Davao City Mayor Digong Duterte—standing tall in the center of the five candidates—benefitted the most from that historic first presidential debate which was held in Cagayan de Oro City last Sunday.
Tough and street-smart, he succeeded effortlessly in projecting the gentler side of his real personality when he laid out in short but clear sentences his views and practical solutions to the complex problems that ail the country.
It helped him a lot by not uttering a single word of profanity for two hours, and by refraining from his macho habit of making faces when he talked passionately of things he didn’t approve of. Neither did he waste time—as what other candidates did—in finding faults or in antagonizing any of his rivals.
Throughout the debate, he behaved as if he were everybody’s favorite politician.
He even showered with flattery the usually feisty lady senator from Iloilo and thus immediately disarmed and eventually charmed her.
Consequently, 41 percent of the netizen-viewers chose him as the most impressive among the presidential candidates, according to the social media poll results that a local newspaper released.
Of course, the results of that poll may easily be contradicted by another formal survey that professional pollsters could conduct from among all economic strata of listeners other than netizens.
His score already exceeded our expectations, but incredibly, another candidate beat him by grabbing the lion’s share of 52 percent while the rest of the candidates shared among them the remaining left-over 7 percent.
My senior citizen friends and I were immediately impressed by Mayor Digong’s opening statements promising to end criminality, illegal drugs and corruption in government within three to six months after assuming the presidency. That is before the end of this year!
We agree with him that no place on earth would become economically wealthy unless its people live in peace and order. These things hinder economic growth and their elimination must be prioritized.
We also found his opening statement more understandable—and statistically measurable—than PNoy’s slogan “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” the meaning of which still eludes us to this day even if we have repeatedly heard it in the past six years.
But we were a bit surprised when he did not open passionately with his advocacy on federalism as the more appropriate form of government for us. As he asserted later, it is a much better alternative to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law in pursuing lasting peace in Mindanao.
In any case, he succeeded in revealing the gentler side of his personality.
Other than this revelation, Mayor Digong was his usual maverick self in voicing out his views and positions on issues that affect us ordinary citizens from killing criminals if warranted and in accordance with law to being supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons’ choice to marry anyone.
His now pro-forma tongue-in-cheek replies to prying questions about his civil or marital status no longer offended or even surprised us. Wisely, he had opened up to us his private life before confirming his candidacy.
In fact, earlier on Feb. 19—a week before the 30th Anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that ended the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos—the maverick mayor announced another one of his tough and controversial positions.
He would allow the burial of FM at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to begin “healing” the nation.
This he declared before FM’s daughter—Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos—and a big crowd of the Solid North in the temporary resting place of the former leader in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
Noting that FM’s “government programs and projects have stood the test of time,” he pointed out that his “dictatorship remains to be debated.”
These are things that no other presidential candidate would dare say publicly.
Perhaps, deep inside the mayor’s heart, he also idolizes FM. This he manifested by acknowledging that FM was “a great president and a hero” who “had the idealism” and “the vision for this country.”
A good, dutiful and obedient son, Mayor Duterte showed respect to someone his father honored and considered dear. As he admits, his father Vicente—who was governor of the undivided Davao from 1959 to 1965—used to be a Marcos loyalist “until the end.”
His mother Soledad, on the other hand, was a distinguished social worker who earned countless honors, awards and recognitions from local, national and international organizations. These qualified her inclusion in the 1980 publication of the World Who’s Who of Women of the International Biographical Center of Cambridge, England and in the American Geographical Institute-International Book of Honor in 1981.
Thus, while Mayor Digong was still a struggling assistant city fiscal at that time, Nanay Soling was clearly a legend already.
The maverick mayor from Davao City is now gradually revealing the different facets of his personality, and as my senior citizen friends all anticipate, he would eventually reveal himself as a human “Chiclets” chewing gum: tough on the outside but soft on the inside. In other words, tough but gentle.
Consequently, we expect a lot more from him.