Duterte-Wrong Mouth
Image Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

After so much wavering and dillydallying, tough-talking Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte finally threw his hat into the presidential ring. But as soon as he made the announcement that he is joining the presidential race, criticisms about his character and leadership style started to fly thick and fast.

As a result of the relentless criticisms, people are now asking: What kind of person is Duterte? What’s the kind of inside stuff he is made of?

It seems that his true personality begins to unravel as soon he hit the campaign trail. In describing the traffic mess during the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, Duterte uttered cuss words directed at the head of the Catholic Church. This is not only unbecoming of a candidate for President but, according to Filipino Star religion columnist Ed Malay, it is also an unpardonable sin.

With this particular misstep, Duterte appeared to have started his campaign with the wrong foot or, more appropriately, “the wrong mouth.”

In a short span of time, he did other glaring missteps. First, he disclosed that he was abused by a priest when he was a boy. The revelation is totally unnecessary. It does not contribute to the efforts to enhance his image as a leader.

Duterte also made another egregious mistake when he revealed he has two “girlfriends,” a word which is actually a euphemism for paramour. With this disclosure, he may have gained support from men who are called “barako” (stud) by the Cavitenos, but to ordinary, God-fearing people, he is guilty of adultery.

His critics are likewise having a field day assailing his leadership style. They are focusing on his peace and order campaign in Davao City. Yes, peace reigns in Davao City, but it seems his victory in the war against crimes is pyrrhic: It was won at the expense of so many lives.

The so-called Davao Death Squad, which is said to be a clandestine group created by the mayor, “salvaged” many suspected criminals. The problem with this kind of policy is that the one orchestrating it is playing prosecutor and judge at the same time. Others say the man behind it is acting as if he is God. He decides who is going to live and who is going to die. This smacks of rampant human rights violations. Admittedly there is peace, but the end never justifies the means.

Duterte himself admitted he had killed some criminals.

If Duterte becomes President, it is feared that there would be “killing fields” all over country.

Commenting on Duterte’s anti-crime drive in Davao, vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo said that peace and order in a community can be achieved without resorting to the use of violent means. She cited Naga City as an example. She said when her late husband Jesse Robredo was mayor of Naga for many years, the city achieved peace and order and unprecedented progress. This was attained through legal means, she said.     

Regarding the extra-judicial killings in Davao, I recall an incident in the early 2000s. Jun Pala, a popular radio commentator in Davao City, was very critical of the unorthodox ways by which Duterte was handling the affairs of the city. One his way home one dark night, he was ambushed and killed in an isolated area in Davao. Not a few fingers pointed to Duterte as the possible mastermind.

The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) created a special team to look into the Pala killing. The team headed by top Manila radio broadcaster Waldy Carbonnel and myself (I was then NPC president) went to Davao City to investigate the killing and extend assistance to the family of Pala.

Upon arrival at the Davao airport, we were interviewed by radio reporters, and the interview was aired live. Asked by the reporters if we are going to question Duterte, we said we will be going to his office to talk to him.

Some 30 minutes later, Duterte was also interviewed by radio reporters and was asked to comment on the presence of the NPC team in Davao. Instead of welcoming our team, Duterte warned us against any attempt to link him to the killing. Using thuggish words, he virtually aired threat against our team.

But Carbonnel, who was the only Filipino journalist who covered the fall of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, was not intimidated. He ignored the threat, saying the team is going to conduct a deep probe on the killing, and if evidence warrants, the NPC would recommend the prosecution of Duterte as brains of the killing.

The team was unable to uncover the truth about the Pala murder because people in Davao were tight-lipped. It was obvious that they were afraid of the mayor.

So the question is: Can we entrust the highest position of the land to Duterte?