MANILA, Philippines – Rodrigo Duterte had more to say about rival presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas II on Tuesday, January 19.
This time, the Davao City mayor called the administration standard-bearer and former Interior Secretary the “most incompetent Filipino ever to aspire for the presidency.”
His tirade, unleashed before he spoke in front of Filipino-Chinese businessmen in Binondo, Manila, was prompted by a reporter telling him that Roxas was again casting doubt on Davao City’s reputation as among the safest cities in the Philippines.
“Mar, he’s relatively new. I’ve been a mayor of Davao City for 22 years. I have consistently won the most peaceful city, the best police department,” Duterte told reporters.
Duterte added that Roxas’ statements questioning the achievements of Davao City “confuses” him because in September, Roxas himself conferred an award on the city.
“A month earlier, before the [filing] of candidacy, he gave me a plaque of recognition, an award, for the city of Davao, the best police department,” said Duterte.
Duterte contrasted his achievements to Roxas’.
“He was there from one position, DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), then during the time of Estrada, he was there. It made no difference to our country. In Arroyo’s time, he made not even a dent. And during the Aquino [administration], he was irrelevant,” said Duterte.
The ghost of Yolanda
The mayor also brought up Roxas’ performance during the immediate aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Duterte recalled seeing Roxas in a police station in Leyte, meeting with Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman and other officials while, supposedly, 3 corpses of police officers were rotting near the gate outside.
“We were smelling the stink here. He was there inside talking, talking nonsense. He was talking to Dinky, he was talking to the police, he was talking to the general. Nagdada-dialogue lang siya doon (He was just having a dialogue there) instead of going out, he was there all the time,” said Duterte.
To the mayor, this spelled out Roxas’ lack of leadership at a time when he was the highest-ranking government official in a disaster area.
“He could not have had an accurate reading of what was really happening because he was there inside. Hindi ka maglilibot (You won’t make the rounds outside). He is the most incompetent Filipino ever to aspire for the presidency,” he concluded.
Yolanda relief operations and rehabilitation have always been a sticky issue for Roxas and the entire Aquino administration. The government has been criticized by both local and international organizations and media outlets for the slow pace of operations and lack of clarity on leadership.
But experts also tame the blow, saying Yolanda’s scale was unprecedented and no government could have been thoroughly prepared for it.
In response to such criticism, Roxas’ camp says it was his leadership that enabled the restoration of communications in Yolanda-hit areas within a week. Clean-up operations supervised by Roxas also allowed relief goods to finally reach typhoon survivors.
Duterte’s statements are the latest in the word war between the two presidential candidates.
Duterte said it began when a journalist, supposedly under the direction of Roxas’ camp, spread a rumor that he had throat cancer.
That pushed the mayor to question Roxas’ diploma from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. (READ: Wharton a 'myth?' Facts on Mar Roxas and his economics degree)
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.