#TheLeaderIWant: Leadership, Duterte-style
Part 3 of 3
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Rappler talks to Rodrigo Duterte – Davao City mayor, federalism advocate, and reluctant presidential bet.
Duterte is a man of contradictions. He curses profusely but is congenial and charming. He is a self-declared leftist but has no qualms enforcing a dictatorship.
He calls for people to follow the rule of law but has taken the law into his own hands.
Is the Philippines ready for a Duterte leadership?
Watch this full interview with Rappler's Maria Ressa.
MARIA RESSA: Hello and welcome. I’m Maria Ressa. This is Rappler Talk. We’re sitting now with Davao Mayor Rody Duterte. Thank you for joining us.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Salamat sa panahon mo.
MARIA RESSA: Can you please. You are the man of the hour. People wanted to know whether you’re running for president, vice president. Yes, no? Finally there’s a no, but maybe there’s a maybe. Where are you now?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: First of all, I’m not the man of the hour. Maybe just a man trying to run a city. Ang OIC ko ay yun the last time when I filed was for the mayorship of Davao City, and I think that if my daughter agreed to a – filed hers COC niya, I would have considered myself retired from public office. That’s what I told the people of Davao City. For the longest time, I’ve been trying to raise the idea of a Davao City and a new leadership. Maybe my daughter. I don’t know. It’s the changing nature of politics.
MARIA RESSA: People wanted you to run. What made you so successful in Davao?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Well, just follow the law. Every time there’s a question or there’s an issue, there’s a controversy. I just ask you, what’s the law? Follow it. So including policies, different policies. Other hindi nagkakaintidihan. I would just say what’s the time-honored policy in this institution? It could be in national office and sometimes I’m called upon to mediate and labor, and I always say, just follow the Law, and if the policy is there, we honor it. And that’s it.
MARIA RESSA: But you went beyond that. There was a period of time when you first came in that peace and order didn’t exist.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, I must admit that there was a turmoil in the past, and I had to act decisively. Let me just say – there were things which I had to do because I had to do it. And nobody was going to do it for Davao City.
MARIA RESSA: Like what?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Like the ones that people are crying about until now. And maybe the eternal complaint of Secretary de Lima when she was chairman of the human rights commission, and of course, Etta – whether they are on the right track or not or were on … I’m not ready to expound on it. Maybe some day.
MARIA RESSA: You’re talking human rights?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, of course. Yes, of course. It’s a public record that cases have been filed against me, and they say that my name was even in the High Commission of the Human Rights Commission of the United States.
Well, that’s part of a day’s work, I would say.
MARIA RESSA: Regrets?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: None. None. If I will return to the original day, then I would still do it because that’s the only way that I could keep the peace in Davao and how it could develop into what you see now.
MARIA RESSA: Right now, part of the reason people want you to run for president or vice president is because you’re a strong leader. What is this yearning in Filipinos for a strong leader?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I would say that what you say in public, you must do. You should never, never say something in public that you are reluctant to do. Or will not do it at all. One, you must have the credibility. So you just say, stop it because I will do it to you. Stop it so that I will not do it to you.
MARIA RESSA: It got to a point that criminals were afraid to come to Davao
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, or would you rather I do not warn them, and they would come here and suffer the fate. Would it be nice just to hear that there is a deterrence in that, that it might discourage them to do it. It would save more lives. So when you say you have established the rule that you must do it. Then that’s it. Or would you rather I keep silent and then they come and go and something happens to them. Would you not say that I’m saving lives in this process of doing it?
MARIA RESSA: You’re also a man of contradictions because as you were running after criminals, you’re also talking peace with rebels.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, because they’re 2 different things: one is for pocket, and the other one is ideology. Here is a rebel and they’re fighting as a matter of principle - and here are idiots, the criminals because they line their pockets and for gain. Personal gain. There’s no redeeming factor in killing people, robbing them, raping them, robbing them. I do not see an iota of a redeeming factor in that kind of … this kind of world.
MARIA RESSA: No qualms about killing killers?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, of course, I must admit I have killed. 3 months early on, I killed what – 3 people?
MARIA RESSA: Again though the peace with the rebels – this was something that you did …
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I pursue it with passion. The problem is these rebel things, these insurgency problems is not within the province of the local officials. All we have to do is just keep the peace, and if at all you have to be friendly with them or else I cannot go to the mountains. How am I going to inspect the public works that are going on and the things that you promise them, the irrigation and the like, the government projects … and because I remember, I was about 3 months mayor, I bought a new Komatso and the rebels just burned it and pushed it down the crevasse, and I decided that we have to talk. This cannot go on. And even the killings.
I must admit, you know, Ressa, I really belong to the Left. My dimensions in life is – are – always, my dimensions is with the Left. Kasi anak nga ako ng …
My family even suffered the demolition right in the back of the Ateneo Davao – swampland … it turned out that every inch of the island of Mindanao is already
In that sense, I grew up very conscious of the barriers of life.
MARIA RESSA: A lot of the way you think has shaped Davao City (yes). Let me ask you about national politics. How do you look at Philippine politics?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Except for the fact that we in the provinces in the local government unit would just say ‘amen’ to whatever is decided. You know, politics in the PH, especially the presidency and the big positions, they are decided by the ruling elite in this country. Ever since …
Sugar barons – big haciendas there, but they were based in Manila
Up to this day, you can see who and what the title is – whether it’s the progressive block or … it’s being decided by two ruling elites, and you would be surprised to see the sugar.
I would not want to offend anybody. I do not want to mention names, but if you just analyze it very carefully – ever since, it was the sugar block of the south and the sugar block of the central Luzon. And that’s it. Until now. Take a look, but of course, they have the businesses in Manila right now aside from the sugar money.
MARIA RESSA: So you don’t want to name names?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I don’t have to because they’re my friends. They might say that inggit ka lang kasi wala ka … I will just say if you’re a Filipino, just take a look. try to evaluate the things.
MARIA RESSA: Could you have changed that?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I’m a socialist, and I think the Philippines is better off without me.
MARIA RESSA: Why?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Well. Magkaiba ang … suddenly, everything could change.
MARIA RESSA: Everything you learned in Davao, could it translate to a national stage?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, I would insist that everybody follows the Law, whether you’re rich or you’re poor. Whether you’re my son or my daughter. We do not make any special concessions.
MARIA RESSA: So could you have made a difference in this power shift that you’re talking about?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Well, in the sense I said that I’m a Socialist, that would give you an inkling in what I intend to do. First of all, there’s the gap that really divides this country between the rich and the poor. Ayan yang cliché na yan: the poor is getting poorer, the rich is getting richer. They utter it every election. Every candidate. Why don’t you just do it? Just shut up, and just do it.
MARIA RESSA: Would you be able to do it?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I will.
MARIA RESSA: And what do you see needs to get done?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Well, in the previous discussions, it’s kind of hard to be open about it right now, but I said, I’d like to change the picture. And they say that I’m a Communist. I’m not. I’m not a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. I do not believe in the armed struggle. I do not kill Filipinos. But I said that maybe on the extreme – left center, maybe. And I said I will stop corruption. I will stop criminality. I will fix government.
How do you fix government? How do you fix the corruption in the police, the bureau of customs, the BIR? And every facet of the pagbaba mo ng airport, nandyan, bayad na. So many vultures out there, and they get stopped, and others are simply kidnapped and wala na.
MARIA RESSA: Do you think you can fix this?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yeah. When I said I’ll stop criminality, I’ll stop criminality. If I have to kill you, I’ll kill you. Personally. Corruption. And I’ll fix government. How do you fix government? You cannot file cases every day. It would take you forever. One case, administrative, criminal.
I would just say stop.I would have to reformat. For example, dito sa BIR you pay your taxes. The same with customs. And you do not transact money there any more.
MARIA RESSA: You have strong ideas, and you have a will to make it happen.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Sinasabi ko lang, if I get elected. Better not. I’m telling everybody, go somewhere else. Because if I’m there, within 6 months to 1 year, papahirapan ako ng Congress. Because I’ll have to say to them STOP, I will not get anything there except my salary. You do not get anything there. I’ll just say COA, you just do your job. You audit everyone. That’s your job. You audit every month then nobody gets the extra pay. But if Congress would get mad, and if they threaten me with … if Congress would threaten me with impeachment, sasarhan ko. I will close Congress. I will use the money to increase the salaries of the teacher. My mother was a teacher, and to her retirement days, she was paying 5-6 and now there are so many teachers in this country who have to walk 3-5 hours just to get to the schools where they teach.
Gamitin ko yung pera. I’ll increase the salaries of the teachers, the police and the military. I’ll give them more than double. But if they bill to shit … maybe I’ll just – maluwang naman yung Manila Bay.
MARIA RESSA: Will you survive?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I will be assassinated maybe, but to those right thinking military men and police, if you want this country to bloom something more than just what we’re suffering …
Alam mo kasi, ganito iyan – DO NOT ASK ME TO RUN I’ve been telling people. Because I will just be adding my 6 years to the wasted years of Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino … pag idinagdag ko iyan, alam mo ba kung ilan yang? that’s 24 years of calbaryo ng Pilipino …huwag mo
Because I will not sit there as President and just like any other regime sabihin ko, iyan lang ang kaya ko. You spare me. I don’t need it. I said I have enough accolades in my life time to make me happy. Why should I look for trouble? Pero pag nilagay ninyo ako, do not fuck with me because I will … talagang gagawin ko … some generals just have to resign. I will pay them their retirement … handsomely.
MARIA RESSA: Do you think one man can make that much of a difference – to turn the entire system upside down?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes. It’s always – in every dictatorship. It’s going to be a dictatorship. It’s the police and the military will be the backbone.
If they agree with you – if the right thinking policemen and military men agree with you, then after 6 years, there will be a new setup, maybe a federal type, less corruption and a fresh air for the next generation.
MARIA RESSA: By not running now, who benefits?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Kind of hard. Any of the 3 could win. I – huwag naman muna kasi kaibigan ko sila.
Anybody of them, you will still suffer.
I’m not saying they cannot hack it. What I’m saying is yung plano ko para sa bayan ko, maski ganito lang ako –and I’ve always said this is always a prefix .. I am Rodrigo Duterte, I am a Filipino … I love the PH because it’s the land of my birth. It’s the home of my people.
Any of the three, ewan ko kung kaya nilang gawin iyon.
MARIA RESSA: Mar Roxas –
Si Mar Roxas, he’s a friend of mine, but when the time comes, I’ll have to be frank to the Filipino people. As a friend, I will just hold back. But if I’m asked now
If I’m asked now, in my capacity as a government employee to tell the truth, I will tell the truth.
Grace – surmount challenges of residency and citizenship. Mabigat iyan, mabigat iyan.
I would rather have a barangay captain than play with the idea … tapos nandiyan na siya sa pwesto suddenly there’s an official announcement that she is not after all a Filipino. That would be a tragedy. That would be a tragedy.
Mabait siya, but the fact that we could have an American president is something that I cannot totally accept.
MARIA RESSA: I go back to Mar first … you had first hand experience with him …
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, I was in Leyte because it was the land of my birth. Day 2 I was already there. I brought my 911 ko – 10 doctors and nurses and a truckload of medicines.
MARIA RESSA: How would you gauge his performance?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Could I just stretch it a little longer? Maybe at the proper time I will go to your office.
MARIA RESSA: The type of leader Fiipinos need right now – what would you say?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: It’s a catch 22 actually. Because if you begin to talk about Marcos, they would say that you favor the dictatorship and the abuses during Martial Law, but at the same time if you want to also compare everyone else, parang wala eh. So I would just say that minus the desire to be a dictator, minus the plunder of the country, money and all, I don’t know if he was the one who did it, but everybody was at it at the time.
Alam mo kasi ganito yan, Ressa, dito sa Plilipinas, there’s such thing as obey the law. Ang problema, halos lahat … because if you become the president, you do not only change leaders, but you have to change the Filipino himself. Kasi ang Filipino ngayon, hindi mo masabihan na obey the law. Sige, sige …
Sabihin mo sa kanya, this is the law. Putang ina, pag hindi mo sinunod ang batas, putang ina ka sa akin. There is no fear of obedience of the law. It is everywhere in the country. Walang takot sa batas.
The mandate to obey the law is really just an option for the ordinary guy … kita mo dadaan nagsasalubong ng traffic diyan.
Pag ako ang nasalubong mo, sagasaan talaga kita. Pag namatay ka diyan, pasensiya ka na. I told you to obey the law. So if you go against the traffic at nagdala ako ng tractor, at nasagasaan kita, putang ina ka, pasensiya ka. Leche ka. Sinabi ko sa iyo, sundin mo ang batas. Kaya dito sa Davao, sundin mo ang batas, bawal manigarilyo. Kung manigarilyo ka, ipapakain ko talaga ang sigarilyo sa iyo.
MARIA RESSA: So parang benevolent dictator?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Hindi. I do not want even to be a center piece of that. I just want you to obey the law – whoever is the son of a bitch sitting there as mayor.
MARIA RESSA: So now, of course, people still speculate that there is still a possibility that you could still run for president.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Well, they said that I’m disqualified. I hope that I’m disqualified.
MARIA RESSA: No, you’re not disqualified.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Sabi ng Comelec …
MARIA RESSA: But there’s a chance that you could take the PDP-Laban …
RODRIGO DUTERTE: --- I just said… Hindi ko mapigilan yung init ng ulo ko.
MARIA RESSA: But right now, you could be substituted for the PDP Laban
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I don’t know but whether I would want to be there is something else.
MARIA RESSA: Is that a possibility?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I told you to avoid me. I’m telling the Filipino people huwag ako, it’s going to be bloody.
MARIA RESSA: It’s a possibility.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Pati pahirapan. Nung sinabi ko sumunod kayo, within 6 months to 1 year, pag pinahirapan ninyo ako, magmukha akong tanga, and I will just add my 6 years of inutility to be on the 24 hours of calbaryo ninyo, huwag na lang ako. Marami diyan. Pero pag ako, ying distinct possibility of closing … mabuti pa pag nagkaintindihan … nung sinabi ko stop the PDAF, stop everything and we live by our salaries. Hanggang diyan na lang tayo …
Alam mo dito sa Davao, hindi naman ako nagyayabang, I do not allow purchases of cars P1M – Avanza lang iyan dito worth 700. Hindo mo pera. Just be happy with the thought that you have a car there provided by government. …Better start a business. Malakas naman ang bentahan ng durian.
MARIA RESSA: For such a decisive man, you know what you want, you’re very decisive. In this, running for president, why so indecisive?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Kasi in running – but if I’m there, wala ng indecisive, indecisive. Putang ina, sumunod kayong lahat. When I say that you have to stop fucking the people’s money, stop it.
Kung ito lang ang binigay sa atin, di diyan na lang, magtiis lang tayo … PDAF
Huwag kayo mag TRO, TRO sa akin because there is really the possibility na sasarhan ko kayo.
MARIA RESSA: Why not …
RODRIGO DUTERTE: indecisive in terms of running? I have to be really honest about it kasi at the start of this interview, I’m happy where I am. Matanda na ako. I’ve served government for 10 years as a prosecutor, then OIC vice mayor, then naging mayor ako for 22 years now, running 23. Naging congressman ako. Para sa akin, tama na iyon, and my mother before she died said, be happy with the thought that God gave you so many years of productive life. Ang nanay ko mismo ang nagsabi na it’s time for you to … and even my daughter …
MARIA RESSA: Sabihin ninyo na ho …
RODRIGO DUTERTE: My wife is ailing. Siya yung may cancer of the throat … huwag ka na lang tumakbo … buti na lang in our old age, ang mga bata may mapuntahan. May galit sa akin yang sila kasi naghiwalay nga kami … When everything is shut off, I’ll tell you why.
MARIA RESSA: You talked about what you would do as the president in the country. What about where we fit with the rest of the world: China, US …
RODRIGO DUTERTE: China, if you look at it very closely. The China problem is nakakatawa iyan because while it was being built and it was shown by the satellite surveillance and everything, ang America did nothing. And now yung kumpleto na iyan, America is threatening to patrol the area. For what? Is America really going to finish … bakit hintayin pa niya?
And America is very cosy with the Chinese. I think America has a wounded soul.
America is afraid to go to war. Because when you start a war now, when you have both ends of Russia and China, talagang mapupudpud itong planet na ito. And if you make the mistake of just pressing one button there, it’s going to end the world.
I think Americans are not ready for that. They’re not suicidal in that sense.
And there are many problems in Europe. There is Greece and there’s a growing hegemony in the Chinese. The Chinese are trying to buy the utang – yung utang nila sa IMF kasi yung pinahiram sa kanila pambayad lang ng interest. Yun ang masakit sa kanila.
With Russia offering everything, including oil, there’s going to be a new hegemony there somewhere. Ang America ay nakatali siya because ito naman sa Middle East. The Middle East is a product of the exploitation of the western powers. In the past, it took advantage of everything, and they controlled the price. It helped the Arab countries, but only that much because the money went into the pockets of the western world. So .. and you have this Putin.
Putin is also suicidal. Diyan sila takot because Putin is aching for trouble. And once a war starts there somewhere involving now America, China, it’s going to be the end of the world.
And America also doesn’t want war, and second is that they have a problem because the ugly head of bigotry is rearing its … they do not want to talk about it publicly. Parang they try to belittle it, but you have been there – they hate each other’s guts. Talagang puputok iyan balang araw. It will come to a head. I am very sure of that. Within our generation. That’s what you get when so much open to multi-racial and multi –
MARIA RESSA: So the way you see foreign policy in the Philippines?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: We’re better off making friends with China. America is also the best friend of China. We will adopt a neutral policy there. Then … because the new trade agreement sa Pacific Rim, we were not included. So we’re better off with Asia. If you are not there, you might as well go for China, Japan … at a higher price, kasi mahal man talaga. It’s very hard to deal with a country where their currency is mataas. Wala na tayong pakialam. We’re so isolated na sa western world, and China can help us.
Ang akin naman, I have talked to … the one who was involved in that shooting, he was here during the double 10 and we had a talk. And I said, Mr. Consul, we cannot remove what you have built there, erected some garrison, but I would appreciate if you would stop harassing our Filipino fishermen, because verily they are fishing within our exclusive economic zone. It so happened that you extended your territory far and wide and has put us in a quandary. Why don’t you just expand westward? Anyway, there’s an opening there in the Indian Ocean. You can have half of it if you want. I said we would not begrudge you. We cannot destroy that, but can you please just stop?
MARIA RESSA: And what did he say?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: And he said, well, we will talk about it. But the problem is I do not have the voice of government. And what I’m saying now is just stop expanding even for an inch. Allow the fishermen because that is survival. They’re part of our food security. It’s rich fishing ground - do not arrest them. And we will not arrest you. Leave us alone so we can live and subsist there.
He said it’s good, it’s good. Very interesting. It is, I said, because it involves the stomach of the Filipinos.
MARIA RESSA: So reading between the lines, you’re leaning towards China?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes! Because I do not see any … I mean, the United States is not threatening us. It has never intruded into our waters. They’re not getting anything … but of course, during the years, they’ve gotten billions from this country. Including the years … 50 years … and until now. It’s obvious that what we are asking is just a miniscule .. not really the charity of China but their understanding.
MARIA RESSA: History – Davao for a very long time. Filipinos, we see the same names, the same politicians – Aquino, now we have Bongbong Marcos again.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I have to get the paradigm of the average Filipino. It is not convoluted, but sometimes to me it’s confused. To my mind. Ako naman, I would say for the Marcoses, it would be a terrible thing to visit the sins of the father upon the son. Maybe it’s – Filipinos are just melodramatic. Kasi sa mga program diyan, our comics, too many comics before and listen to many dramas.
But what I’m really sure of is that the average Filipino is compassionate and willing to understand.
MARIA RESSA: Short memory. You talked about power structures earlier – Milan Kundera – the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Yes, it’s not an elephant’s memory. It’s small. And also because we’re compassionate. Iba yung tatay, iba yung anak. Which ako naman, tinitgnan ko rin ang tao if you’re really capable of doing it. Para dito wala.
Alan Peter … then the following day, not even 24 hours, Bongbong was here also. Kaya sinabi ko sa kanilang dalawa, I am sorry, hindi ako kandidato
MARIA RESSA: If you’re going to retire, what are you going to do next?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: Well, magtrabaho para makabili ako ng medyas. Hindi kasi, matanda na talaga ako. I’m tired. I’m also tired. I do not have the stamina anymore. And that is a telling indication that it would not be also fair to the Filipnio people to have a president who cannot work full time.
Kasi ako kung magising ako sa umaga, I want to linger …
Sa hapon na ako nag oopisina.
MARIA RESSA: Different men
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I was talking about any president, on COC – “it’s labeled as president? Well, it’s the problem of the Comelec for giving him the wrong form. Hindi naman talaga kandidato iyan ng Manila. Hindi naman talaga taga-diyan iyan. It’s the fault of the … pero the word president is there. Dino should not lose sleep there. Kasi kasalanan ng Comelec.
MARIA RESSA: Your last thoughts?
RODRIGO DUTERTE: I love my country. Period. But there are things which I cannot do. – Rappler.com
Who won in the 2016 Philippine elections?
Check out the 2016 official election results through the link below:
- 2016 official election results for Presidential, Vice Presidential, Senatorial, and Party list elections
Check out the 2016 unofficial election results for the national and local races through the links below
- 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections
- 2016 Philippine Vice Presidential Elections
- 2016 Philippine Senatorial Elections
- 2016 Philippine Congressional Elections
- 2016 Party List Elections
- 2016 Philippine Local Elections
In these changing times, courage and clarity become even more important.
Take discussions to the next level with Rappler PLUS — your platform for deeper insights, closer collaboration, and meaningful action.
Sign up today and access exclusive content, events, and workshops curated especially for those who crave clarity and collaboration in an intelligent, action-oriented community.
As an added bonus, we’re also giving a free 1-year Booky Prime membership for the next 200 subscribers.
You can also support Rappler without a PLUS membership. Help us stay free and independent by making a donation: https://www.rappler.com/crowdfunding. Every contribution counts.