Davao mayor guns for presidency on crime kill campaign

Davao mayor guns for presidency on crime kill campaign

Nicknamed “Duterte Harry,” after a Clint Eastwood character with little regard for rules, the Philippine city mayor casually threatens to shoot criminals, hang them using laundry line or drown them in Manila Bay. His expletives have sideswiped even the deeply revered pope.

Despite such brazen talk, Rodrigo Duterte has emerged as a top contender in Philippine presidential elections on May 9 in an impressive political rise that has been likened to Donald Trump’s. The tough-talking mayor finds the comparison offensive and draws the line.

“Donald Trump is a bigot, I am not,” Duterte told The Asso-ciated Press, referring to Trump’s proposals to ban Muslims entering the US and erect a wall along the Mexican border.

Duterte, 71, built a political name with his iron-fist approach to fighting crime in Davao City, where he has served as mayor for 22 years. He has been credited for turning the vast port region of about 1.5 million people from a Marxist insurgency-wracked murder capital in the 1980s to one of a few Philippine cities with a reputation for law and order and economic vibrancy.

A lawyer, former government prosecutor and congressman, Duterte is the son of a former Davao provincial governor who grew up in a middle-class family that valued integrity. He has a penchant for mischief and recalls his mother, a school teacher, often punished him for misconduct by ordering him to kneel with hands extended sideways in front of a statue of Jesus Christ. He was once kicked out of high school for involvement in a brawl.

In Davao, Duterte has patrolled streets at night on a Harley Davidson and at times driven a taxi to try to catch robbers preying on drivers. He banned smoking and reportedly once forced a foreigner to chew a cigarette stick for violating the ordinance. Firecrackers, which kill and injure hundreds in the country during New Year’s revelries, are prohibited and a nighttime curfew for minors has eased juvenile delinquency.

What sets Duterte apart from other politicians is his devil-may-care way with expletives, often uttered in public in the local Tagalog language, when he lets off steam over criminality, corruption and government incompetence.

In his most infamous outburst, Duterte used an expletive on Pope Francis to express his disgust over a huge traffic jam caused by a papal visit to Manila last year that trapped the mayor for hours. Filipino bishops were shocked and he later apologized.

Nowadays, Duterte’s cusses come with his trademark campaign battle cry to “kill all” criminals, fueling longstanding suspicions of his involvement in many unsolved killings of suspected criminals that authorities blame on vigilantes.

On the campaign trail, Duterte has offered to replicate his record in Davao to the rest of a Southeast Asian nation long weary of crime, rebellions and widespread corruption. He portrays himself as the “last card” of the people.

Jumping from mayor to president is a big leap in a country where leaders have traditionally risen from a national office, mostly as senators. Duterte’s bold pledge to eradicate crime, especially drug trafficking and kidnappings, as well as corruption in three to six months has resonated with the public, but also sparked alarm and doubts. – AP

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