DAVAO CITY—Although he projects a public image of a profane tough guy, President-in-waiting Rodrigo Duterte revealed a softer side of himself Thursday as he called on people to remove the hatred from their hearts and work together for genuine justice.
Duterte said in a two-hour press conference that he hoped by the end of his six-year term, hostilities in the war-torn island of Mindanao would have eased.
“I hope that by the time I step down as president, there won’t be left or right. There are no Moro, lumad, or Christian. We will just call ourselves Mindanaoan and we can build a nation for the next generation in peace,” Duterte said.
While Duterte’s campaign generated a divisive buzz, the president-in-waiting was the first to offer peace to the communist rebels, the Moro Islamic Lieration Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.
Duterte, who describes himself as left of the center, had promised to give Cabinet positions to the communists.
“If it’s just a matter [of their being] identified with the left, it is not an issue with me,” he said.
Seeking to smooth the ruffled feathers of MNLF emissaries who were unable to meet him, Duterte said he will seek a meeting with the MNLF’s Nur Misuari.
After his latest dustup with the Catholic Church, Duterte sid he would rather not talk with them.
Drawing flak from Martial Law victims over his decision to give former President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Duterte said Marcos should be buried at the cemetery because he had been a soldier.
“Look, there are courts and the person you blame is already a cadaver. What do you want more from the guy, he’s already dead,” Duterte said as he defended his position.
“When he fought for this country he was a true Filipino … In addition to being a president, he was a soldier—so those who are lamenting about Martial Law, there are already courts that granted a verdict favorable to you. Do you want the cadaver to be burned? Will this satisfy your hate?”
“The Ilokano sentiment is anger because of this. The guy is in a small glass casket.”
Duterte said that not even President Benigno Aquino III, who has strongly opposed the burial, can change his mind.
Duterte’s top aid, Christopher Go, said the incoming president would not be vindictive, even to political rivals.
Duterte also said that reporters covering him should not take all of his words seriously, especially those that sound ridiculous. An example of this, he said, was his statement Monday that he would give a five-minute inaugural speech.
“I’m a bipolar. One moment I’m serious, one moment I’ll throw jokes,” he said.
But he said he was serious about stopping criminality and took law enforcement agencies to task for their failures.
He also admitted being irritated by incompetent people in the bureaucracy.
On Thursday, Duterte challenged journalists to a “treadmill test” to prove he is fit for office—then attacked Manila-based journalists for being “prostitutes” and “mouthpieces of the oligarchy.”
He also slammed Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon as “weak” in the law for “nitpicking” on his gaffe about the rape and killing of Australian missionary in the 1980s.
A former smoker, Duterte admitted during the campaign that he is suffering from Buerger’s disease.