How did Rodrigo Duterte fare as congressman?

Reynaldo Santos Jr

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How did Rodrigo Duterte fare as congressman?
(UPDATED) Duterte was representative of Davao City's 1st district from 1998 to 2001. How did he perform as a congressman?

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has already revealed a lot of controversial plans for his presidency, among them the abolition of Congress either to curb corruption or prevent alleged plans of impeaching him in the future.

While the newly-elected president is more known for his extensive experience as a city mayor, he also once was a member of the instutition that he now wants abolished.

Duterte was a congressman from 1998 to 2001, serving as representative of the first district of Davao City under the 11th Congress.

The 11th Congress was a memorable term then, as it led to the impeachment of former president Joseph Estrada. The House of Representatives was headed then by Speaker Manuel Villar (Las Piñas lone district).

Among Duterte’s batchmates at the time are outgoing President Benigno Aquino III (Tarlac 2nd district) and other 2016 national poll contenders Manuel “Mar” Roxas II (Capiz 1st district), Francis “Chiz” Escudero (Sorsogon 1st district), and Alan Peter Cayetano (Pateros-Taguig district).

But while much can be said about Duterte’s experience in the city capitol, there’s little information available about his short stint in Congress.

Just how did he do as congressman? Here’s a glimpse.


Duterte ran and won as congressman under Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino (LAMMP)/PDP-Laban. The coalition party of the opposition at the time, LAMMP/PDP-Laban was the vehicle that then vice president Joseph Estrada used in the 1998 presidential elections. He went on to win as president.

Duterte was part of the majority, with 9 senators and 76 congressmen under LAMMP in the 11th Congress. He was made member of 5 House committees:

  • national defense
  • public order and security
  • health
  • transportation and communications
  • cooperative development

A big majority of the House – 171 congressmen – voted for Villar, also from LAMMP, as Speaker. Duterte, however, was one of the 31 representatives who voted instead for the independent Joker Arroyo (Makati 1st district).

When Villar gave up the House speakership after endorsing the impeachment of Estrada to the Senate, most of the congressmen turned to Arnulfo Fuentabella as replacement. Duterte again went against the majority, as he was among the few who manifested they wanted Villar to stay in the position.

Uninterested in Congress

While Duterte enjoyed being a mayor – as reflected in his long years of stay in the city capitol – it was the opposite for his congressional term.

Proof of how disinterested Duterte was in congressional work, he described his stay in Congress as “boring”. So boring it was that he ended up going to the movies instead. According to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, he would go attend the flag ceremony in Congress then proceed to the canteen, after which he would watch movies when the opportunity presented itself.

Duterte was quoted as saying, “…When I became a congressman, I’d go to the mall, naglalakad-lakad ako, tapos magdadaldal, wala namang kakwenta-kwenta…kayo na diyan, uwi na ako.” (When I became a congressman, I’d go to the mall, I’d walk then chit-chat, which was a waste…I’m leaving you behind, I’m going home.)

Unlike the groundwork required of local government officials in their respective localities, congressmen are tasked to craft enabling laws through bills and resolutions in the confines of the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Inactive solon

His disinterest in Congress showed itself in his performance as district representative.

Based on statistics provided by the archives section of the House of Representatives, Duterte got zero attendance on floor deliberations. These deliberations happened either for bill readings or for committee conferences.

And while most of the congressmen filed more than 100 measures in the House of Representatives, Duterte only had 64 – 45 House bills, 18 House resolutions, and one House joint resolution.

He was the main author of 11 House bills, with only one getting enacted into law – Republic Act 8969, which declared every third Friday of August a special holiday in Davao City.

Other bills that he authored, but which didn’t become law, included those that would have implemented amendments in the revised penal code. The others covered police reorganization and reform, and judiciary reorganization.


The House journals retrieved from the archives section also showed that Duterte was mostly silent during sessions. Unlike some congressmen who were active in raising motions in the plenary, records showed that Duterte wasn’t.

For one, he wasn’t present in some of the sessions of the 11th Congress.

Based on all 266 House journals for the 11th Congress – with one journal corresponding to one session – a roll call was made in only 163 sessions, where voting for bills was made. Duterte was present in only 94 of those 163 sessions, or roughly 58% of those House sessions.

He was recorded as being on leave for “official mission” in one session, was absent with consent of the House in 61 sessions, and was absent without notice in 7 sessions.

There were 19 sessions without a roll call, but he was not included in the voting of bills, signifying that he also wasn’t in Congress during those days.

In all, Duterte skipped 87 sessions, excluding the absence due to an “official mission”, in the 11th Congress.

Resignation plan

So intolerable perhaps was Congress for Duterte that he even attempted to resign at some point. 

In early 1999, the representative of Davao City submitted a resignation letter to then Speaker Manuel Villar, following an incident that involved his son Paolo. 


His former chief of staff Patmei Ruivivar recalled that the congressman’s son was accused of mauling a hotel security guard. When Duterte learned about the incident, he said Paolo must face the consequences of his actions and that the guard should file charges. The guard was understandably afraid and did not bother to file charges.

When Duterte learned about it, he offered to resign. The Speaker then advised him that he could not possibly accept his resignation because “Congress is a collegial body so they are actually equals.” Duterte then went to then president Estrada to present his resignation letter, Ruivivar said.

Estrada did not accept it, telling him: “Ikaw naman, ibig bang sabihin niyan kung si Jinggoy ang ma-involve sa ganitong kaso, ipagre-resign mo din ako?” (You mean to say that if Jinggoy got involved in a case like this, you’d also ask me to resign?)


Because Estrada wouldn’t let him, Duterte stayed on as congressman. – with reports from Pia Ranada/

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