn, you would finish overturning, you would create change, right? One of the things that people, the business community is looking forward to is the tax reform. Will you protect anyone when it comes to the new tax reform?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: No. I must earn because I have to deliver what I promised to the people. Magsabi ka ng pangalan, sabihin ko kung nagtanggap ako. I only used a shoestring budget, I won the presidency. Wala akong masyadong utang na loob.

RESSA: So, as mayor, you immediately paid political debts. You know, you made appointments and if they were wrong or if they were bad at what they did, you took them out immediately. Do you expect or are you planning a cabinet revamp?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: As of this time, wala akong nakita but ang usapan namin diyan is, even if small, no second chance tayo dito. Zero tolerance ako. And because most of them are my friends, mga kasama ko sa dormitoryo, kasama ko sa eskwelahan, kilala nila ako at kilala ko sila, at alam nila ang ugali ko. That is one thing na maganda sa amin.

RESSA: They’re not afraid of you? Or are they afraid of you?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: ‘Yung sa klase, hindi naman.

RESSA: I guess, Mr. President, I’m asking if they will tell you you’re wrong. How would you protect against your weaknesses? You are now the most powerful person. You have the supermajority in the legislature, you will appoint the 12 of the Supreme Court justices. You have so much power in the last 7 months how do you protect against your own weaknesses. There’s no more checks and balances.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Wala ako, actually. Very few. And far in between umabot na ako sa edad na wala na. And on all counts, very limited. Alam mo hindi ako mahilig sa ano … you might have known me, kailan mo ako nakita nagsakay ng kotse? I do not have time for all these things …

RESSA: We’ve done these stories, Mr. President, yes. You live a simple life. I guess…

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Look at my house, almost all… [Pia Ranada – Rappler’s reporter] napunta ‘yan sa bahay. Ayaw pang maniwala. And 27 years, I’m still in that house. I can build a house, a beautiful house. At least makita lang kasi nung anak ako, sabi nga niya hindi naman dilapidated, sabi ko, you know, I have to borrow. Dahil if I have to work this time sabi ko, I’m 72 years old but 5 years from now, I’m out tapos magbayad pa ako, sabi ko, paglaki na lang, ikaw na lang ang bahala. Hindi ako mahilig sa … hindi ako mahilig sa relo. Wala akong ano … baril.

RESSA: Again, this is part of the reason why you’re elected, right? Because people believe this and they’ve seen you’re life. But again, let me go back to the question, if you were to make a mistake, do the people around you, are they afraid to tell you that you are wrong? Are they afraid to challenge you?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: No, because kababata ko ‘yan. Sonny Dominguez is my … Sabi ko kababata ko. We are neighbors until now and we grew up together. And he calls me Duts kasi Duterte. Maski noon pa pranka. Diretsong istorya. ‘Yung mga brads ko, look what happened sa Immigration. I told you, huwag mo akong… I know that you support me, I know that we are fraternity brothers, that I love you. You know? Do not … I cannot protect you.

RESSA: Again, that is great for us. How do you balance somebody like Sonny Dominguez in mining with Gina Lopez and her policies on mining. Mining is one of those things you’re very pragmatic, right?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Gina Lopez is the secretary of DENR. You guys are doing business, there are deadlines, she’s not … I mean, inordinately crazy about powers. I mean, she says that she interprets the law because she is there. I am not the department secretary to do the interpretation for you. When she says that this is what it says here, and you are placed there to enforce the law, I have to support you.

RESSA: And she’s giving you that.


RESSA: Let me ask you again on political debts. I’m curious about the man here, right. So, many of your campaign donors were businessmen who grew up in Davao who know you and you know them very well. Somebody like Sammy Uy who contributed to your campaign and he went with you to Japan and he supposedly sat in the one-on-one meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. One, is that true? Two, why? And how do you draw the line between your personal political debt and the country’s concerns?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I’m very happy with the question. Sammy Uy is one of the billionaires now in Davao and to think during their high school days, doon ‘yan naggasera sa amin because they are Chinese … Cebuano but of Chinese descent. Classmate ‘yan ng kapatid ko na ‘yan. Doon ‘yan kumakain sa bahay, naggagasera. They pay us, my mother. So, lumaki ‘yan na kilala ko. Marami ‘yan. And when I first returned sa election, tignan mo, way, way back in 1988 nandiyan na ang pangalan, the biggest contributor.

RESSA: You trust him, he trusts you.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Check my record, makita mo. Every election nandiyan ang pangalan niya. Now, Maria, noong small time pa ‘yan, mayor ako, he did not have any transaction with a government. Poultry tapos hindi … Yang DIMDI, malaki na masyado yan, Mindanao-wide. Ang mga supplier nila sa Japan yearly may convention ‘yan. Japan is a democracy and it is also pressure politics and money. Parang change of administration, mayroon ‘yang mga tao na gusto raw nila. So yun ang mga naging contact niya kasi ito yung mga mayaman. Overtime, doing business with Mitsubishi with Honda. ‘Yung building, puro refrigerators, puro made in Japan. He developed that contact. Whether we like it or not he is the influencer already.

RESSA: But you are the president and you had a one-on-one with the Prime Minister and you brought Sammy Uy into that meeting.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes, because ‘yung pinaka-ano ni Abe … It was not me that brought Sammy Uy by the way, you can check it out with the aide of Abe. He was already there, magkasabihan sila dito pa, a week before magkatabi na yan sila dito so they went to gether, purely business, and at that first time, we do not talk kay Abe, we talked about China and what would be the most proper thing to do under these circumstances. We’ve never talked about business. ‘Yung mga saan, sa mining ganoon, during the bilaterals, nandiyan si Abe, doon na. Kaming dalawa ni Abe, prime minister Abe, ang aming pinag-uusapan is foreign policy. My drift, they noticed it, and how and why and that took us about 72 minutes. Almost more than an hour. Kaming dalawa lang. You know, the greatest ally now of America is Japan. It’s a little bit … Bakit naman ganoon? Hindi ba pwede nating pag-usapan yan? So, you have to also see that you know, Prime Minister, I have two choices. Either I force the issue upon the proddings of America you make it easier about it, that there are consensus or I declare a war. Alin diyan sa dalawa.

RESSA: I listened to your other interviews and you have a very pragmatic take on this and it is a different approach and so far it’s working. You are the man in charge again of all of this. So, I  guess, in making this, this is all uncharted territory. You’re actually changing the geopolitical landscape in Asia, in all of Asia. Are you afraid of anything? And what makes you so certain?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Alam mo kasi, minaliit lang kasi ako. They said that I have no experience in foreign policy. Ewan ko kung anong… Talagang foreign service ako. Kita mo naman. Look at the transcript, wag kang maniwala, look at the transcript of  my school. Ayan, politics, diplomacy, dalawang kurso ‘yan. Consular practice, procedure diplomatic. Alam ko lahat. I don’t want to sound big or pull my own chair, you have to read a lot. There’s always Economic Review, there’s always Time magazine and you have to read that. There are many books now about Asia and the Hundred-Year Marathon (The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury).So, if you just have the patience to read also, which is also my … When I get hold of a book, maski ngayon, hindi ko bitawan hanggang alas-sais na ng umaga. By the time I’m ready for lunch, tapos na ‘yan. Isang hawakan lang ako sa libro. Ang akala kasi nila, ang bunganga ko ganito. Akala nila na … And they’re saying, “You’re just a small town guy coming in from…”

RESSA: No, it was clear from our interview last year that you knew, that you had some background to make up your mind about these things. And you said all of these things, that you would move the Philippines away from the United States and turn it to China. Let me take that through then. So, these are deeply held views, the same way that as a candidate, you were very clear about these three points that you were going to declare war. And you also said that violence is an important part because fear is an important part. This is why you’re the wartime president. When will that pivot to peacetime happen, because your election also brought out all of the divisions in Philippine society. And now, family against family, right? When do you begin to unite? When you turn that huge popularity that you have and build rather than destroy?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I cannot talk to the criminals, ever. Now, political parties, you must remember that I… hindi ko naman minamaliit but it’s just a simple, small-time PDP ganoon but it used to be big. ‘Y ang mga partido ni Noynoy Aquino, PDP Laban, ‘yung ano ko, there are so many things which I have to correct and I’m sure that I would find enemies. Not all would really appreciate what I’m doing and I understand that because I’ve been in politics for 23 years. Ang ano ko is the time to mend sa political scene is quite difficult because of the personalities involved. These are the people who cannot accept defeat. And they will just nurture that feeling until the next election.

RESSA: Are you talking about the Liberal Party? But you’ve talked about the Liberal Party before but what we’ve seen is they are fragmented, they have no leader. I mean, there is a leader, not to … But essentially, there is no opposition against you.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Well, of course ‘yung Left.  

RESSA: But the Left is with you.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Oo, Duterte talaga ‘yan. Ganoon lang sila. Kunwari, just to make it appear that hey guys, we’re here still. Hindi ko naman sila minama-[liit], Komunista… But I have to start with the hard ones. I have to talk to the Moro people. Which we’re doing. Of course, next week we’re going to have a round table already. Nur Misuari… I actually called Nur and I said, “You promised to come up.”

RESSA: You actually brought Nur Misuari back into national landscape.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Because, there is no point. Matanda na nga siya. It would be foolhardy to say that he is spent … because sabi ko nga, if Nur Misuari dies in the forest of Jolo or we get him out but detain hi and he dies, there will never be peace in Mindanao. The Tausugs, the Sama (refering to the Sama-Bajau), the Yakans, wala.

RESSA: You’re also the first Philippine president to acknowledge that ISIS is in the Philippines. You have the same intelligence groups, the same military, the same police, and yet the former administration was in denial for a long time. What made you so sure? What made you decide to say it? And you know, what does this mean? What is this threat?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I’m from Mindanao. I am a descendant of a Moro. May mga pinsan ako na nasa kabila – sa MILF. May mga nababalitaan ako na nasa ISIS. Sabi ko, pasensiyahan tayo. You are you and I am I and I said if we meet in one corner, so be it.

RESSA: So, you know personally that ISIS is recruiting in the Philippines.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Because of the … may mga scholars kasi. Hindi importante sa akin ‘yung mga may batallion na armas. It’s nothing to me. Pero kung makakuha ka ng apat, limang mga Arab, huwag na tayo mag-Caucasian, mga Arab and they’re preaching sa mga scholars, they’re the most dangerous.

RESSA: Ideology. You’re thinking about ideology. This is a global problem, ISIS and the Islamic state. Have you talked about it with the other global leaders?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes. Part of our discussion, kaya 1 hour kami. Ako naman, ayaw ko. Because nga, by roots and the fact nga that I came from Mindanao. I do not want to say I have cousins over there and we served them during the burial of my cousin who died, Melvin Roa, this was last month tapos nagdatingan ‘yung … I saw them when I was young, pero nagdatingan yung moro, nagpunta sa burial. So, nag-uusap tapos nalaman ko, ‘yung pinsan ko ganoon. Sabi ko, I’m sorry but I’m serving a Republic, I’m not serving a relationship. Wala talaga akong magawa. Either we come together and understand, renew the endearments, but for you to … And I would like to also tell you now, tonight, forgive my posture … The ISIS seems to be everywhere now. In Samar, it was an explosion. In Midsayap, while the priest was giving a sermon about extrajudicial killing, pinaputok ‘yung simbahan niya. Christmas eve. I hope it will not get out of control but I had a conference with the up guys of the government military, I saw them with the police. You have to not only appear strong, you have to be strong because this is… another problem and it’s no joke. You know what’s happening, they are blasting into kingdom come.

RESSA: So, January last year, the Islamic state in Jakarta pulled off attacks, bombings in the center of Jakarta, incompetently done. There is a rivalry to who can be made the Islamic State province. When you say that the Midsayap that that explosion is connected to ISIS … The Davao bomb … So that’s connected to the Mauta brothers. But I will stop being geeky because these are things I would love to talk to you more about that. But since …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I am not ready to share information.

RESSA: Sige, sir.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: No. I can give you some, I can drop some hints because maybe you travel frequently in the areas of Mindanao… I’m sorry but I could not be more open … Because this is something, not really top secret because … but …

RESSA: Can I ask you, I’ll switch topics here. Which has to do, you, you have a lot of that you’re going to want to do. You are, you’ve talked a lot about your health a lot. You said, you’ve taken… you’re taking fentanyl. Will your health get in the way of carrying out duties of the president?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I had a very bad spill when I was 68, now I am 72. It’s the result of the last one, it’s across the area above the spine, C4 and 7 [*Editors note: C4 & C7 are sections of the spinal column]. It used to give me headache early on, sa aksidente. On a [pain] scale of 1-10, it was about 6, sometimes 7. I’d puke when it gets to be so. But overtime, nahuli lang kasi ako ng … pain management ito ha, mga doktor. Ayoko… I do not have hi permission to [say his name]… Nahuli niya ako na gumamit ng isang patch lang talaga. I was supposed to cut it into 4. Pero pag nilagay ko kasi ‘yung buo, talagang wala akong ano… Feeling good ako “Everything is alright with the world” … I’m cormfortable. Nakita niya ‘yung marka ng patch sabi niya, ilan ‘yung ano, sabi ko, “‘Yung sinabi mo. Sabi niya, do not… If you lie to me, go to another doctor.” Wala na ngayon.

RESSA: But Mr. President, well last year, you told me that part of the reason you were thinking that you shouldn’t run for president was because of your health and you were choosing between spending that time with your family…

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I was talking about quality. Because I have set a standard for somebody to be president and to the last minute, you know and everybody knows that I was really reluctant to run. Last minute, I just do not know how destiny really works out. But I found myself announcing that I will run even though I do not have the money.

RESSA: I felt in that interview that you were going to run. I felt you were going to run. So, a year ago, you told me that you would be a dictator. You were so straightforward. You said, “If I win, I’m going to be dictator.” And just this month you said that you want changes in the constitution so that it would be easier to declare martial law. I mean, do you have any plans? One of the things we hear all the time is about a revolutionary government.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: As a leader it would be an exercise in futility. What I’m saying, Ressa, is that you have this constitution. It was Ping Lacson who said if things get worse in Mindanao, I might declare martial law. So that started the loose talks about martial law. There’s really no need for it because martial law would burden also the innocent people who are not into the you know… Gusto mo mag-curfew and things like that. I am not up to it, actually. So, because I can get … The way I run things now, can you sense a little bit of dictatorship? Ganoon ako mag-utos. When I say, kailangan mong magsalita … pati ‘yung money laundering, putang ina kayo diyan, you better behave or …

RESSA: This is the impression we have of your presidency from the outside. You are very focused on the war on drugs and you want to see that. You’re very impatient. You seem to have given your cabinet secretaries marching orders to make change happen quickly, things that faze the public, consumers, and that they’ve gone ahead and done that. But at the same time, you also micro-manage some small things. Like the airport, somebody had said before that …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: It speaks a lot to the common man. I don’t mind yung milking the big ones. I might just say okay … ganoon. Sa mga mayaman, ganoon. Bigyan mo lang ‘yan. Sa mga NPA, balik-balik, sabi ko ilan binigay mo? Mga 3 thousand, gawin mo ng 5 para hindi na balik-balik ‘yan. Until such time that we are able to craft … Anyway, I could not stop them with my bare hands neither has the military over the years really put a stop to it. It’s there, it’s a reality and only because we are so stretched thin. I only have so many soldiers to take care in the republic, every square inch of it…

RESSA: The economy, which is what you’re most concerned about is …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes. Because that is the salvation actually.

RESSA: And, 3rd quarter GDP growth rate is 7.1%, quite high, right? But the peso has depreciated.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Well, it did, it’s the forces of the market. The dollar is very strong because they’re recovering and not only because Trump is there. But when Trump becomes president, he starts to do things, you can be sure that again, the peso will rise again. Well, that is the play-off of monetary… Wala hindi ko na kaya ‘yan. Keeping order in this country and allow business to grow. And if they can get to have peace with the communists so they can … Except there is another one brewing and that’s Maute …

RESSA: The Maute group which is there. You like Trump. You certainly like him better than you like Obama, is that correct?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Hindi kasi si Obama, I like him. But he was too intellectual. He plays so much… Ganito ‘yan. Look, sabi ko nga you give me 3 thousand initially, lahat na. You lump it all on my lap. And I suddenly remember, you invaded Panama because Panama was flooding the USA with drugs … You uprooted the president, brought him to the United States to face trial and is serving time. And you violated a country’s sovereignty. [Editor’s note: In 1989, the U.S. under President George W. invaded Panama and Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed.] Ang standard kasi nila, nalito kasi ako, ito ‘yun. There’s Obama chastising me, which is very wrong, because there’s a forum. If you have something against me, your complaint is something… Have it investigated, get the results, then the Body confront me, including you. But you … Threatening me [over the] extrajudicial killings and with sending me to the international criminal court. When I knew very well that they are not even members of the international criminal court. So why are you… Sabi ko, nagtaya ako na… Mataas kasi, intellectually… President Obama ought not to be there, dapat sa Harvard sa Yale… Ito namang si Trump ang talagang big time diyan sa… Parang tigas-tigas. Pagtawag ko, sabi niya, “This is Mayor.” “Yes, sir.” “Oh how are you?” “Fine, sir.” “Are you coming to the United States?” Sabi ko, “Maybe. If you’ll invite me, I’ll think it over.” “If you happen to be in New York Washington, DC, in the area, look me up and we’ll have coffee.” “Yes, sir.” “And I heard that we have the same mouth.” “Yes, sir.” “That’s good. You’re doing right.” So, nalilito ako. Ano ba itong America. You stayed there for the longest time. What is really America?

RESSA: I think what we’re seeing right now is the force of a leader. So, there’s change and America is waiting to see how Trump, how president Trump will change the United States but in your mind, because President Trump is there, will you change your policy towards the United States?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: It’s about too late. I will not. We will remain faithful with our treaties – the defense pact, I’m sorry, is of no use to us any more. We will never have third world war, Maria, that’s the end of the world. It’s useless talking about the missiles and-

RESSA: This is interesting again ‘cause you’re very pragmatic. You don’t want to go to war and you want to negotiate and you want to make sure that it is pragmatic.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes. ‘Cause we’re just gonna … The both of them will say, one of you just stop. Anyway, it will end in a talk, so why don’t you just do it earlier.

RESSA: So, let me ask again. You have switched and changed things so fast that the institutions in the Philippines are catching up with you and I guess part of the question goes back to you’re such a strong force of personality, leading by personality. And that takes a toll in the institutions. How are you going to bring the institutions in the Philippines in this? Are they important?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes, but you know, I get the business of running the country, and it is a sacred duty. You can go to my level but don’t expect me to go down to you and understand you and rethink of what I should be doing. This is what is in my paradigm and you’ll just have to… Come up and share with me the divisions of this country. Don’t give me anything about delays. Ayoko … Alam mo, may isang beses, diba I opened this 8888, and you can you know… And then there’s this guy, he took advantage of 8888. He got his title after 9 years. Sabi ko, “Putangina mo, anong opisina ‘yan.” “Sir, it’s in Manila.” “Sige, tawagan mo.”

RESSA: But Mr. President, again, that is a mayor’s job. And as president, I wonder, how has that changed you being president? These things will be very helpful for the public and that’s what you want.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Well, alam mo kasi, I don’t know what happened to the quality of leadership. There are plenty… Hindi ako maka-ano, ang rami kong computer na nabili, bakit kailangan maghintay ng dalawa to impose this… One month noon it takes you to NEDA, 3 years until now, ‘yung application namin wala. Sabi ko, one month, that’s it. They’re my friends but if you cannot comply with the one month limitation, I’m sorry, you go out. Ibig sabihin, hindi mo kaya. Kung hindi mo kaya, be kind to me and say, hindi ko kaya. Para hindi ka madamay, umalis ka na lang. So in the cities, I now would require 3 days business permit. ‘Yung sa electrical, bakit magdaan pa ng bumbero? Eh di huwag ka na magpunta ng electrical engineering, puntahan mo bumbero. Eh ang bumbero, pabilihan ka ng fire extinguisher, ‘pag hindi, upuan. I … from time to time, ang daling putulin. I will just ride on it and get the changes along the way.

RESSA: You agree that you’ve overturned the power structures in the Philippines and now you have 2017, now you see the extent of the problem, and what you want to do. What are you going to do in 2017?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I would continue to overhaul, make suggestions. And honestly, I want this thing about martial law, we can have a constitutional convention. Kasi ang martial law power seize. Any citizen, for that matter, can go to the supreme court and petition to look into the factual basis but at the same time, that also says I have to go to Congress to get another 60 days. You know, the president is always … kasi give and take yan. So, what now happens if the findings of the Supreme Court on the factual basis runs counter to the resolutions or findings of Congress. That would make the president now the dictator. He can always ignore Congress and say Congress, you do not fight with the Supreme Court. I will fight and protect the Supreme Court but Supreme Court, how about this Congress. So, take the cue from me. Eh di mas malala. Because, it would encourage me now to a dictatorship.

RESSA: Again, we go now …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I said this, basing on all the conditions are there for a declaring of martial law. Kaya ako, okay na ako sa state of lawlessness.

RESSA: Mr. President. Have you made a mistake?


RESSA: In this time period as president.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Major ones? In the appointments … Itong karamihan ng corruption is in the regulatory bodies, the LTFRB, ‘yang mga permits and social security numbers. Kasi, they have the discretion to let it go or disapprove.

RESSA: So, following up the mistake, when you make a mistake, because you have so much power now in this country, how do we prevent mistakes? How do we curb potential …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Alam mo ang tao, hindi talaga mabasa. I mean I cannot give you an iron clad guarantee that all of the members are, with due respect to Supreme Court, Congress, and even the Cabinet. I cannot, for the life of me, I have no way of… even calibrating the action of how much or up to, how many in the action of things happening in the country. I’m reminded na lang of… If I will try to read, much less answer all of text they label me, Malacanang might as well be closed for any other business. Kung sagutin ko lahat … I did a very best I can …

RESSA: Criticism is part of presidency… Every president knows that, right? There’s a target, a bullseye on you.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: In the end, what is said to me, they won’t amount to anything. It would take no difference. So, I take solace in the words of an American, isa sa mga idol ko, Lincoln, because he freed the slaves. Ayaw ko dito. Kaya ako talaga galit. But on a different dimension, assuming, just to be correct, for the sake of argument, 4 million addicts. They are practically slaves. You are producing slaves in my country. They are addicted to you because of the chemicals. D’yan ako galit. This huge number. Mag prangkahan na tayo, maswerte ‘yang mga ‘yan. Kung nahuli ko kayo at ng isang tonelada, papatayin ko talaga. Bahala na kung saan kayo magreklamo. Isang tonelada, ako na mismo ang …

RESSA: What makes you so confident you are right? When you say you’re going to kill and if you’re wrong, there’s no…

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Because if you make them slaves, you rob them of their dignity as a Filipino, as human being. Hindi ko ginagawa iyan sa buong buhay ko. I do not oppress people, but I stand against oppression. I stand against corruption. That is fundamentally wrong. This is just a perception of inherently wrong or right. Alam na natin ‘yan. Kawawa ‘yung tao. Eh sabi ko, even if you disregard, kalimutan mo muna ‘yung Revised  Penal Code, about border, kalimutan ang homicide, ‘yung ano… Tanungin kita, if you stand before God, there is always God, what right do you have to cook shabu and destroy the life of my son or daughter. And what right do you have to create monsters who rape my daughter, putang ina mo, papatayin talaga kita. Leche ka. Diyan ako galit because I have the rage. Ang problema kasi sa iba, wala silang rage. Ako, because of the … You must remember that my father was the governor of Davao, when it was only one Davao. When my father died, it was divided into Davao del Norte, del Sur, Oriental, Davao Occidental, and Davao City, ComVal Valley. When my father died, Marcos was the president, went into gerrymandering … Cutting up his [inaudible] for his lieutenants. So, the planters had their Davao … So, remember that I grew up a son of a migrant father. And remember that naging governor siya for a short time. But I tell you, it’s really the truth. Noong nag-aral ka rito, San Beda, there was a time na pagkamatay ng tatay ko, wala nang sweldo, wala na. Ang nanay ko, maestra lang. Sabi niya, “Anak dito ka na lang sa Ateneo de Davao.” Pero pagkadating ko, sabi, you have to go back to a year lower. Eh di sana kung graduate ako ng 3rd year, balik ako pagka-3rd year ulit. Sabi ko, ma dito na lang ako. Nagbigay ako ng ano, nadisgrasya kasi … Marami akong ano … There was a time na hindi na lang ako nag-ingay, from diyan sa San Beda, lalakarin ko ‘yang Ayala pauwi. Nandiyan ‘yung dormitoryo namin. Ang ka-roommate ko si Yasay but he was studying UP Padre Faura. Ang kaharap kong kuwarto, are also students, hindi taga-rito. Karamihan kasi … Hindi ako pumunta ng Ateneo, hindi ko kaya ang UP. mga bright sila dyan. Ateneo, hindi ako pumunta because I got out 2nd year. Pinaalis ako, I was kicked out sa Ateneo. So pagka-college ko, nagpunta ako rito, I was choosing the law school, pumunta ako ng San Beda. Karamihan kong kaibigan, puro Ilokano.

RESSA: You haven’t minced any word about your support for Senator Bongbong Marcos. You brought him with you …

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: No. We’re never allies. I believe the entire Philippines is hearing us out, we’re never allies. He was on his own, I was in my small town. So, wala akong problema. Sa college of law, ‘yung sinabi talaga ni Neptali Gonzales, yung tatay ng ano diyan, at Isagani Cruz, ‘pag labas mo doon sa katawan ng nanay mo, kailangan Pilipino ka na. That is why I disagree with the Supreme Court. Lahat ng abogado ng Pilipinas magtanong, you must be a citizen paglabas mo sa …

RESSA: I have signs, Mr. President, that it’s time for us to end. Just last, last thought on leadership. You are now leading our country at a very difficult time at the world. Your last thought on leadership, what will guide you?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Well, I would be only guided by my passion that is the … My passion to serve. I sought the presidency and I got it. But I promise you, I will stick to the rules. I will not bend it for anybody. Sinabi ko na lahat, do not ever entertain. I promise you now, if one of my relatives is involved in corruption sa gobyerno, I will give you my word now, I will resign from the presidency. ‘Pag may anak akong sabit sa… wag naman ‘yang chismis… ‘pag may nademanda, magre-resign ako. I will step down willingly and hand it to Leni.

RESSA: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for your time. We’ve been speaking with President Rodrigo Duterte here in Malacanang Palace. It is coming up on New Year’s, we are looking at 2017, a great new year ahead. I’m Maria Ressa, for Rappler.

– Rappler.com 


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