Like him or hate him, respect him or despise him, admire him or condemn him, he could no more avoid us than we could him. It’s a safe bet to say Rodrigo Roa Duterte was the most colorful, most loud-mouthed, most foul-mouthed, hardworking-est chief executive with the most easily understood mantra: “I want my people to be comfortable.”
A pedestrian caught on camera for a man-on-the street quote summed it up, “He did much for us during the pandemic — imagine if there had been no pandemic!”
Sans the Covid-19 factor, we could summarize Duterte the man and his presidential style (?) by means of what he allowed us to see and hear of him. What did the people see? A survey said they found him “bold… decisive… showed love of country.” According to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, “President Duterte is the smartest man I know.”
Under “bold” he did stuff that someone his age would consider reckless, such as riding a motorcycle; frequently flying to Davao City and God knows where else (PRRD holds the record for visiting unvisitable and the remotest military camps); risking assassination by going where he should not (when a car in his convoy was attacked by gunfire, it produced in the following days a spike in the bulletproofing business).
Under “decisive” he signed laws that increased the pensions of SSS members, provided Philhealth discounts and free tertiary education. For love of country, he demanded that Uncle Sam return the Balangiga Bells while strengthening ties and trade with China. To love his country is to love his soldiers and policemen, so he gave them high salaries and state-of-the-art weaponry.
His fashion sense is eclectic, such that he wears boots with his barong (under which suspenders are highly visible). Neckties choke him but in hotspots he taunts the enemy by wearing a military camouflage uniform. Still, his most fashionable asset is “my foul mouth,” easily appreciated by those guys at the corner guzzling beer, scratching their bellies. His hyperboles are highly hilarious, and one day a dictionary of them should form part of our literary history.