Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told Leytenos he is going to run for President but on one condition that brings morbid images of summary executions of criminals by the deadly Davao Death Squad (DDS) in Davao City.
The DDS gunmen, alleged by human rights groups as backed by Duterte and police, is blamed for the summary execution of hundreds of suspected criminals in Davao City.
Cornered in Ormoc City by young student leaders who publicly told him that he was their only hope for a corruption and crime-free Philippines, Duterte said he would be willing to run for President if the whole of Leyte will support him.
The statement was met with a thunderous applause by a huge crowd at the Western Leyte College Auditorium which included political and civic leaders and student leaders from five big schools in Ormoc City.
But there was a dire warning that followed.
“But you better watch out. If I will lose in Leyte, I will come back to get all of you,” Duterte told the crowd in jest, sparking loud laughter.
The ‘I-will-shoot-you!’ warning is the second dished out, albeit jokingly, by Duterte against those pushing him to run for President.
Last year in Davao City, Duterte warned he would shoot those behind the movement urging him to run, saying he is not interested in the highest post of the land.
The Duterte Pilipinas 2016 Movement, however, was unfazed by the threat and has since gathered more than 10 signatures in a nationwide campaign aiming to convince Duterte to run in 2016.
The declaration of willingness to run for President, on certain conditions, was the second such statement made by Duterte, the colorful Mayor of Davao City who is being pushed by many sectors to vie for the country’s highest political position because of his reputation of being a no-nonsense local leader who turned his city into the 4th Safest City in the World to Live In.
He is also known as one of the few government officials who has stayed clear of issues of corruption in his over 22 years as Mayor of Davao City.
On Feb. 18 in Dagupan City, Duterte also made an indirect statement that he was willing to run for President “if only to save the country from being fractured.”
What made Duterte’s Ormoc visit remarkable aside from the huge turn-out at the Western Visayas College Federalism Forum was the unity shown by opposing political groups in Ormoc City.
Duterte was welcomed by Ormoc City Mayor Edward Codilla and the Codilla political clan.
Later, he was also received by Vice Mayor Toto Larrazabal Locsin, an ally of Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez, whose husband, movie actor Richard Gomez, lost to Mayor Codilla in 2013.
In his speech on Federalism, Duterte emphasized the need to implement institutional changes in the country to address problems of corruption, drugs, criminality and the Bangsamoro issue.
During the open forum where he responded to questions fielded mostly by outspoken student leaders, Duterte explained that Federalism will be the best back up to the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is facing rough railing in Congress and the Senate and is expected to be rejected by the Supreme Court because of some un-Constitutional provisions, like the creation of an independent regional police force for the Bangsamoro and a separate armed forces.
Duterte said he also does not approve of an autonomous police force or a separate armed forces for the Bangsamoro area because this could create a big security problem in the future.
It was towards the end of the question and answer portion when young student leaders confronted Duterte and asked him what he was willing to sacrifice for the sake of the country and the youth.
“If the whole of Leyte will support me, I will run for President but if I lose here, you better watch out because I will come back to get all of you,” he said earning a loud applause from the crowd.
Duterte was born in Maasin, Southern Leyte but was later brought to Davao City by his parents, Vicente Duterte and Soledad Roa, where Vicente served as Governor of the empire province of Davao and Soledad as public school teacher.
When flash floods hit Ormoc City in 1991 killing almost 8,000 residents, Duterte led a relief and rescue contingent from Davao City to help.
In November 2013, when Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated Leyte, Samar and other Visayan provinces, Duterte was also the first among the local officials to arrive with relief and rescue teams.
“Some of you may not know it but I was with you in your moments of despair and grief,” Duterte said during the press conference held before the Federalism Forum.