Duterte for president? Supporters hold rally

Karlos Manlupig
The Pilipinas 2016 Duterte Movement steps up calls for Davao City Rodrigo Duterte to run for president

SETTING THE STAGE? Supporters of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte hold a rally in the city Saturday, March 29. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – You must be crazy, the mayor said. But is a national run in 2016 really a crazy idea for Rodrigo Duterte?  

On Saturday, March 29, thousands of Davao residents carrying banners and tarpaulins showed up at the city’s Rizal Park to rally support for a Duterte for president movement. A band played hit songs from the 80s, free porridge and shirts were distributed, and people took turns in praising Duterte and his brand of leadership, which some find controversial.

Mayor Duterte earlier threatened to retire from politics after 2016 if his supporters insisted on mobilizing groups to pressure him to run for president. President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office in 2016.

Sources from at least two political camps said that advisers of at least one potential presidential bet have been planning to ask Duterte to run for vice president. 

If his supporters had their way, however, the aim should be nothing less than the presidency.

Mar Masanguid, barangay captain and lead convenor of the Pilipinas 2016 Duterte Movement, said they are not worried about the threats made by Duterte because they only wanted to prove to him that the “people’s clamor” for him to run is legitimate.

“We are not afraid because we are not doing anything wrong,” Masanguid said.

Since its launching in February this year, the Pilipinas 2016 Duterte Movement led by at least 100 Davao City village captains was able to collect about 4 million signatures in the city and the neighboring towns. The signatures prove that people want him to give it a try, Masanguid said.

Several town mayors and village officials from other provinces are also supporting the movement, committing their political machineries for his campaign.

Heart and fist

Masanguid described Duterte as an iron-fisted leader with a heart, one who commands strong presence in and out of government.

“If we will compare Duterte and Davao City to the other cities and leaders in our country, he is the only politician who was able to fully implement the anti-smoking campaign and the firecracker ban,” Masanguid said. He added that Duterte also further improved discipline in the city through the anti-spitting ordinance, speed limit and the anti-discrimination ordinance.

“Issues still exist in the city, but these were minimized compared to other cities in the country,” Masanguid said. Critics and human rights groups have slammed Duterte for implementing rules at the expense of basic rights. He has been accused of directing the vigilante-style killing of suspected criminals and drug pushers. (READ: CHR to Duterte: Act like a mayor)

Just recently, he threatened to “gladly kill” a suspected rice smuggler.

But Masanguid said Duterte would be instrumental in building peace not just in Mindanao but in the whole country, citing his experience in dealing with rebel movements.

PILIPINAS 2016 DUTERTE MOVEMENT. Barangay captain Mar Masanguid says it's about time Rodrigo Duterte conquered national politics. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

“He would personally talk with the NPA, MNLF and the MILF,” Masanguid said. 

Duterte has a long history of good relations with rebel groups. He has open lines with the communist New People’s Army (NPA), which would tap him every now and then in the release of hostages.

The Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari faction, which was also present in the rally, said the organization will support Duterte if he decides to run.

‘You must be crazy’

The mayor said he’s not interested.

“You must be crazy. I said I am not interested to be president. I am not qualified to be president. I cannot dream of what I cannot be but I can only aspire for what I can be,” Duterte earlier said.

He added that it would me a bad move to give him more power for he will personally lead the revolution against his own government.

Duterte explained that past administrations had asked him to lead Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), but he turned down these offers because he might end up shutting down government and Congress.

And as a prospective commander in chief, Duterte said it would be tough for him to fight the NPA, MILF and MNLF because of their friendship and for his “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) towards them.

Besides, Duterte noted that a presidential campaign will cost him P20 billion, which he said he does not have. Relying on other people to fund his campaign would even be tougher, he said, because they would expect payback from him. 

Despite this, several potential presidential candidates including Senators Grace Poe and Alan Peter Cayetano, already paid him a visit during the 77th Araw ng Dabaw celebration this month. – Rappler.com