The epic flop of Rodrigo Duterte | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

The epic flop of Rodrigo Duterte

Cambridge Analytica (CA), the now criminally notorious electoral strategist, had rebranded his image as a strongman tough against crime. By illegally tapping into Facebook users’ data, software was designed based on voter behavioral patterns called psychographic microtargetting. Political ads were then customized as influencers at the ballot box. CA had admitted Rodrigo Duterte was a client projected as a no-nonsense crime buster.

A dominant public imagination emerging from that cleverly curated image was how Davao City was Exhibit A of the unbendable Duterte political will. Davao City was “crime-free” with the scourge of drugs “eliminated” because of Mr. Duterte. City hall was “incorrupt.”

What happened next was a classic case of the veneration-without-understanding flaw. On the campaign trail in January 2016, Mr. Duterte impressed voters: “Kill me if I fail to resolve crime and corruption in the first six months.” But what qualification was there to back up the Duterte boast?


From 2010 to 2015, the Philippine National Police announced that Davao City had the highest murder rate in the entire country. It was also second in rape cases. Palpably absent in fact were the essentials: an objective analysis of the drug problem, its social roots from poverty and government corruption, where it was coming from and by whom.


The imagined image was such a big deal. On ground level, it was nowhere near the truth about Mr. Duterte and his family. Anyone who punctures the bloated image of the Dutertes, as Davao City’s numbed silence attests, must offer one’s self as a martyr for character assassination and possibly of targeted assassination. Antonio Trillanes IV’s valiant exposé of the Duterte bank accounts remains an unequaled model of bravado none from Davao City has ever had the balls to do, riling Mr. Duterte no end.

Confessed Davao Death Squad handler Arturo Lascañas who is now into hiding, said drug lords enjoyed protection in Davao City. “Peter Lim was always there before… It’s like they go to Davao to lie low,” he said at the time of his interview with Inquirer in March 2017. In a sworn testimony that same month at the Senate, Lascañas testified that Paolo Duterte protected a drug lord named Charlie Tan.

Today, Mr. Duterte himself is the first-person corroborator of the failure. “That self-imposed time of three-to-six months, well, I did not realize how severe and how serious the problem of drug menace in this Republic (was) until I became President,” he said in September 2016.

In August 2017 in Ozamiz City, he announced: “I was really wrong.” In June 2019 he declared: “Drugs, I cannot control, son of a b____, even if I ordered the deaths of these idiots.” And then the final nail on the coffin from the PNP: “The drug situation has worsened,” said spokesperson Col. Bernard Banac. At the time Mr. Duterte admitted failure, his unprecedented intelligence fund not subject to audit was P2.5 billion.

Now in the nadir of his great flop, only a radical template can work: stop the killings; the mandate is not to kill but
arrest, prosecute, jail the source of the scourge. Then blitzkrieg boldness: arrest big-time drug lords no matter their Chinese link — fearless of China’s protestations; free Leila de Lima because the false testimonies fabricated against her were done in exchange for VIP treatment of Bilibid drug lords; unmask Custom’s P6.5-billion shabu mess; immediately arrest and charge Oscar Albayalde; probe the Bato dela Rosa-Albayalde link; indict all “ninja cops.” Then the vital cataclysmics: arrest Peter Lim and disclose the truth of what Lascañas revealed on Paolo Duterte. If proven true that the son is in the drug matrix, jail him. And who is “Tita Nani”?

His niece Nuelle Duterte, daughter of his younger brother, opines a rather unfamilial view: “He is not a problem-solver. He is a fixer, someone who uses shortcuts to get things done in a sloppy manner. Nothing is solved, just temporarily abated.”


Mr. Duterte has no drug and corruption war. His brand is fake war.

On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: Antonio J. Montalvan II, Cambridge Analytica, drug war, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Rodrigo Duterte

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