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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Sep 22, 2021

Who is Rodrigo Duterte?

Typhoon Nina, internationally known Nock-ten, entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Dec. 23. It intensified as a typhoon on Dec. 24 and made landfall over Catanduanes province on the evening of Dec. 25. At about three p.m., on Christmas Day, I received a message asking me to report back to central office and prepare a report on the damages sustained by the provinces affected by Typhoon Nina. We were informed that the President wanted it on his desk the following day, including actions already undertaken by the department. As soon as it was safe for our ground personnel, Sec.

\Mark Villar ordered the dispatch of our prepositioned equipment and to proceed with the clearing of debris so as to facilitate rescue operation and give way to the distribution of relief goods. By Dec. 27, we were already on the ground with Mayor Duterte— first in Catanduanes, and then in, Camarines Sur. He skipped the gift-giving ceremonies and called it ‘corny’ and ‘over-dramatic'. But behind the doors, away from the camera, he met his men and asked them to deliver. For DPWH, we only had 48 hours to ensure that roads were passable and cleared.

This was my first time to join the President’s delegation and I soon regret the fact that we didn’t bring any food. It was very different from what I originally expected it to be. In fact, at about 5 p.m., two pieces of Skyflakes brought by Sec. Briones — was being passed throughout the plane.

The following Christmas, Typhoon Urduja struck the province of Biliran. Again, President Duterte was the first one to arrive. He saw the damage of Caray-Caray Bridge and instructed Sec Mark to ensure that the bridge is passable in a span of one month. When I saw the damage, I thought the timeline was impossible. But at the end, the project was done on schedule. If there was one thing that President Duterte has always taught us — it was important to get things done, now and fast.

Political underdog

In the 2016 Presidential elections, Rodrigo Duterte was a political underdog. His rise to power was almost unforeseeable to the Philippine kingmakers who were betting for more popular candidates. Prior to his victory, Philippines had never had a President from Mindanao. It took the country 117 years to elect one. Clearly, the mayor of Davao City was a statistical outlier who dared to defy the odds.

Ruling a country like the Philippines poses a very unique (and tough) challenge — what message do you send across a country of over 7,640 islands speaking more than 111 languages?

Pres. Duterte was clear from the onset of what he wanted to achieve — a much safer Philippines for the next generation — one that accords the same opportunities to all Filipinos — regardless of their religion, ethnicity or gender.

He dreams of a Philippines that would allow any kid to aspire to be President - whether they live in Sultan Kudarat, Northern Samar, Masbate, Davao, Makati or Ifugao. He wants to open the door of opportunity to the next generation, and if this was not possible — build the door for them.

In August 2017, Pres. Duterte signed RA 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act which provided underprivileged Filipino students the opportunity to pursue college degrees through free tuition and exemption of other fees in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). It also provided for Tertiary Education Subsidy, which sponsors the enrollment of disadvantaged students in private institutions in locations where there are no available SUCs.

President Duterte has never forgotten who he was fighting for and always opted to defend those who cannot defend themselves. It was important to him that Filipino children who wanted to go to school can do so safely without fear of death or terror.

To him, the Marawi siege was personal. It was important to liberate the people of Marawi from militants linked to both ISIS and Abu Sayyaf in the soonest possible time. He was on the ground, in the battle zone, and armed with rifle when Philippine troops recaptured the Islamic center — the main mosque where the gunmen had taken cover with their hostages

He went to the main battle area against the advice of his own men and proceeded to communities heavily damaged in the fighting.

If there was one thing I observed, I have never seen him scared — not in the face of militants, or powerful men or even death. It was important to him that Filipinos who felt powerless could rely on him for protection.

Build, Build, Build

President Duterte was never stingy on dreams. He wanted to build an infrastructure network in every region in the country that would propel Philippines to becoming a trillion dollar economy. It was never about his legacy. He never cared about credit.

What mattered to him the most was that infrastructure projects were completed in the soonest possible time so that the farmers in Isabela would not have to take a 74-km detour whenever it rains, so that the people of Lanao del Norte could reach Misamis Occidental in seven mins (instead of 3.5 hours) and so that residents of Metro Manila would no longer have to endure a three hour drive from Quezon City to Muntinlupa.

When the President knew that some of the slippages in the delivery of infrastructure projects were attributed to the delay in the release of permits — he pushed for the enactment of RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.

The reforms instituted during his time propelled Philippines to jump 29 notches in The World Bank - Doing Business Report, from 124th in 2019 to 95 in 2020.

It is impossible for any President to solve all its country’s woes in six years. But Mayor Duterte knew that in every meter of road, bridge, and rail we built, we open opportunities to thousands of Filipinos who at one point didn’t have access to hospitals, schools and work.

Since 2016 — more than five years since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed position — a total of 29, 264 km of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood control projects,  214 airport projects, 451 commercial and social tourism projects, 222 evacuation centers, 89 TIKAS projects, 150, 149 classrooms and 653 COVID-19 facilities have been completed.

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