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UPDATE: Since the brutal killing of a 17-year old student (Kian delos Santos) who pleaded for his life so he could catch his exam, together with the senseless genocide of 20,000 Filipinos in Duterte's misguided crusade against drugs, I have since renounced and withdrew my support from him.

Duterte Mania in Davao Oct 12, 2016

Duterte Mania in Davao

GPS waypoint: 7°03'51.7"N 125°36'27.8"E
Location: Davao City, Philippines

Here, There and Everywhere in Davao
With Davao's very own mayor ascending the presidency, Dabawenyos cannot get enough of their dear mayor. Even if Malacanang is now Digong's new office, his presence in Davao is still deeply felt. You see life-size cut-outs of him where people pose for a selfie. Car stickers wave his face and name like a flag. Billboards about him adorn the city. Art galleries are full of his portraits.

Duterte Mania in Davao
DU30 t-shirt (picture by Marites Evangelista Rebigan, t-shirt of Max Cu)

All Walks
I'd been in Davao for over a month now and have seen the adulation the Dabawenyos bestow their mayor. It's genuine! And it's from all walks of life. The poor and the marginalized see him as their Robin Hood - someone who understands their predicament and takes action to ensure they are not marginalized. The rich and powerful see him as their vanguard - protecting their interest against destabilizers and insurgents. The middle class feels safe with the law-and-order situation in the city under his stewardship. Even the intellectuals shower him with poetic rationalization, "the gutter language is his unique narrative in reaching out to his constituents." The guy could do no wrong!

The Rock Star
Duterte gets rock star treatment when in Davao. Early on in my stay, I came home to my hotel to find a frenzy going on. Apparently, Duterte is coming to the hotel to greet his doctor - the hotel owner. Through text messaging, word spread like wild fire. By the time Duterte arrived, you would think Michael Jackson was in town. Everybody wanted to get a piece of him - shake his hand, take a selfie, tell him how wonderful he's doing, etc. I readied my speech to him in case I get introduced, but I was just one of many.

Extra Judicial Killings
Much has been said about drug pushers ending up dead without their day in court. That is what fills the headlines, and that is what we know. But apparently, that is only half the story. The media doesn't report the other half. Dabawenyos know this but somehow assume everybody else knows about it. I didn't, not until a Dabawenya explained it to me. The common knowledge in Davao is, you don't just end up dead if you're a drug dealer. The story varies, but everyone agrees that there is a process. First, the person receives a letter giving him 3 choices:

  • stop it or else
  • leave the city or else
  • surrender and we'll take care of your rehab

If the drug dealer does not amend his ways, he gets a second letter...perhaps a third letter. If nothing else happens, someone knocks on the door. This is popularly called TokHang, short for Tok-Tok (a knock on the door) and Hangyo (a plea). Police officers or barangay folks knock on the door of the drug dealer and give an ultimatum. If nothing still happens, then yes, the drug dealer ends up as a chalk outline on a sidewalk. Fair warning is given.

When I tried to verify this with other Dabawenyos, they all confirmed as if to tell me, "you didn't know?".

US Bashing
He has publicly bashed Obama and the US, proclaiming that the Philippines is a sovereign country and that we are not the lap dogs of the US. In closing, he said "Fuck you Obama". Whoa! Never in this country's history, given our 65-year alliance with the US that a Philippine president brazenly defies a US president in such a public way. This president has balls!

Personally? Uncle Sam, the big brother mentality is popular in the Philippines so I expect a major resistance to his unilateral stand. But I echo his sentiments - that we are not really treated equally or even with respect by the US. We're just little brown lap dogs to them and treated accordingly. We allow them to use us because:

  • they corrupt the oligarchs who hold influence and power in our country
  • they give us aid
  • US-favored media machinery keeps telling us we need them and that they are our allies and protectors - and we buy the bullshit

I don't think we really got our independence from the US. Here's why, just to show some examples:

  • Marcos was the strong man of Asia. He ruled the Philippines with oppressive iron hands. But he seeked the approval first of the US ambassador before declaring Martial Law. And with People Power, he would have fought down to the last bullet. But when President Reagan called him up and told him to cut clean, like a meek sheep, he packed up with the rest of his family and left for Hawaii. Just like that! So who was really in power? That incident underscored that the US still had Marcos by the balls.
  • our OFWs get beheaded, mistreated and come home in body bags when they get convicted in other countries. But when US Marine Smith was convicted for raping a Filipina, before he could serve his time in jail, the US "requested" that Smith be surrendered to them. And we practically delivered Smith to the US authorities on a silver platter, with a smile. What independence are we talking about?
  • as a grade schooler, we were made to memorize the speech of Abraham Lincoln, "Four scores and seven years ago....". But we didn't know the lives of our own Philippine presidents! Zaide, the author of our history textbooks was funded by the CIA! Who the hell has been running our educational system?

It's high time someone stands up to these bullies and tell them off. I cannot imagine anyone else having the balls to do that - except President Duterte. He's the guy saying, "The emperor has no clothes!" With his presidency, we just might develop "love of country" and move forward as a society and not as disconnected individuals looking only for themselves.

US Payback
The US will not tolerate nationalism in the countries they control and Duterte is a stone in their shoe. They cannot bribe Duterte, so sending the economic hitmen (people who bribe the institutions and government officials) will not work.

I fear that they may send the jackals (assassins) like they did with Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz Gusman, Jaime Roldos Aguilera of Ecuador and President Omar Torrijos of Panama.

Another thing they can do is inflict "cancer" on Pres. Duterte. So far, the people who have opposed the US are no longer assassinated - they mysteriously die of cancer, just like Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and notably, Venezuelan Hugo Chavez.

At this juncture, even if lightning strikes the president, the White House would come to mind.

Ending Thoughts
My thoughts on President Duterte given his first 100 days? My sentiment hasn't changed. He is far from perfect but he's the only chance we've got.

Pardoning Macapagal Aroyo? Giving Marcos a hero's burial? Not exactly Duterte's finest moments.

Additionally, I don't agree with the gutter language. That may work in a small city like Davao (small in terms of infrastructure) where is he embraced as a man of the people. Now, Duterte is the president of the Philippines and even chair of the ASEAN, commanding a global stage. He can deliver the same strong message and drive home the point without the "fuck you" or "you can go to hell". It's just not necessary and it's not presidential. There is also the risk that his message is eclipsed by the animation, coming across to a broad segment of the international community as entertainment and caricature. In short, I agree with the message but NOT with the way it is delivered.

Having said all that, I still think he's the only chance we have to reform the system and create a meaningful change in our dysfunctional society. When will another strong but benevolent leader come? We have always been plagued by oligarchs who pretend to care but only apply band-aid solution to a hemorrhaging social problem. Who else can eradicate the drug problem given the way it has permeated deep into the culture? Who else can stand up against US bullying? His methods are controversial, but his touch for the common man and love of country is beyond reproach - ask any Dabawenyo.

--- TheLoneRider

Rodrigo Duterte Blogs on TheLoneRider

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Reader Comments:

Greg HutchinsonOutback Greg Australia
Tribal Adventures
(Oct 13, 2016) Really good read, Gigit, a positive blog yet balanced. We often cynical hacks can probably take a cue from you!

Mark WallbankMark United Kingdom
Endemic Pursuit Tours (birdwatching)
(Oct 13, 2016) Absolutely excellent blog Gigit. It really does explain what's going on here.

Eva PopoluskaEva Popoluska
(Oct 12, 2016) Thanks for this write Gigit! I was curious about your perspective on it... Although i still get shocked by the violence of his regime, i acknowledge systems are hard to change. But besides his war on drugs, does he invest in education and other social welfare? As I think eliminating crime by punishing it harshly does not solve the core of the problem.

"does he invest in education and other social welfare?" -- Eva Popoluska
(Oct 13, 2016) I cannot agree with you more - eliminating crime by punishing it harshly does not solve the core of the problem. I only hear what grabs the headlines - war vs. drugs, shift from US to China policy. He is eliminating unfair practices by big business like contractualization, streamlining the process when people deal with government agencies, eliminating red tape, etc. He makes life easier for the common person. But to answer your question, empowerment of the people through concrete plans to improve education - I haven't heard of any yet, despite my initial Google search, but I hope it is forthcoming. Hearing from you brings back good memories of Chiang Mai, Eva. I hope our paths cross again. Oct 12, 2016

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Great Things Going for Davao City

  • one of the cleanest potable water in the country
  • smoking is banned from commercial establishments
  • pineapple samurais are endemic here and nowhere else in the country (pineapple vendors who cut-up whole pineapples into chunks with just a few strokes of their carving knives)
  • public utility drivers conspicuously display their IDs
  • durian Mecca of the Philippines (not to mention Marang, Mangosteen and Sweet Pomelo)
  • you want to add some more? please submit on the form below

Not So Great Things Going Against Davao City

  • the weighing scale of fruit vendors specially the durian push cart vendors are a blatant cheat - showing almost twice the actual weight

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»» next Politics story: Kian Loyd Delos Santos, the Last Straw Breaking Duterte's Back
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