Rodrigo "Rody" Roa Duterte

duterte 1Photo from Official Facebook Account of Rody Duterte

“There will be killings. There will be a lot of blood.” Sounds terrifying, but will these bold, politically incorrect musings catapult Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency?

Finally, a president from Mindanao?

The 70-year old former mayor of Davao City hails from the province of Leyte. His father, who eventually became governor of the yet undivided Davao Province, came to Mindanao to practice law and eventually join politics. Duterte himself is a lawyer by profession. He obtained his law degree from San Beda College and practiced in the Davao City Prosecution Office.

Duterte’s famous career as mayor began in 1988, when he served as officer-in-charge of the city. His tenure continued until 1998, when he was barred from running after completing three terms. After a three-year break, he ran and won again in 2001, serving until 2010, when term limits prohibited him from running yet again.

In 2013, Duterte easily won the mayorship again, with his total length of service in the local government now totaling more than two decades. He was offered the position of Secretary of Interior and Local Government three times, but he refused.

Rodrigo Duterte is perhaps best known for his peace and order programs in Davao City, which he boasts as being effective in curbing crime and drug problems. These have become objects of contention now that Duterte is officially vying for the presidency. The former mayor who has been dubbed “The Punisher” is accused of using extralegal and inhuman means to purge criminals from his city.

Expletives, and then some

On the campaign trail, Duterte is known to mouth expletives now and then to express his disgust for the country’s myriad problems. This habit is feared by some to reflect the means by which he intends to run the country.

While he appeared to attempt to dodge the issue of extrajudicial killings in the past, he is now vocally against it, claiming “there’s no honor in it.” He is also an advocate of federalism, which he says is the sole answer to the problem of peace and development in Mindanao. He plans to call for a constitutional convention within his first year of office for this.

The one promise that seems to have attracted many voters to him, however, is that of eradicating criminality and drug problems in three to six months’ time, upon assuming the presidency.

Other key points of his platform include the improvement of healthcare services by establishing specialized hospitals in Visayas and Mindanao, reduction of the cost of food by 50%, doubling of teachers’ salaries by the end of his term, and the creation of a permanent department that would handle disaster response.

Rodrigo Duterte is running with vice-presidential candidate Alan Peter Cayetano under the PDP-Laban party.

duterte 2Photo from Official Facebook Account of Rody Duterte


A now much-publicized controversy involving Duterte was, when he formally announced his candidacy, he hurled expletives over the traffic jam caused by the the Manila visit of Pope Francis.

Apologies and plans to visit the Vatican aside, this has drawn flak from various sectors – the government, the Church, his political rivals, and even would-be voters. Containing the former mayor’s tactlessness has been a constant challenge for his party.

A more serious issue being hurled against Duterte is his human rights record. Rights activists accuse him of involvement with the vigilante group, Davao Death Squad – a group associated with the summary executions of wanted criminals in Davao City.

His public statements of intent to kill a criminal, both personally and in bloody fashion, have also gotten human rights advocates cringing. Whether this breed of advocating for peace and order will continue to resonate with voters remains to be seen as the campaign period starts.