Advocacy Mindanow: Duterte enigma PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 14:19

BY Jess Dureza

‘NIGHT PROWLER” —It was past midnight the other night at our mother’s wake at the Pieta lounge of the Cosmopolitan Funeral homes when  Rody Duterte, a close family friend,  walked in. We were already ready to go home after a tiring day but he quietly joined us still looking fresh. He was still starting his day!

We chatted mostly about good old days with my brothers Jimmy, Boyet, Charlie and another friend Ferdinand “Tikboy” Centeno. We didn’t  notice it but it was 3 a.m. early dawn when we stood up to go home. Rody was still off to  somewhere for the rest of the remaining dark hours. Unknown to many, he’s a night owl or “ night prowler”. He’s mostly indoors from morning till noon, and then leaves the house afternoon  and back  home at the wee hours of the morning.

NDF RESOURCE  —  Rodrigo Roa Duterte is an enigma. To many who know him well, he is predictable. For others, he is puzzling and full of surprises. He is now again in the international news for his reported acceptance as “resource person” of the National Democratic Front in its peace negotiations with the Philippine government. He simply clarified  this by saying that he will be glad to be  adviser to both the government and the NDF for the sake of achieving peace. He said he has sworn to defend and support the Constitution and he would do no less to keep faith with that allegiance, his expression of  support to the NDF notwithstanding.

Many of my friends had been asking me  how well I knew Rody . He is also “Digong” to friends (and foes alike)who wish to show familiarity. We’ve been good friends for sometime now. But he is still an enigma to me.

HIGH SCHOOL DAYS —     I was still in high school then — must be early 1960s, some 50 years or so ago.  The Canadian Sacred Heart brothers were running an all-boys high school in Digos town (now city and  capital of Davao del Sur) 60 kilometers south of Davao City. I was a working student and member of the school band (playing the trumpet) and was an occasional “ free boarder” at the Brothers’ residential house doing chores at the kitchen and at the small chapel.

One morning, Governor Vicente “Tete” Duterte who held  political  sway in the then undivided Davao, arrived in the Holy Cross grounds and was seen tugging a young good looking boy for a meeting with Brother Elric, school rector. Rody had to be moved to the south after having a stint at the Ateneo boys school (expelled is more apt)  after some mischiefs (like squirting fountain pen ink at a Jesuit’s  white “soutana”, etc.). He stayed at Holy Cross in the south  for the next two years and made fast friends with many of  us  “probinsyanos”. He became a “boarder” at the Brother’s small annex house where I  also occasionally stayed.  Despite being the “governor’s son”, he became “one of the boys”. His fascination for guns, although still young was already evident. I recall him putting  a .38 cal. revolver in a  brown “pan de sal”  paper bag  (“supot”) to bring along like “baon.”

YOUNG ADVENTURE —Tikboy, his roommate and also an “exile” from Ateneo  had some good recollections. During lull and boring  periods, Rody would ask him to start a fist fight with some local boys with some betting on the sides. We would escape at night  from the fenced house through the barbed wires in the back.  The first one who got a “bukol” (contusion) lost. Rody would put up the money and Tikboy had to suffer the “bukols”.

He was a student pilot at that time and was already doing solo flying in a “piper cub” plane. One Sunday morning, while we were on the school parade grounds, a low flying plane would make several “flybys” and we know it was him. The following Monday morning, we would walk over with him to the school canteen where an attractive school canteen girl named “Pilang” would serve us. Rody would then jokingly  say in the dialect: “ Pilang, if you will not accept my love, next time, I will crash my plane right here  so we will  die together!”  Whether that trick worked on “Pilang”, I would not know. hahaha!

NO NONSENSE —Being a lawyer and a prosecuting fiscal once, he is steeped in legalism and rudiments of law and procedure. He finished law at San Beda in Manila while I went to Davao City’s Ateneo law school. While I was president of the barristers’ Davao integrated bar, he was a main resource person in a regular radio program called “Katarungan” which was an inter-active forum   explaining  in Cebuano the law understandable to the lowly masses. The Dutertes came originally from Cebu and Rody spoke simple and precise Cebuano dialect that penetrates the heart.

But he is known more for his no-nonsense, “damn the torpedoes” attitude where he openly speaks out his mind,  where he spits out what he thinks in the language of the “masa”, not minding the  “blips” that usually puncture his normal  spiel and expletives  on TV.  His temper is also volatile and when he starts internalizing something that gets his ire, his expletives and gnashing teeth show it all. But he has a big  heart for the unfortunate and the downtrodden, the forgotten ones, the poor.

UNCONVENTIONAL — His unconventional ways are too open and public  for everyone to see. He had bruising personal conflicts with his political adversaries, like former Davao congressman Boy Nograles. Or even with  military or police officers who also could not stand his guts. I once pacified him and General Matillano, police regional commander, a  RAM member and also known for his gutsy ways.  Both  were both girding for a gun duel due to some misunderstanding when I arranged for a reconciliation or a “cessation”.  His running spat with the late Luis Santos, our former city mayor, was also well known.

Then of course, his public disdain, anger and contempt for the lawless is legendary. He would mince no words in publicly warning and threatening them. Whether his publicly announced “death wish” for the bad would go to the next lethal level, is something that is still subject of speculation. His supposed ties with the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) is  an issue that continues to hound (nay popularize)  him up to the present. Then that popular story about a drug pusher who was on board an airborne helicopter and he happened to sit next to that bad guy who “accidentally” plunged  to his death.

DEATH WISH —But he continues to thirst for a “legal” encounter. I hope I am  not  really exposing or jeopardizing  his cover and his modus operandi,  but I know him to be “prowling” these days the city’s dark areas, driving alone but with cocked firearm,  disguising  as an ordinary taxi driver and hoping some bad guys would  happen to flag him down for a planned holdup and make his day.  So far, he had no luck yet in this “death wish”.  And the bad guys are still lucky so far. But I guess  he still continues his “prowl” even as I write this. (Sorry “bay”,  for mentioning this!)

AN ENIGMA — Yes, he’s an enigma. A stickler for the basic rule of law but also someone who will not hesitate to go to great lengths to get things done for a higher good; a family man who is publicly affectionate to his family and loved ones but who also has the tendency to spread his affection beyond; a compassionate  but also  a seemingly  merciless man; a simple but also a complicated individual; more often times a quiet, timid individual but loud and angry at the call of the moment; a stern and firm one but who is easy to tears  when his moments come.

His greatest affection, just like mine, is his 94 year old mother,  Nanay Soling Duterte.
There is more about thIs  Duterte enigma. We will keep the rest at another time.
(jessdureza@gmail.com)