Duterte’s 1986 advice to his children Sara and Paolo: “Remember this night, do not ever forget”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 March) –  On the night of February 25, 1986, when the dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was ousted by People Power and flown out of Malacanang with his family, hundreds of kilometers down south, Fiscal Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who was turning 41 the following month, woke up his children Paolo and Sara to join fellow Dabawenyos and the rest of the nation in celebrating their first night of freedom.

“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 on February 24, 2017, in reaction to a letter written by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on the 31st commemoration of the EDSA People Power.

Sara was turning 8 in May 1986 and Paolo, 11 by March. 

Little did Sara know then that her father – and by extension, their family — would become the biggest beneficiary of that uprising that ousted the dictator Marcos.Plucked out from obscurity by destiny, as he would later say, government prosecutor Rodrigo Roa Duterte was appointed OIC Vice Mayor when his mother Soledad, Sara’s grandma, declined the offer, suggesting instead her son. 

Davao City, 21 August 1984 The Parliament of the Streets is alive in Davao City as thousands of residents, raising clenched fists, gather downtown on August 21, 1984 to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino. Aquino was gunned down upon arrival at the Manila International Airport (now renamed after him) on August 21, 1983 after a three-year exile. The killing triggered more protests nationwide against the Marcos dictatorship, including Davao City where Yellow Friday marches and Welgang Bayans were mounted by an enraged citizenry. Photo by ARNEL VILLEGAS

Soledad “Nanay Soling” Roa Duterte, a retired public school teacher and widow of Davao Governor Vicente Duterte (he later served as Cabinet member of President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos), was a key figure in the fight against the Marcos dictatorship in Davao City. She was among the organizers of the Yellow Friday Movement here after the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in August 1983.  Yellow was the color associated with Aquino’s homecoming, from the song ‘Tie a yellow ribbon ‘round the old oak tree,’ and quickly became the protest color after his assassination at the airport now named after him. 

Anti-Marcos, Pro-Marcos 

Thirty years after EDSA, on June 30, 2016, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, whom Vicente had repeatedly said would end up a laborer at the port if he did not shape up, the son who substituted for his mother Soledad as OIC Vice Mayor, was sworn in as 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 (holding the Bible of Duterte’s mother, Soledad), Sebastian, Sara and Paolo. Malacanang Photo

Six years later, Nanay Soling’s son, the outgoing President of the Philippines, the sixth post-EDSA President, would step down on June 30, 2022 without attending any of the six EDSA People Power anniversary celebrations during his term. 

Aside from being the first post-EDSA President who never showed up in any of the EDSA anniversaries, Duterte would also be the first post-EDSA President to  allow, within the first five months of his Presidency, the  burial of the remains of the late dictator Marcos in the Heroes’ Cemetery (Libingan ng mga Bayani).

Thirty six years after EDSA, Nanay Soling’s grandchildren — Sara, Paolo and Sebastian (who would be born a year after EDSA) – and great grandchildren like Rodrigo Duterte II, would all support the candidacy of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., son of the dictator she helped oust, her granddaughter Sara even running for Vice President in tandem with Marcos, Jr. 

Natioanl Democratic Front chair Antonio Zumel (left) chats with human rights lawyer Larry Ilagan and Soledad Duterte, mother of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, in Davao City in 1988. Photo by RENE B. LUMAWAG

The Duterte patriarch did not hide his displeasure that Sara ran for Vice President when she was leading the surveys for President. He criticized Marcos as a “weak leader” and since the filing of certificates of candidacy in October, had not endorsed, publicly, his own choice for President. (The party wing he chairs endorsed Marcos on March 21 but party officials say that is not supposed to be taken as his endorsement. Duterte also met with Marcos in Malacanang. It is not clear if it was a meeting before the party’s endorsement or after). 

That Duterte’s three children with his first wife Elizabeth Zimmermann are all supporting Marcos has confused the President’s supporters at the barangay level in the city where he served as mayor for 22 years, the major source of his votes (and his children’s) in the 10 elections he was a candidate of, the 10th for the Presidency.

Like their father and because of their father, none of the three has suffered defeat at the polls since Paolo and Sara ran for elective posts in 2007 and Sebastian in 2019. (Duterte has a teenage daughter, Veronica, with partner Honeylet Avancena).

Sara, Go, Duterte for Vice President 

In November last year, Duterte initially said he would run for Vice President as running mate of then Presidential bet Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, his aide since 1998, now a Senator.

Go initially filed his candidacy for Vice President but withdrew from the race when Sara filed hers for the same post. On advice of President Duterte,  Go ran for President instead, supposedly with Duterte as his running mate. Later, Go also withdrew his candidacy.

At the Commission on Elections in Manila where he accompanied Go on November 13, Duterte said Sara’s running for Vice President is “decision nila Bongbong (the decision of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.), adding he was surprised why Sara was running for Vice President when she had been topping election surveys. 

“Nagtataka ako. Siya number one sa survey. Bakit sya pumayag na tatakbo lang ng Bise?” Duterte asked. 

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told reporters the President would return to the Comelec on Monday to file his COC for Vice President. Duterte did not. 

“Weak leader”

The next day, November 14, he told vlogger and supporter Byron Cristobal or Banat By: “Not once you have heard me saying I will support Marcos. I never said who I will support, whether it’s Marcos or (Senator Emmanuel) Pacquiao” who was President of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino which split into two factions. Pacquiao is running for President under Abag Promdi.

On November 19,  in a meeting with leaders in Calapan City, Oriental  Mindoro, Duterte was asked if there would be a coalition between the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS) which has an alliance with the PDP-Laban wing supported by Duterte, and the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who fielded Sara. Duterte’s reply: “Nandiyan si Marcos eh. Hindi ako bilib sa kanya (Marcos is there. I do not believe in him). He’s really a weak leader. Hindi ako naninira ng tao, talagang weak ‘yan kasi spoiled child, only son. Of course he can talk. He delivers English articulate. Nag-aral kasi kung saan-saan sa labas. Pero kung sabihin mon a may crisis, ganoon?”

“He is a weak leader at saka may bagahe siya. Iyan ‘yang sinasabi ko sa inyo, totoo ‘yan. 

I’m not – hindi ako nag – I do not foist lies. Masisira ka. Pero bantay ka diyan, magkamali ang Pilipinas, na,” the President said. 

Former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., and Mayor Sara Duterte in Tagum City on November 21, 2021. Photo from Mayor Inday Sara Duterte official Facebook page

His daughter Sara and sons Paolo and Sebastian, however, appear to be very much impressed with Marcos, Jr.

Explaining to a crowd of supporters in Tagum City, Davao del Norte on November 21 last year why she agreed to be Marcos’ running mate, Sara said: “Sometimes in our lives, we find ourselves to be a leader but sometimes in our lives, we need to stand beside another leader.”

The mayor said Marcos is qualified having served as Governor, Congressman and Senator.

“We must protect President Bongbong Marcos”

At the Philippine Arena in Bulacan where the Marcos-Duterte tandem launched its  national campaign on February 8, Sara told supporters she believes in Marcos’ leadership.

“Naniniwala ako sa kakayahan niya na mamuno bilang pangulo. Napatunayan na ito ng kaniyang malawak na karanasan bilang local chief executive at bilang legislator,” she said, adding that the kind of experience Marcos has is what is needed by the country “not only to sustain the growth and development spurred by the current admin, but also to bring a more prosperous future.”

“We must protect President Bongbong Marcos,” she said. 

Paolo, who is seeking reelection as Representative of the 1st congressional district, declared his support for Marcos Jr. on December 2 when he joined his sister and Marcos in Batangas. He said he has been supportive of Marcos’ Presidential bid “from the start.”

“From the start pa po BBM (Bong Bong Marcos) na ako,” GMA News quoted Paolo as saying.

Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte files his candidacy for vice mayor of Davao City on 17 October 2018 at the COMELEC Office in Magsaysay Park, Davao City. Accompanying him is his sister, Mayor Sara Duterte, who is seeking reelection as city mayor. Baste is running unopposed. Former Vice Mayor Paolo ‘Pulong’ Duterte is also running as representative of the first congressional district of Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

For Sebastian or Baste, Marcos Jr. will continue what his father, Rodrigo, has done as President. 

“Kaya nga si Mayor Inday ang gusto niyang presidente si Bongbong Marcos because Bongbong Marcos is the only way forward to continue this narrative,” he was quoted as saying at the sidelines of a festival in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on January 29.

Sebastian is incumbent vice mayor who was certain of reelection as he ran unopposed. But he had to withdraw his candidacy to substitute for his sister, who withdrew from the mayoralty race to run for Vice President.

“Ito kwento lang ‘to pero malaki talaga ang tiwala ko, tiwala talaga ako dyan because we can see remnants of the Marcos administration before, hindi lang natuloy. We all know that, kita nating lahat, if you want consistency na katulad nung ginawa ni PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) then I cannot see any other candidate kundi si Bongbong Marcos lang talaga,” he said.

He added that like his father, Marcos Jr. looks at the collective good of the country.

“Ambitious, but not for the individual, it is for the collective good of the country, iyon man talaga nakita natin,” he said. 

Baste was born in November 1987 or 21 months after the Marcoses were forced to flee Malacanang.

Like father, like children

That Duterte’s three adult children would all support the Presidential candidate their father describes as “weak leader” may have been confusing for their supporters, but it is not surprising. 

Duterte  himself had referred to Marcos as his friend and was profuse in his gratitude to Imee Marcos, Ferdinand Jr.’s elder sister, for their help in his Presidential campaign. 

Speaking before local government officials in a Sulong Pilipinas conference in Makati City on October 4, 2016, Duterte said that during the campaign for the Presidency, he had no barangay captain, no representative  supporting him, and no money. “Wala akong barangay captain, wala akong congressman, wala akong pera. Si Imee pa ang nagbigay. Sabi niya inutang daw niya. Si Imee supported me.”

Imee Marcos’ name does not appear in Duterte’s Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE). 

Vice Presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and then Presidential bet Rodrigo Duterte shared the same stage in Alabel, Sarangani on November 27, 2015, as guests in the province’s foundation day. Marcos spoke first before Duterte. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

In 2015, Ilocanos in Duterte’s campaign team, notably Jose Calida and Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. (now Solicitor-General and National Security Adviser, respectively) were pushing for Marcos to be his running mate. 

Calida was the most persistent, according to Earl Parreño in his book, “Beyond Will and Power,” a biography of President Duterte. But this move, the book said,  was opposed by the Dominguez brothers, Carlos (now Finance Secretary), and Paul, a member of the Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank, and the Pimentels, whose patriarch Aquilino “Nene”Pimentel, Jr. was detained by the Marcos dictatorship. 

Calida, however, persisted in finding a way to get Duterte and Marcos to talk but by then, a tandem was no longer possible because Duterte and Alan Peter Cayetano “had already firmed up their alliance in Hongkong.” 

But Duterte, according to the book, consented to have his Ilocano supporters form a group that would carry Marcos as his Vice President, hence the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong or “Aldub.”

“He is my friend”

Marcos Jr.’s defeat in the May 2016 polls was the reason why Duterte did not offer Vice President Robredo a Cabinet post. “I don’t want to hurt the feelings of Bongbong Marcos. He is my friend.  That is the political reality,” the President-elect told a press conference in Davao City on May 31, 2016. 

It is also this “friendship” that eventually led to the interment of the remains of the dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016, done in a clandestine manner (a video footage was released after the interment), when President Duterte was in Lima, Peru. 

In Davao City, protesters did a quick march in the vicinity of the Freedom Park Friday before speakers took turns expressing their rage against the burial of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Nov. 18, 2016. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

In Lima, he told reporters that burying Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was “lawful.”

“My mother’s cause or causes she fought in her life, kanya ‘yon. But just because she is my mother, I cannot state to you that Marcos cannot be buried because according to my mother he was a dictator. Because she had the same issues with the yellow group all over the Philippines,” Duterte said. 

“Pagka sabihin ko, ‘yan ang nanay ko nga called him a dictator. So hindi ‘yan siya pwedeng ilibing doon. You have to separate me from my persona. Pero ako personally, yes, he should be (buried there),” he said. 

Nightmare over? 

“Timan-i ninyo ning gabhiona ni. Ayaw ninyo kalimti’ (Remember this night. Do not ever forget),”  Rodrigo Roa Duterte told his son Paolo and daughter Sara on February 25, 1986, on their way to joining the celebration in downtown Davao City on the first night of freedom from the Marcos dictatorship.

Those who could not go downtown used their pots and pans at home to make noise.

Ringing the bell at the San Pedro Cathedral evening of February 25, 1986. Photo by RENE B. LUMAWAG, featured in the book “People Power: An Eyewitness History.”

Downtown, where Duterte and his young children were heading, sackloads of yellow confetti intended to rain on Cory Aquino’s motorcade during the Civil Disobedience campaign supposedly on February 23, now flooded parts of San Pedro Street (residents had to walk through nearly knee-high confetti). The ringing of the bells of San Pedro Cathedral could not drown out the sound of cars honking and the people screaming for joy. 

Dabawenyos cried and laughed at the same time. It was a night of celebration.

The dictator had fled. The nightmare was over. 

“Timan-i ninyo ning gabhiona ni. Ayaw ninyo kalimti,” Rodrigo Roa Dutere told his children Paolo and Sara that night of  February 25, 1986. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)