MANILA – Rodrigo R. Duterte, the oldest to get elected as Philippine president and the first chief executive from Mindanao, turns 77 on Monday (March 28).
Being the top leader of the country, he has faced the country’s problems with his promise of "Tapang at Malasakit" or courage and empathy to the Filipino people.
While it is Duterte’s last to celebrate his birthday as the country’s president, he would be remembered by his fellow Filipinos for his legacy.
Let us take a look at how Duterte fulfilled his promises through his remarkable and tough stance on several issues.
In honor of the country's 16th president, we have compiled a list of our top 12 quotes from "Tatay Digong".
1. On illegal drugs
“If we cannot control the flow of drugs, then I will consider my presidency a total failure. So, I do not want that to happen. Do not do it… You start to f*** with drugs, you destroy my country. And if you destroy my country, I will kill you. Sigurado 'yan (That’s for sure). Stop it, lalo na kayong malalaki (especially those who are involved in big-time operations). Wala akong pakialam diyan sa (I don’t care about) human rights. I'm trying to save the youth.”
– during the 60th founding anniversary of Cor Jesu College and turnover of check to earthquake victims a the CJC Almendras Gym in Digos City, Davao del Sur on Dec. 30, 2019
Duterte initially vowed to end the drug proliferation nationwide in his first three to six months in power, but later admitted his self-imposed deadline was not so attainable, given the seriousness of the problem.
Duterte, despite his apparent admission of his shortcomings, vowed to pursue the relentless fight against illegal drugs until his last days in office.
True to his promise, a total of 24,303 villages nationwide have been cleared from illegal drugs from July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2022.
Only 11,129 villages have yet to be cleared of illegal drugs, while 6,613 others remain drug-free, according to the Real Numbers data released by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, as of January 31 this year.
Around 327,039 drug personalities have been arrested, while 6,229 others have died during the conduct of a total of 226,662 anti-drug operations.
Anti-drug operatives have also dismantled a total of 1,008 drug dens and 18 clandestine shabu laboratories.
Several types of illegal drugs worth PHP75.35 billion, including the PHP63.22 billion worth of shabu, have been seized since the start of the drug war in July 2016.
A total of 14,389 high-value targets, including 396 elected public officials and 136 uniformed personnel, have been arrested. On the other hand, around 4,170 individuals belonging to 4 and 17 age group have been rescued.
2. On peace and order
“My fellow Filipinos, we welcome this day with high hopes as we continue to work together for peace and security in our country… Guided by the strong sense of nationalism and commitment to serve the Filipino people, I am certain that we will be able to attain a more peaceful and progressive future for all.”
– during the joint National Task Force – Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict 4-B meeting at the Western Command Gymnasium in Puerto Princesa Palawan on November 4, 2021
Duterte, in his first years in office, attempted to forge a peace pact with the communist movement, but was forced to terminate the talks following the series of violations perpetrated by the rebels, including the killing spree of the government troops and civilians.
But the foiled peace negotiations did not stop Duterte from keeping his vow to maintain peace and order in the country.
On March 12, Duterte expressed confidence that he would be leaving the presidency with a “relatively peaceful” Mindanao, after he shepherded the passage of the historic Bangsamoro Organic Law that creates a more powerful autonomous region supervised by the Bangsamoro parliament.
3. On corruption
“We are not proclaiming that we have gotten rid of corruption. There is still corruption in this government and any other government that will come after me; and in the past, mayroon talaga ‘yan (it is already there). If there is a running bureaucracy and there is money involved and there are a lot of tables where the papers would go through, there will always be corruption. Kung walang -- ayaw ninyo wala, eh 'di sarahan mo ang gobyerno (If you don’t want that, shut down the government). But then again, you choose which way to go. The most that we can do is to fight it.”
– during his Talk to the People delivered on May 13, 2021
Duterte has repeatedly assured the public that he has zero tolerance for corruption.
Duterte’s anti-corruption efforts led to the dismissal of high-ranking officials, including his close friends and allies embroiled in corruption allegations.
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, in its fourth year report released in March 2022, has already endorsed a total of 3,733 corruption-related complaints to concerned government agencies and offices.
Around 108 of the 3,733 complaints have been referred to the Department of Justice and its Task Force Against Corruption, while 104 have been forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman.
4. On politics
“Well, I said that I will retire from politics. I will start by just staying neutral in this except for a few guys who I think should be there in the Senate.”
– during the “Cabinet Report” hosted by acting Presidential Spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on February 25, 2022
The whirlwind of politics, especially amid the campaign activities for the May 9, 2022 national and local elections, did not spare Duterte.
The political drama continues, with some presidential candidates seeking a dialogue with Duterte and even pinning hope that they would secure the Chief Executive’s endorsement to boost their candidacy.
Earlier, Duterte’s ruling party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), endorsed presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. because the party saw him as the “candidate whose vision of governance is most aligned with PDP-Laban’s 11-point agenda.”
Duterte, however, remained “neutral”, for now, as he has yet to make a formal announcement of his chosen successor.
5. On jobs
“Sana maawa ang Diyos patuloy-tuloy ito at mabuksan natin ang ekonomiya (I hope God will have mercy, so we can reopen the economy) and all the businesses will be opened so that people can really work again and improve the economic picture of the country.”
– during his Talk to the People on November 16, 2021
At the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in 2020, many Filipinos lost their jobs, making it difficult to cope with the health crisis.
Two years later, Duterte decided to further reopen the economy to create more job opportunities for the Filipinos affected by the prevailing pandemic.
The gradual reopening of the economy resulted in the drop in the country’s unemployment rate.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s report released in March 2022, there are 2.93 million jobless Filipinos in January 2022, lower than the 3.96 million reported in December 2021.
6. On food security
“Let us also take this opportunity to recognize the indispensable role of our farmers in ensuring that the Filipino people will have food on the table. Their efforts remain an essential component in the country’s food security strategy, especially during times of great need.”
– during the inauguration of first Narvacan Farmers’ Market in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur on March 4, 2022
Duterte in 2019 inked Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law to ensure food security in the country and make the country’s agriculture sector viable, efficient and globally competitive.
RA 11203 creates the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to improve rice farmers’ competitiveness and income amid liberalization of the Philippine rice trade policy that lifted quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaced it with tariffs, among others.
As of December 2021, around 682,502 farmers nationwide have become recipients of RCEF’s Mechanization Program.
RCEF has a PHP10 billion annual appropriation for six years which will be allocated and disbursed to four components, including the Mechanization Program which gets 50 percent of the total budget.
7. On Covid-19
“I will just say to my countrymen that do not despair. Kaya natin ito Covid na ito. Maliit na bagay ito sa buhay natin. Marami tayong dinaanan...mas grabe, mas mahirap, mas magluluha kayo (We can handle this Covid. This is but a small thing in our lives. We have gone through more intense, more difficult, more tear-jerking experiences).”
–during his Talk to the People on March 15, 2021
Because the prevailing pandemic has taken a physical and emotional toll on Filipinos, they needed to hear words that would instill hope.
Duterte did this by reminding Filipinos of their own resiliency, noting that they could overcome even the greatest of challenges.
While some Filipinos felt seen and heard, others had the impression that Duterte was belittling their struggles. However, the Palace clarified that the President was simply saying that the nation could "get back up again."
Sure enough, Duterte's leadership coupled with Filipinos' adherence to minimum public health standards led to the Philippines having fewer Covid-19 cases compared to other Southeast Asian countries. The country's average of 478 new Covid-19 cases from March 16 to 22 is among the lowest in Southeast Asia, where some nations logged an average of hundreds of thousands of cases per day.
To date, the Philippines has administered 141.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines nationwide, with over 65.5 million individuals already with full protection, including those who received the single-shot jabs. The country aims to vaccinate 90 million Filipinos before the end of June 2022.
8. On education
“As we bring education closer to poor students, we must also ensure that the quality of education is not compromised and that its benefits are cascaded to all.”
–during the ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Commission on Higher Education and the 112 state universities and colleges and 78 local universities to launch the implementation of RA 10931 on June 13, 2018
Duterte’s inking of RA 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act into law on August 3, 2017 has been described as a crucial law passed in his six-year term as it mandates free tuition across state colleges and universities. He understood that millions of Filipino youth continued to have a hard time finishing their studies due to poverty.
For Duterte, it was not enough to just broaden access to tertiary education, but also prioritize the improvement of the quality of education in the country.
He directed government officials, local educational institutions, and educators to do their best to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of RA 10931. Having the chance to finish their studies, he said, would give the Filipino youth a chance to lead productive, meaningful and comfortable lives.
Aside from RA 10931, he also signed into law RA 11510, which institutionalizes the Alternative Learning System and RA 11650, which requires all schools in the country to provide inclusive education and services for learners with disabilities.
9. On the economy
“We are sinking deeper and deeper pero hindi lang rin tayo (but it’s not just us)…Pero (But) we are trying our very best to keep us afloat.”
–during his Talk to the People on Feb. 1, 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic plunged the Philippine economy to its worst contraction since World War II, with gross domestic product (GDP) falling by 9.5 percent in 2020. Duterte appealed to the public to keep their faith in his administration, noting that the government is doing its best to balance between safeguarding public health and restarting the economy.
Put in place was a socioeconomic strategy which sought to ensure economic recovery post-Covid with four pillars namely (1) emergency support for vulnerable groups, (2) resources to fight Covid-19, (3) fiscal and monetary actions, and (4) an economic recovery plan.
Moreover, the government raised additional funding via loans from multilateral and bilateral sources and ramped up infrastructure spending under the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program to spur economic activity and create jobs. Eventually, the country’s GDP grew by 5.6 percent in 2021--an improvement from 2020's drop.
While it seemed like the worst was over, the Russia-Ukraine conflict carried risks for the economy that has yet to fully recover from the pandemic.
Currently, interventions such as shifting to the lowest quarantine status and increasing the amount of fuel subsidies to the transport sector and farm producers are being carried out to alleviate the effects of fuel surges caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
10. On foreign relations
“The West Philippine Sea is ours. There [are] no ifs and buts. It is ours… we have been acting along that legal truth and line. But we have to temper it with the times and the realities that we face today.”
–during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, 2019
Amid criticisms that his administration has downplayed the Philippines' sea dispute with China in exchange for economic benefits, Duterte advanced the country's rights in the West Philippine Sea by raising the arbitral award in fora such as the United Nations General Assembly in 2020 and 2021.
Duterte himself said the Philippines and China have a "good friendship" despite their long-running maritime dispute. This is because of initiatives launched by the Duterte administration to improve its relationship with China through bilateral visits and cooperative mechanisms.
To govern behavior in the South China Sea, Duterte repeatedly pushed for the passage of a Code of Conduct that is in accordance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
11. On traffic
"Ang traffic ngayon sa Edsa maluwang na. But early on sa administration ko, [there] was a crisis there.”
–during an interview over SMNI on June 8, 2021
Despite failing to be granted emergency powers to address traffic woes in Edsa, the government’s transport officials found other ways to clear Metro Manila’s busiest thoroughfare within the remaining years of Duterte’s term through structural policy reforms and projects.
Under the Edsa Busway project, buses were restricted to a single lane and bus stops were set up along the traffic median. Because buses were confined to the enclosed busway, they no longer disturbed traffic on other lanes. This was complemented by massive capacity expansion of both short and long-haul train lines.
The Department of Public Works and Highways is in the process of completing an Edsa Decongestion Program, which is expected to free up major thoroughfares by at least 120,000 vehicles thereby reducing travel time and bringing back Edsa to its original capacity.
12. On infrastructure
“We will make the next few years the Golden Age of Infrastructure in the Philippines to enhance our mobility and connectivity and thereby spur equitable growth and development in the country. In other words, we are going to ‘Build, Build and Build’.”
–during his second SONA on July 24, 2017
The Duterte administration's ambitious "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program did not lose momentum, even with limitations brought about by the ongoing health crisis. In fact, it even helped push the recovery of the country's economy. Since 2016, the program has been able to provide 6.5 million jobs.
Infrastructure spending in the domestic product increased from 3.9 percent in 2016 to 5.1 percent in 2021. The annual average of 5 percent infra spending as percent of GDP in 2017-2021 even surpassed the annual average of 3.4 percent under the term of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Some of the accomplishments under the program included the completion of 233 airport projects, 484 seaport projects from July 2016 to October 2021.
Eight railway projects were undergoing construction and rehabilitation. Five railway projects have an ongoing design and procurement, which include the Metro Manila Rail Network and the Metro Manila Subway project.
Serving beyond his term
If there is one thing Duterte would continue after his term, it is his passion to serve the public, his former long-time aide and incumbent Senator Christopher Lawrence Go told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Duterte, Go said, would never be stopped from helping his fellow Filipinos, especially the cancer-stricken children.
It’s no secret that Duterte has a soft spot for children battling cancer, Go said, recounting that the Chief Executive even donated his house in Margarita village in Davao City to the House of Hope, a charity group providing temporary shelter to children afflicted with cancer.
Go’s birthday wish for Duterte is for the President is “good health” and “live forever” so he could still help the public even beyond his presidency.
“Idolo ko po si Pangulong ‘Mayor’ Rody Duterte sa kaniyang pagseserbisyo sa kapwa Pilipino, ang kaniyang pagiging maawain at matulungin sa kapwa. Noon pa man hanggang ngayon nandiyan po si Mayor Rody na handang tumulong sa kaniyang kapwa (I admire President ‘Mayor’ Duterte for his public service and for being compassionate and kind to people. Until now, Mayor Rody is there to help the public),” he said. “President Mayor Rody Duterte, sir, boss, my idol in public service, maraming salamat po sa’yo sa lahat po na ng natutuhan ko po sayo (thank you for everything I’ve learned from you).” (PNA)