(Rodrigo Duterte) was saying he did nothing wrong as he was only protecting people from the drug menace
He’s not running for any public office anymore. Nor is he running away from the International Criminal Court.
That’s what former president and now private citizen Rodrigo Duterte told a small group of journalists and his close friends in an informal chat two weeks ago.
We did not know beforehand what was going to be discussed at a function room of a five-star hotel in Bonifacio Global City.
Among those present at the gathering were Duterte’s former spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque and former communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.
The meeting was scheduled for 7 pm., but Duterte arrived at nearly 8 pm accompanied by his partner Honeylet and a few others.
At the outset, Duterte expressed gratitude for the support he had obtained from various sectors during his six-year term.
Those six years starting from 2016, when he won the presidency with 39 percent of the total votes cast, with his nearest political rival garnering only 23 percent, were controversial.
He unleashed a brutal war on illegal drugs that left, per official records of the Philippine National Police, more than 6,400 alleged suspected drug traffickers killed by police operatives and thousands more clamped in jail while awaiting trial.
He tried to restart the stalled peace talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front in 2016, but terminated the negotiations a year later, citing the heightened attacks by the NPA on government forces.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, sending the economy into a tailspin.
Toward the end of his term, the administration had to douse the flames of a corruption scandal pertaining to the purchase of vaccines and personal protective equipment for medical personnel dealing with the pandemic.
But the Duterte administration also had its bright spots.
Among them was the law passed that provided for free college education in state universities and colleges, which no doubt benefited youths coming from poor and disadvantaged sectors.
The administration also managed to keep the pandemic from spiraling out of control with timely intervention, including free anti-COVID vaccines sourced from China, the United States and other countries.
Against this background—and reports that the International Criminal Court had concluded their investigation of his war on drugs and could soon issue a warrant for his arrest for ‘crimes against humanity’—Duterte responded calmly, saying he is ready to face the ICC.
“I should be given the chance to explain my side…and I will also ask them. What are you doing here?”
In effect, he was saying he did nothing wrong as he was only protecting people from the drug menace.
The former Chief Executive also touched on his 22-year term as Davao City Mayor.
He said he had zero-tolerance for hardened criminals as well as corrupt and abusive policemen, adding he really wanted to make the city peaceful and crime-free.
A journalist asked him whether recent photos showing him eating ‘polvoron’—a local milk-based candy that’s also gained traction in social media as another term for cocaine—was a jab at the current Malacañang occupant, whom the then-president claimed during the campaign in 2022 was hooked on the illegal drug, citing intelligence reports of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
He declined to answer the question directly, perhaps to avoid ruffling more feathers.
Duterte, who is turning 79 years old this March, told the gathering that he has no more plans to run for public office.
This, after a recent survey showed he was the frontrunner among possible senatorial candidates in the 2025 midterm polls.
His daughter Sara, now Vice President and Education Secretary, is believed to be gearing up to run for President in the 2028 general elections.
Let me end this piece with a bit of tsismis or gossip.
Halfway through our dialogue with Digong, in comes Kitty, his daughter, with partner Honeylet, with her rumored boyfriend, a De La Salle University basketball player, in tow.
Digong asked Kitty if Evan was her boyfriend, and she confirmed it.
Turning towards the upcoming cage star, Digong joked, with a sly smile: “Huwag mong hahawakan ang kamay ni Kitty!” (Don’t hold Kitty’s hand!), drawing laughs from everyone in the room.
That’s the retired Digong Duterte, nearing 80, once dubbed by Time Magazine as “The Punisher,” showing a completely different facet of his personality, but perhaps not entirely so.