Who is Rodrigo Duterte?
Typhoon Nina, internationally known Nock-ten, entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on December 23. It intensified as a typhoon on December 24 and made landfall over Catanduanes province on the evening of December 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 taken 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 for the distribution of relief goods.
By December 27, we were already on the ground with Mayor Duterte— first in Catanduanes, and then in, Camarines Sur. He skipped the giftgiving ceremonies and called it “corny” and “overdramatic.” 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 regretted 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, Mayor Duterte was the first one toarrive. He saw the damage of Caray-Caray Bridge and instructed Sec. Mark to ensure that the bridge was passablein a span of one month. When I saw the damage, I thought the timeline was impossible. But in the end, the project was done on schedule. If there is one thing that Mayor Duterte has always taught us — it is important to get things done, now and fast.
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 on more popular candidates. Prior to his victory, the 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 outlierwho 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?
President Duterte was clear from the onset about 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, President 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 is fighting for and always opted to defend those who cannot defend themselves. It is important to him that Filipino children who want 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 is one thing I have observed, I have never seen him scared — not in the face of militants, or powerful men or even death. It is important to him that Filipinos who feel powerless can 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-kilometer detour whenever it rained, so that the people of Lanao del Norte could reach Misamis Occidental in seven minutes (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 the Philippines to jump 29 notches in The World Bank - Doing Business Report, from 124th in 2019 to 95th in 2020. It is impossible for any President to solve all his country’s woes in six years. But Mayor Duterte knew that in every meter of road, bridge, and rail we built, we opened 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 office, a total of 29,264 kilometers 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.