Duterte starts searching for Cabinet men

RODRIGO Duterte, the tough-talking mayor who claimed a decisive win in  Monday’s  presidential election, has begun to flesh out his likely inner circle as investors seek clarity on his economic policies.

With 90 percent of polling stations reporting, Duterte had secured 39 percent of ballots in an election held amid sporadic violence and delays. Former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was in second place with 23 percent.

Turnout was a record 81.6 percent of voters, well above 74.8 percent in the 2010 election.

The race for vice president remained tight. Congresswoman Leni Robredo led Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose dictator father was ousted in 1986, by 185,000 votes.

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
Seeking to break the establishment mold exemplified by outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, voters embraced Duterte’s promises to reduce traffic jams on Manila’s congested roads and fight crime and graft. His support didn’t falter through a campaign that saw him make light of a rape incident, deny accusations of undeclared wealth and back the extra-judicial killing of criminals.

Duterte on Tuesday reiterated his vow to curb crime and corruption, and promised to humbly serve Filipinos the best he can.

“If I get to live to the day of my oath of office, I don’t have other desires than to serve the interests of the people of the Philippines. Nothing follows,” Duterte said in Davao City, promising to focus on improving education, health and agriculture.

In a television interview, Duterte promised to tone down his use of expletives once he is sworn in as president.

“I need to control my mouth. I cannot be  bastos  [rude] because I am representing our country,” Duterte told his friend Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in a television interview over Sonshine Network.

“If you are the president of the country, you need to be prim and proper, almost, I would become holy,” he added.

But Duterte now faces the challenge of sustaining investor confidence that helped fuel economic growth that averaged more than six percent under Aquino, while managing the expectations of an electorate swayed by populist pledges such as taming crime  within six months. Investors have previously expressed concern over his lack of economic experience and at-times whipsaw policy promises.

“For six years all I have to do is work,” Duterte told reporters on Monday in Davao. “Judge me not with the newspaper articles they come up with everyday. Judge me at the end of my term. If I do bad, shoot me.”

The peso rose 0.4 percent against the dollar as of  11:25 a.m.  in Manila, after dropping as much as 0.3 percent from  Friday’s  close to 47.21 per dollar. The peso declined 1.8 percent in April in Asia’s worst performance.

The country’s benchmark stock index rose 0.5 percent, having fallen earlier by as much as 0.7 percent.

“There will be a honeymoon period moving forward as investors give Duterte the benefit of the doubt,” said Smith Chua, chief investment officer for the asset management and trust arm of Bank of the Philippine Islands. “His popularity is very resounding and investors are interested to see what he will do with this strong popularity and how he will conduct peace with other parties and run the government.”

Duterte hinted at possible Cabinet appointees, telling reporters in Davao City  on Monday  he may tap his childhood friend Carlos Dominguez III, who worked as Agriculture secretary for the late President Corazon Aquino, to head the Finance or Transportation departments.

Another friend, classmate Jesus Dureza, who was press secretary to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, may lead a peace panel for a long-running Muslim insurgency in the south, while the job of foreign minister may go to his running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte said.

“The two people he mentioned are very experienced,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila. “Their expertise is more of grassroot economics, they know the local front, what is lacking on the ground. But it’s still too early given there are so many positions to be filled. People are waiting for the others, especially the economic team, to get a better feel how policies will be crafted and the timeline.

Born in Southern Leyte province in the central Philippines, Duterte, whose lawyer-father was governor of the old Davao province, worked as a prosecutor in Davao for nine years before becoming vice-mayor in 1986.  Two years later  he took over as mayor, a post he has since held seven times. Once notorious as the nation’s murder capital, Davao is now one of the country’s safest and more prosperous cities.

Duterte has offered at-times contradictory comments on relations with China.

He said the Philippines will take a multilateral approach for now to its territorial disputes in the South China Sea, including working with the US, Japan and Australia. Still, earlier this month he said he’d consider direct talks with China, an approach that contrasts with Aquino’s move to take the case to an international tribunal.

He’s said previously he’d take a jet ski out to islands reclaimed by China in the area to plant the Philippine flag, but also indicated he’d tolerate China’s presence if it built new railways in the Philippines. He has been less firm than Aquino in backing a stronger strategic alliance with the US, its major military ally.

Aquino has reached agreement to let the US station troops and operate bases in the Philippines for the first time in more than 20 years.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US would wait until the election results were certified to comment. “When it comes to resolving the claims in the South China Sea, the United States is not a claimant,” but urges those who are to resolve their disputes through diplomacy, he said.

On crime, Duterte said he was “prepared to kill.”

“I will do it [fight drugs], even if they say I am an executioner,” he said. “Look what I did to Davao. I will not let down the people.”

Duterte’s spokesman Peter Laviña said the mayor is considering replicating some of his best known Davao ordinances on a national scale, including a nationwide liquor ban at certain hours of the day as part of efforts to curb criminality.

Davao’s ordinance prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages after  1 a.m., but high-end hotels are exempted from the ban.

“This can be adopted nationwide via consultation,” Laviña said. “This has nothing to do with denying us of our freedoms.” John Paolo Bencito, Sandy Araneta, Rio N. Araja, Bloomberg

In earlier interviews, Duterte said that he also wanted to implement the  1 a.m.  curfew as he did in Davao, which he says is “a proven” solution” in battling criminals.

Duterte, who on the campaign trail boasted of being behind the death squads that killed many criminal suspects in his city, also had a warning for corrupt police.

“If you are a policeman and stick to your racket, choose: either you kill me or I kill you,” he said.

Turning to Duterte’s preference for federalism, Lavina said the mayor would “require a wide national consensus beginning with asking Congress to call for a constitutional convention.”

Under present laws, decision making for the country’s more than into 18 regions, 81 provinces, 145 cities, 1,489 municipalities, and 42,029 barangays are centralized through agencies that people from the provinces call “Imperial Manila.”

Duterte’s pitch on changing the country’s system into a federal-parliamentary form, has been a popular idea in provinces away from the capital, but has been lacking support from sitting politicians.

In earlier interviews, Duterte complained that Manila gets everything “so regions are forced to beg.”

“There will be major rewriting of our Constitution,” Lavina said  Tuesday, describing Duterte’s pitch.

Jun Ledesma, one of Duterte’s trusted allies in Mindanao, said that the mayor’s pitch to transition into a federal form of government would happen through a constitutional convention “in three years  time.”

Echoing the Davao mayor, Ledesma said that federalism “would be the best solution to the infighting,” especially in the south.

In the same interview, Lavina emphasized that the mayor has already began forming a “transition team” ahead of his entry into Malacañang.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Palace was ready for the transition to a Duterte administration.

“Yesterday and on previous occasions, I have indicated our readiness and willingness to work with the incoming administration,” Coloma said  Tuesday.

Among the people tipped for the Duterte Cabinet are former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. for Defense, former Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, for an undisclosed post, and former Clark Development Corp. president Arthur Tugade for Trade and Industry.

The pro-Aquino Makati Business Club urged all Filipinos  Tuesday  to rally behind the new set of leaders and help them improve the economy.

“Let us focus on those aspirations that unite us, rather than on the issues that divide us. After all, despite our divisions, we all aspire for the common goal of authentic freedom and inclusive development,” the group said in a statement.

Before casting his vote  Monday, Duterte said the “healing should begin” after a rancorous election.

“I offer my hand to friendship to all political opponents, especially to my presidential opponents. If you accept it, fine. If you don’t, fine. There is always a time for everything, a time for reckoning and a time to know the truth,” he said.

“It is is important to say now... at this moment. I would like to address myself to my opponents... Well, these past few days are quite virulent for all of us -- the black propaganda, and the false accusation exchange between two sides. And I would say these are really part of a day’s work in election. I would like to reach a hand out to my opponents. Let us begin the healing now.”

He said he is willing to forget the tirades, bitter campaign and divisiveness brought about by politics.

“Let us be friends. Forget the travails of the elections,” he added.

He said his offer is given to everybody, including Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who accused him of undeclared peso and dollar accounts and of hiring 11,000 ghost employees at the Davao City hall.

Asked about Trillanes’ plan to go after him even if he wins, Duterte said: “I will also go after him. It takes two to tango.”

Topics: Mayor Duterte , searching for cabinet men , Rody Duterte , the new president , eleksyon 2016
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