Self-styled “last card” anti-crime Mayor Rodrigo Duterte received a surprise “endorsement” from a rival candidate during the Philippines’ first presidential debate on Sunday, February 22, 2016, in Cagayan de Oro City. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, 70, suggested that the 70-year-old Davao City mayor was the only one among the presidential candidates with a credible track record for fighting graft and corruption.
The debate featuring former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe, Senator Miriam Santiago, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was touted as getting all five contenders together at last. Santiago used this forum to reveal a card played close to her chest, catching even Duterte off-guard. Trending News Portal quoted her unexpected statement of support for Duterte, resulting in their hugging onstage.
“… graft-and-corruption is endemic, and everybody speaks out but nobody has done very much except Mayor Rody Duterte. “
Prior to the debate organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (K.B.P.), Global Media Arts (G.M.A.) Network, and Philippine Daily Inquirer, Duterte panned his rivals in a last-minute press gab. He challenged heavily investigated Vice President Jejomar Binay, 73, to talk about corruption in public. Duterte then expressed his doubt that under-performing ex-Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, 58, could discuss competence with those who know him. In an obvious reference to Senator Miriam Santiago’s battle with stage-4 cancer, he questioned the rationale behind someone in frail health running for the top office of the land. The humour card figured in his treatment of Grace Poe, 47, whereby Duterte quipped that she is in the hearts of people given to reciting their Hail-Mary “full of Grace.”
On a more serious note, the Davao City mayor whose frequent swearing is popularly accepted as giving a voice to the anger and frustration of victimized Filipinos, said he wants to stir up the electorate. He spoke to all Filipinos directly with the following declaration.
“I’m your last card.”
Addressing his detractors, Duterte explained where he is presidential. To improve the lot of the struggling masses, he plans to set up economic zones conducive to investments and invite investors to come in to give jobs to the people. He called attention to his leadership style as the top official of Davao City wherein he is mayor to everybody whether businessman or worker, and listens to everybody from first to last in line. His decisions as president will be fair to all concerned as well, he asserted. In response to card-waving union members, Duterte said when he represents the government, he is of the left because he is of the working people.
On official crime involving grease money, extortion and pilferage, he voiced his intention to have the last word. He asserted that the card he deals as president will have the following Duterte impact.
“If I am president, and I tell customs officials ‘stop’ – stop. I tell the B.I.R. ‘stop’ – stop it. “
During the debate itself, Duterte kept attention drawn to his vision of a corruption-free, crime-free Philippines all the way to his last statement. Dubbed a wild card by debate watchers, Duterte showed his winning hand by promising to clean up the Philippines “within months” if he is elected president.
According to the Rappler poll, for all three rounds of the debate, Davao City Mayor Duterte emerged the top pick for poll voters. Closing figures had last-survey second-placer Duterte come in first with 1,000 votes (59.14 percent) out of the total 1,691 votes. He was 728 votes ahead of number two Santiago, who got 272 votes (16.09 percent). At third was Roxas with 263 votes (15.55 percent), followed by Poe with 129 votes (7.63 percent), and Binay’s 27 votes (1.6 percent) netted fifth place.
Due to a lack of funds from his refusal to accept vested interest donors, the Inquirer reports that last-card presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte could not afford to air advertisements on GMA 7 during the presidential debate.
[Photo via Facebook]