DAVAO – Rodrigo Duterte, a presidential candidate in the Philippines who has been mayor of Davao City on Mindanao for two decades, where support for executing criminals earned him the nicknames “Duterte Harry” and “The Punisher.
Thus, 71 Rodrigo Duterte, after 22 years as its crime-busting mayor, the Philippine city of Davao is likely to share the latter with the rest of the country where the frontrunner is to be elected president of the Philippines and its 100 million people on Monday.
The people of Davaao who call themselves as the “Davaoanians”, feel it is time the rest of the country got a taste of Duterte’s rule. “We want to share him. We’re happy with him being a mayor but we also want the Philippines to experience it,” said taxi driver Dax Dela Rosa, 42.
Rosa adds, “You are safe everywhere … Here the criminals are scared, unlike in Manila (where) it’s the people who are afraid.”
There is no criticism of Duterte that is heard of in Davao, everyone is in favor of him. They consider him a man of action whose sweeping promises of thwarting criminals and rooting out corruption are not hollow.
All of his strong backing up from people come as the outcome of his ability and dedication in working against corruption and in fighting criminals and bringing justice and peace on ground.
The streets of Davao are decorated with campaign posters of Duterte along with giant banners and car bumper stickers of a clenched fist accompanied by bellicose slogans and his most famous quotations. T-shirts emblazoned with Duterte are global, many with the “DU-30” code for his name that became iconic as the mayor’s popularity standing in opinion polls surged, making him the clear frontrunner.
It is of no surprise that alarmed diplomats are warning their countries to anticipate the unexpected if Duterte wins. “The key word here is uncertainty,” said a regional security consultant, whose foreign clients have watched Duterte’s rise with alarm.
For instance, ice cream vendor Rio Roxas said they expect that there will no longer be any corruption adding that Duterte can help the poor when he becomes president. “He won’t change his attitude” the latter said.
It is an image Duterte has himself cultivated with boasts of scaring off and shooting criminals, making him the target of rights groups and rival candidates who accuse him of sanctioning hundreds of extrajudicial killings on his watch.
Nevertheless there is the kind-hearted side of the mayor that resides in his push for clean governance, a city-wide smoking ban, and setting up a childrens’ cancer ward, vaccination programmes and a modern 911 emergency services facility.
In many situations, Duterte has also personally intervened as witnessed by residents, from property disputes to joining raids on drug dens, finding jobs for homeless and ordering taxi drivers to spend more time with their wives.
“I’ve seen what Mayor Duterte has done for the city. His passion, his dedication, everything he has done for the city and how selfless he is,” said businesswoman Lezita Go, 38, who wears Duterte wristbands. “He is not just a myth, or hearsay.”