LETTERS FROM DAVAO

By Jun Ledesma

HOW much do I know of PRRD? I have been asked that a couple of times before and after the 2016 presidential elections. Obviously and understandably, the reason behind this was that too little was known of Duterte. In retrospect, nothing much has been altered actually.  Not much has changed in Duterte’s persona as nothing in that pinnacle of power remolded him. He still rambles through his speech, still loves his mosquito net, eats the same poor man’s dish,  a servant leader who wants plans accomplished fast. Just about the only thing altered is that he no longer fancy talking to friends especially with the Davao media we do not know whether he is still wearing his favorite Atelier scent. But it’s alright. Blame Covid. 

Who is President  Duterte from my personal perspective?

Duterte has not changed a bit from when he was mayor of Davao City and now as President. He still finds comfort in a simple lifestyle and is uncomfortable in the unfamiliar ways and predilections of the rich and famous. He is the same person who loves slip-on shoes, reports to the office in comfortable outfits and that includes polo shirts with a preference for denim. He is focused on his campaign against drugs, corruption, syndicated crimes, and getting infrastructures done.

Did he achieve his objectives of eliminating drug syndicates, corruption, and other syndicated crimes? An Ateneo study states Duterte failed in this agenda. But this much I can say: Duterte succeeded in preventing the Philippines from becoming a narco-state. All the drug laboratories operating within the country had been dismantled,  drug syndicates including the huge distribution center operating in the state penitentiary had been wiped out. The leaders of drug syndicates had been neutralized. The remaining drug problem is the smuggling of drugs which is every country’s problem. But this is being addressed.   Proof of this is that the crime index is down by 64 percent since he waged this unrelenting war against drugs, syndicated crime, and corruption.  While corruption is still very much around,  it has stopped from being institutionalized.  I must admit though that this endemic problem in the bureaucracy needs more drastic action. 

Under his watch, this President who was described by somebody who looks like Jim Paredes as “taga bundok”, placed the Philippines in the list of investment-grade and stable countries by international rating agencies during the pre-pandemic period. Sadly though we suffered some economic reversals during the pandemic. But which country has not?  In time with the resiliency of Filipinos, we will bounce back.

While the well-heeled and the decent and the so-called foreign affairs gurus looked down on Duterte as one lacking in sophistication and diplomatic finesse, he succeeded in reminding superpowers, America in particular,  that we are a sovereign nation. In Russia as well as in China, the man from the boondocks of Mindanao was accorded a red-carpet reception. The Prime Minister of Japan flew to Davao to visit the home of the President and had a feel of the frugal lifestyle Duterte.  Indian PM came and US Pres. Donald Trump came to meet the man who gave his predecessor some basic lessons on how to respect a sovereign country. 

Duterte is accomplishment-oriented.  His" BUILD BUILD BUILD" initiatives is unprecedented. The roads, bridges, skyways, railways, airports eloquently argue against those who belittle his development programs. 

While critics sneer at his strategies on how to contain the Covid 19 pandemic, recent statistics show that the Philippines did well in managing the pandemic as shown in the number of active cases compared to other Southeast Asian countries. 

Communist insurgency is down. In the Davao region, alone scores of NPA combatants were either neutralized or had surrendered. Many towns and barangays have openly denounced the CPP-NPA as terrorists and declared them persona non grata. 

But there are significant attributes and issues surrounding Duterte which many are not aware of. 

Leila de Lima and Ma, Ressa, and the ignoramuses in the Commission on Human Rights, including those from the UNCHR, keep repeating their claim that the Davao Death Squad was organized by Duterte when he was Mayor of Davao. They are lying thru their teeth. DDS was in fact created by then Southern Mindanao Regional  Integrated National  Police Commander, Col. Dionisio Tan-gatue, sometime in 1984. This was during the height of the communist insurgency in Davao. DDS was in fact a ghost force… or phantom squad conceptualized by Tan-gatue as part of psychological warfare to combat the vicious liquidation squads of the NPA known as Sparrows.   DDS  has no warm bodies. During those dark days of Davao, Duterte was a newly appointed  Assistant City  Fiscal (today’s assistant city prosecutor)  and had no clout whatsoever in the police or military establishments.

De Lima, was CHR chair when she conducted a four-month probe on the alleged extra-judicial killings in Davao in 2009. She wailed about town saying over 2,000 EJK victims were buried in an abandoned quarry that is adjacent to a number of subdivisions. To date, she has not produced any single piece of evidence but succeeded in extrapolating their EJK statistics from 2000 to 27,000 with the help of Rappler.

The NPAs were routed in Davao city in 1985 after the people's uprising dubbed "Alsa Masa". After the NPAs, drug syndicates flourished along with kidnap-for-ransom, carnapping,  criminal syndicates, and extremist terrorists. The moment he assumed office as  City Mayor in 1988, Duterte waged war on all fronts. Instilled discipline and in due time made Davao the most livable city in the country, the most peaceful, the most child-friendly, most competitive.   

I will not begrudge anyone who won’t believe me but take a cue from the 91% of Filipinos who trust and approve of what Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is doing.  Duterte must have done something extremely good which his critics have not seen or conveniently ignored.  

     

      

      

     

      

          

    

About the Columnist

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Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.