People Power 1986 and Duterte’s destiny

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 25 February) —  President Rodrigo Roa Duterte believes destiny brought him to the Presidency because he won even if he had no political machinery and no money to mount a nationwide campaign.

The 1986 People Power revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and whose annual commemoration at EDSA in the national capital he snubbed as President, actually changed the course of his life and brought the unknown government prosecutor to where he is now — the country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes swears in Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the 16th President of the Philippines on 30 June 2016 with his children beside him – (L to R) Veronica, Sebastian, Sara and Paolo. Malacanang Photo

Coming out of the Marco Polo Hotel’s 17th floor after meeting with Senator Benigno Simeon Aquino III on September 3, 2009, Rodrigo Duterte, then ending his sixth term as City Mayor, told reporters that Aquino, like him, is “also a child of destiny.”

Senator Mar Roxas was supposed to run for President under the Liberal Party in the May 2010 polls but the death on August 1, 2009 of Aquino’s mother, Corazon, who was catapulted to the Presidency by People Power in 1986, made him a more viable candidate than Roxas. Aquino’s father, Benigno Jr., was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon arrival at the airport from his three-year exile in the United States, his murder sparking outrage and protests nationwide that escalated and hastened the downfall of Marcos.

“I am a child of destiny. I never wanted to be a mayor,”  Duterte declared.

“If you believe in God, you believe in destiny. I was happy being a prosecutor until one day, I was yanked out of my position and was appointed (OIC) vice mayor,” he told reporters that day in September 2009.

People Power drove the Marcoses out in 1986, all local government seats were declared vacant and officers in charge (OICs) were designated. For Davao City, opposition leader Zafiro Respicio was named OIC mayor while Duterte was named OIC vice mayor.

The shift from a life in the judiciary to the legislature (and much later the executive), was unplanned.  His mother Soledad, a civic leader who was active in the Yellow Friday Movement was offered the post of OIC Vice Mayor but she begged off and suggested instead her eldest son, the lawyer and prosecutor Rodrigo.

Soledad’s husband, Vicente, who passed away on February 21, 1968, had served as Governor of the undivided Davao from 1959 to 1965 and Secretary for General Services from 1965 to 1968, during the first term of the then, still very popular President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos. Marcos was reelected in 1969, was supposed to have ended his second and last term in 1973 but declared martial law in September 1972 and ruled as a dictator until he was ousted in February 1986.

Duterte would bring up his father’s service to Marcos several times when he was criticized for not appointing Vice President Leni Robredo to a Cabinet post (he said he did not want to hurt his friend Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.)  and for allowing the burial of the remains of the deposed dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).

There was no hint at all when Duterte was in high school that he would one day end up as President of the Philippines.

As the President himself would repeatedly say in his speeches, his father, exasperated by his delinquency in school, would often tell him he will be destined to end up a “kargador” in the pier if he didn’t shape up. He shaped up, took up Law, became a government prosecutor for nearly a decade until EDSA happened and “yanked out” from the City Prosecutor’s Office the 41-year old Rodrigo, husband to Elizabeth Zimmerman and father to two young children — Paolo, then 11 and Sara, then 8,  (Sebastian was born in November 1987).  He began his political career as OIC Vice Mayor on May 2, 1986.

And so it came to pass that the 1986 People Power along EDSA, a four-day uprising (February 22 to 25) that was a culmination of years of fighting the dictatorship, suddenly thrust Duterte into the political arena.

It was a life-changing event for the man who said he “never wanted to be mayor.”

Duterte entered the political arena 21 years after his father ended his term as Governor. By 1986, the city’s political landscape had as major players Elias Lopez and Luis Santos for the mayoralty and councilors from prominent political clans were waiting in the wings for their chance at the mayoralty and vice mayoralty.

Duterte served as OIC Vice Mayor from May 2, 1986  to November 27, 1987; was elected City Mayor in the January 18, 1988 elections, a post he would occupy for a total of 22 years (not 23 as he repeatedly says): 1988 to 1998; 2001 to 2010; 2013 to 2016.  He served as Representative to Congress of the city’s first district from 1998 to 2001 and was Vice Mayor to his daughter-mayor Sara from 2010 to 2013.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the 16th President of the Philippines and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, delivers his inaugural address on 30 June 2016. Malacanang photo

On the evening of February 25, 1986, when  the Marcoses were flown out of Malacanang for Clark Air Base en route to Hawaii, the then nearly 41-year old Duterte, woke up his children to rush to the downtown area where thousands of Dabawenyos celebrated liberation from the Marcos dictatorship.

“I was playing in dreamland when my father interrupted my slumber and told me to get dressed because we have to go downtown.  While we were huddled in the car, he told us, ‘Timan-i ninyo ning gabhiona ni. Ayaw ninyo kalimti’ (Remember this night. Do not ever forget),” recalled his daughter Sara in a statement issued February 24, in reaction to a letter written by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on the 31st commemoration of EDSA.

Sara, also a lawyer, was vice mayor to her father from 2007 to 2010; was mayor from 2010 to 2013 with her father as vice mayor; and went into private practice from 2013 to 2016 when her father served as mayor and her brother Paolo was vice mayor.

Sara in 2015 did not want to run for mayor, and in fact did not file her certificate of candidacy (COC) for the May 2016 elections.

Her father Rodrigo, then on his seventh term as mayor had kept his supporters and his critics in a state of suspense for flip-flopping several times on whether or not he would run for President. He filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor on October 15,  2015 but supporters waited for him to file his COC at the Commission on Elections in Manila on the last day of filing, at  5 p.m. on October 16.

Duterte did not show up.

One minute before the deadline, at  4:59 p.m. of October 16,  Martin Dino of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP-Laban) filed his COC for President.

Under the law, substitution of candidates was allowed until December 10.

On November 27, 2015, Duterte withdrew his COC for mayor and his daughter filed her COC as substitute candidate while in Manila, Duterte’s COC as substitute candidate for President was filed.

The rest is history.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)