New Duterte ad: No face, no dialogue, clear message

Pia Ranada
New Duterte ad: No face, no dialogue, clear message
The Davao City mayor is nowhere to be found in his latest political ad. But the message on fighting crime is classic Rody Duterte.

MANILA, Philippines – A political advertisement that doesn’t even show the candidate’s face?

Rodrigo Duterte himself may be nowhere in his latest political ad, but its focus on a war against criminality is pure Duterte. (READ: How do you handle a candidate like Rodrigo Duterte?)

The 31-second video, uploaded on Thursday night, January 27, is devoid of dialogue or even a voice-over.

The scene begins with a young female student returning from school at night. She is followed by a man hiding in the shadows. As he takes out a knife, the metal bars of a jail cell fall in front of him.

The girl, unaware of the danger she was in, is welcomed home by an elderly woman. The house’s door closes bearing a message: “Sa ligtas na bayan, panatag ang tahanan.” (In a safe society, the home is peaceful.)

The clue that it’s a political ad is saved for last with the message: “Duterte. Davao City Ranked 9th Safest City in the World.”

The ad’s pitch is clear: Duterte’s transformation of Davao City as its longest-serving mayor speaks for itself. 

Duterte himself tells voters that the city is his “Exhibit A.”

Crime fighter

Many credit Duterte’s leadership for turning the country’s “Murder Capital” into one of the most liveable cities in the country. His no-nonsense attitude to cracking down on criminals has earned him the nickname “The Punisher” and “Dirty Harry of the South.” (READ: 22 things to know about ‘Duterte Harry’)

Davaoeños boast that from a “warzone,” where killings happened in broad daylight, Davao City has become one of the most progressive cities, winning awards for outstanding law enforcement, and its child-friendly and investor-friendly policies.

The label of “9th Safest City in the World” comes from the April 2015 ranking of safest cities on crowd-sourced rating site

The site is said to be the largest database of input from users who rank cities and countries on aspects like pollution, quality of life, cost of living, traffic, and health care, and crime.

Duterte’s platform, shared with running mate Alan Peter Cayetano, puts quashing crime as the priority. He has promised to stop criminality in 3 to 6 months after being elected into office. 

But he’s also been accused of taking his fight against crime too far: by allegedly supporting or allowing vigilante-style killings of petty criminals in Davao City.

Duterte has denied such accusations, challenging critics to show evidence linking him to the so-called Davao Death Squad.

He has attracted both praise and disgust for saying he would kill 100,000 criminals. He has since clarified that those were exaggerations and that he would only kill a criminals who violently resist arrest.

Duterte’s ad appeared on the same day as the latest ad of rival presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. –


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at