Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte: A victim of his own success



Is he running or not?

There is no telling the number of people who are asking this question. It is being asked by both friend and foe, by nearly everybody scanning the horizon in preparation for 2016.

Is he running or not?

Before we answer that question, clarifications are in order. First, another question: is he interested? The answer is a categorical no.

“I will not run, you can’t make me run, I’m not interested,” Duterte declared on “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” last March 2, 2014. In a single sentence, he summarized his position on the talk of the town.

I will not run.

This is the same man who, when asked during a Senate hearing what he would do with a suspected rice smuggler, promptly replied: “I will gladly kill him!” Nobody ever said anything close to this before in front of the country’s highest legislative body, and it’s doubtful anybody ever will. The point is clear: he speaks without equivocation.

You can’t make me run.

“What will I spend? I will rely on somebody to fund my campaign? That will mean P15 billion to P20 billion worth of utang na loob (debt of gratitude), so, what will I say if the one who funds my campaign will ask for a payback?” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him in a story published March 9, 2014.

The man is right. He doesn’t have that much money. Granting that somebody else will foot the bill, what would be the catch? Nobody gets a free ride in this world and the mayor knows that. It is precisely the reason why he has not asked for political favors from friends in high places in his entire political career.

He has never been anybody else’s lackey. He has no intention of being one now. Duterte never gave in to offers to serve in the Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino administrations. If there is anybody who can say no to a presidential push, it is Duterte.

I’m not interested.

It is easy to see that. Most men would have crumbled by this time to the lure of a popular presidential draft that continues to soar in spite of his efforts to undermine it. His reasons for saying no are there for all to see. He is “too old” (he will be 71 next year); he is “sickly” (it’s hard to imagine not having some sort of ailment at this age); and wants “to retire” (nobody is saying he can’t, after).

“Besides all presidents now go to jail after their presidency, so, please, have mercy,” he pleaded.

Now, that doesn’t sound like the same Duterte who matter-of-factly told the senators to their faces: “I could go to prison for it. I’m old, your honor. I could spend the remaining days of my life (there). Matanda na rin ako. Marami na rin akong sakit. The most is about five to 10 years. I can do away with the stress by reading books.”

When in fighting mood, Duterte is candid, fearsome and – more often than not – on target.

“The trouble with us in government is that we talk too much, act too slow and do too little. Don’t we?”

Alam mo, sa totoo lang, kung walang Pilipino na papatay para sa taong bayan, sa mgafarmers, at di takot mamatay, walang mangyayari sa bayan na ito. We have to defend the Filipino farmer.”

“If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

“When the poor lose out to the rich in the courts of law, we have a very serious problem because they either take the law into their hands or they go up to the hills to take up arms.”

“Violence is the main weapon of a rebellion. To stop the violence, we have to end the rebellion.”

“We only have two options in dealing with these rebels: we talk to them, or we kill them.”

“We have to take the risk so that we could embark on a fresh start. If we do not do this in our generation, who will have the courage to end this rebellion?”

The other presidential aspirants are in the news, no, find ways to be in the news – every day if possible. But no one comes close to Duterte’s colorful vocabulary.

It’s just hard to miss the irony that one who isn’t interested to run knows exactly what he will do while those who are interested in running are the ones who don’t seem to know what to do. If they do, they are not saying.

Can Duterte be prevailed upon to run?

We will know the answer when the time comes. And yet, there are dreams that just refuse to die down. One of them is for Duterte to change his mind and run. What can make him do it?

Duterte has to come to terms with the fact that he has captured the imagination of people from all walks of life, across economic classes, different shades of the political spectrum, and even from various dogmas, doctrines and faiths.

Those who disagree need only to reflect on the uniqueness, or absurdity if you may, of a situation wherein the people he is supposed to court are the ones doing the opposite; where the potential candidate is the one dissuading the people he should be winning over to his side; and instead of propping up his campaign, he does the opposite.

A presidential wannabe, Duterte definitely is not.

If this was any other politician, the campaign would have been buried six feet under the ground a long time ago. Why it persists, there is only one logical answer: there are enough people who would rather sink and swim with him and lose it all in the end than take a gamble with another. For them, taking a chance on Duterte is worth it all.

He is a man who, in his own words, is willing to go to prison, be killed or kill, for the farmers, for his people and for his country. Is it really impossible to hope that he might yet make the “ultimate sacrifice” of fighting for them by running for president?

After he has succeeded to earn their trust, Duterte now wants his believers to stop believing in him. Too bad for him, it is too late. Those who have reposed their trust in him know him well enough to believe that he won’t abandon, much less betray them.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has become a victim of his own success.

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