By Genalyn Kabiling and Argyll Geducos
President Duterte intends to rest, sleep and spend his birthday quietly with family instead of having a big party as he turns 74 today. The President aired his wish during a proclamation rally of PDP-Laban in South Cotabato late Tuesday evening.
“I really do not want to celebrate. I just want to stay at home and sleep, and if there is somebody welcome to me, it’s my children and grandchildren,” he said.
In one of his sorties last week, the President complained: “I am already old. I am turning 74 this month and I am already tired of all of you. I’m just looking for a way out so I can rest. I am so tired so do not f**k with me,” he said, referring to criminals and drug personalities.
Midway in his term, President Duterte has given himself a passing mark in governing the country.
“I will be through in three years. Para sa akin, I am… if I rate myself now, I’m about five or six,” Duterte said during the PDP-Laban campaign rally in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.
The President has been battling illegal drugs, crime, and corruption as part of his campaign promise and would continue the campaign in the remainder of his term.
“Even if you give a president, you can amend the Constitution, we are not qualified. But if you give a term of even five, even seven terms, six years each, you would still have no progress and development sa Filipino,” he said.
He recognized that the drug problem remains the “biggest threat” to the nation and renewed his threat to finish off the drug traffickers and their cohorts.
“We have … I think being swallowed by the biggest threat of them all and that is the drug problem which is worldwide,” he said.
“I retire three years from now, I would hit pay dirt. Hindi na ako makatakbo retire na ako [I can’t run anymore, I’ll be retired]. Maybe I will be assassinated right after along the way or maybe bibirahin ako niyan. Well, that is always the danger,” he said.
“But to me death is always there. It stares at me, eyeball to eyeball. I go wherever I want at kung maabutan. Pero talagang uunahin ko kayo [I will hit you first],” he said.
Man of action, loyal friend
For Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, President Duterte is a man of action, a loving father, and a good and loyal friend.
“The President’s mindset has always been about making Filipino lives better – to provide a comfortable life for all. The President is a man of action,” Panelo told the Manila Bulletin.
Duterte, nearing the halfway mark of his six-year term, has governed the nation with tremendous strength, compassion and authenticity, according to Panelo.
The tough-talking former mayor of Davao City has made decisive policies that included a relentless drug war that drew widespread criticisms but still remains popular.
“The President’s leadership style has always been strong-willed and compassionate,” said Panelo, also the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.
He said the President’s recent stern resolve to address the water crisis that affected sections of Metro Manila showed his utmost priority was the welfare of the public. “His leadership style is reflected on his decisive policies and swift action, which are for effecting real change,” he said.
Such leadership traits were in full display when Duterte temporarily banned the deployment of Filipino workers in Kuwait for their protection, eliminated tanim-bala scam at the airport, led the liberation of Marawi City from the clutches of terrorists, and cleaning and rehabilitation of Boracay and other tourist destinations, Panelo pointed out.
In the first three years of his term, Duterte sought the return of the Balingaga bells from the United States, implemented the laws on tax reform, national mental health, national identification system, the national feeding program for school children, and ease of doing business.
He likewise pursued the Bangsamoro organic law, and measures prohibiting labor contractualization, expanding maternity leave, and promoting universal health care in the country, Panelo added.
Duterte also made history by scoring the “biggest tax settlements” that included Philippine Airlines’s P6-billion payment and Mighty Corporation’s P40 billion settlement in 2017, Panelo pointed out.
As the boss in the Cabinet, Duterte is considered “hardworking” despite his age. “He inspires his Cabinet by setting a good example to them,” said Panelo. The President encourages members of the official family to make good policies and programs that would improve the lives of Filipinos.
“He has a calm but firm demeanor in issuing directives, and contrary to the negative effect of his evocative remarks and short quips in media, it sometimes lightens the mood of otherwise serious and tedious Executive gathering,” Panelo said.
Like most parents, Duterte also tries to balance work and family life.
As a family man, Panelo described Duterte as a “loving father to his family.”
“He always makes sure that they are safe and in good health. It is also important to the President that they have quality time together,” he said.
The former Davao City mayor is living with his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña and daughter Veronica. He has three children Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, former Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and Sebastian Duterte with his first wife Elizabeth Zimmerman.
He may be the most powerful leader but Duterte remains “a good and loyal friend who has a perky sense of humor,” according to Panelo.
“Among the light moments we share together, which is already known to the public, is when he adores my fashion or sometimes publicly comments on my sense of style which I take in stride,” he said.
On Duterte’s sense of humor, Panelo said the President has a unique style of delivering jokes, which is “a mixture of humor and sincerity.”
“His colorful language is his way of speaking to the people. Critics, of course, take his remarks negatively,” he said.
The Palace official urged government critics to develop the ability to discern the President’s message behind the humor.
Panelo has also attributed the President’s high public trust and approval ratings to his being true to self. The public, he says appreciates Duterte’s “authenticity.”
“They know that he is a man of his word. He will make sure to fulfill his campaign promises to the people. Thus, the President’s high public trust and approval ratings only prove that the Filipino people are witnessing the fruit of the hard work that the President is doing,” he said.
As Duterte celebrates his big day, Panelo wishes the President good health and strength.
“We are grateful for your dedication, hard work, and compassion to serve our nation. May you be blessed with more strength and healthier years ahead,” he said.