In a recent speech Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stated that even though he is the elected leader of The Philippines, he still prefers to be called “Mayor Duterte” in everyday conversations. Duterte’s role as the long serving former Mayor of Davao City was unique in the history of elected politics in so far as Duterte not only pursued policies designed to make life safer, more prosperous and more secure for ordinary people, but beyond merely authoring the policies, Duterte was on the front lines of policing during his decades long tenure as Mayor of Davao.
Duterte is the kind of man more comfortable on a motorcycle than in a motorcade, more comfortable in a Barong than a business suit and more comfortable using a few strong words to make a strong point than in using overly complicated and deceitful language to obscure the truth. This is why Duterte’s style compliments his substance in an age where many Philippine politicians have very little of either.
Far from being the “dictator” his Liberal Party opponents often accuse him of being, Duterte has brought a sense of humility, respect and personal honour back to Imperial Manila after decades of low-life politicians acting on the orders of foreign powers all the while condescending to their own voters. Today, Duterte revealed that he not only does not care for the title President vis-a-vis Mayor but that he does not like the term “first family” to refer to his children, including his daughter Sara Duterte who has followed her father’s footsteps as Mayor of Davao.
Today Duterte stated,
“I told them (journalists) not to talk (to my family). I really do not want it. And even a whisper. The assistant secretary erred. He mentioned that he was talking to a member of the First Family. To be honest, that is an old fashioned term. You do not use it (First Family) in a democratic country. Do not use ‘First Family, First Family’. There is no such thing as a first family. All Filipinos belong to the first family. And it is in utter bad taste to use it”.
Duterte further admonished journalists for referring to the Presidential seat of power as a palace preferring the term “office”. Duterte stated,
“You have never heard me say Malacañan Palace especially palace. I just say ‘my office.’ See me at my office. Go to my office.
…I do not use the word ‘official’. If you have noticed I use government worker. I always say my colleagues in government,’ government workers. It’s not that I am trying to be corny about it. But I think that at this time, this is a democracy. It’s a republican form of government. Everybody is important here”.
Duterte’s informal style has also seen him ban the use of the term “your excellency” and “the honourable” as forms of address to governmental leaders and has also prohibited the hanging of Presidential portraits in government offices, opting to instead replace these photos with historic images of Filipino heroes.
Not only are Duterte’s policies of international neutrality in the pursuit of peace and prosperity and his domestic policies of investment, safety first, anti-oligarchic measures and federalism efforts to bring the government closer to people, but his personal style is the complete opposite of that which associated with dictatorial leaders.
The lesson to learn is that if one wants the Liberal Party and the yellow press to call you a “dictator” in The Philippines, the way to achieve this is to do the opposite and act the opposite of that which actual dictators are famous for. Duterte’s sincerity got him to where he is and it will be his sincere love of his people that will help to turn The Philippines into a better place for future generations.