There is a character casting a large shadow over our lives. I will call him the Public Duterte. He is the tough-talking mayor of Davao who forged order out of chaos, the man who rides a big bike and swears like a sailor.
This is the character that captured the nation’s imagination, the one who now inhabits the global media with dramatic stories relating to his war on drugs. He is dauntless. He is unremitting. He is unstoppable.
Some find it easy to call him a strongman. There are those who say he will overrun our democracy.
Otherwise, he is broadly seen as an iconoclast, one who operates outside the box of convention. He breaks protocol, whether in his wardrobe choices or the way he appears to be making policy on the fly.
Even his body clock is different. He holds meetings into the wee hours, completely alert until adjournment. His “midnight Cabinet” is his actual Cabinet, the Knights of the Round Table trying to chase sleep away while the chief discusses the ramifications of policies.
The other facets of this man we discovered as we worked closely and intensely over the past hundred days, as we met and discussed away from the limelight.
The observant might have detected another facet of the man who is now President. I will call him the Private Rody. He is a mellow fellow, an introvert pushed to the brightest stage of the land, a kindly and unassuming man driven by empathy, and a romantic visionary working for what he believes is the best for our people.
Private Rody is the man who went to his parents’ grave after winning the election, there to weep freely over both his past and his future. This is the man who so spontaneously embraced a badly wounded soldier when he visited the military hospital and then later organized a party at the Palace for wounded servicemen. This is the man who grieves with the widows of policemen killed in the line of duty and habitually kisses the flag when he passes.
Private Rody was the one who, as mayor, established the model program to bring persons with disabilities to the mainstream and set up a women’s desk that is the envy of most local government units. He also established the best-equipped 911 service in the country so that ordinary citizens may be rapidly assisted.
It is Private Rody who seethes at the sight of injustice committed against the poor and frets over the high incidence of poverty in the country. Justice is for him an intense emotion. Seeking it is his moral compass, redressing it his personal crusade. That private person does make what is conventionally “news.”
But it is the Private Rody that won him the love and loyalty of his constituents. They knew he would gladly help if they asked him to. They knew he would be fair if there is disagreement. Here is a rare character with so much love to give.
Over the few months (which now seems to be a few years) of working so intensively with him day in and day out, I have come to an understanding of this man. The Public Duterte and the Private Rody produce a unique synergy, not a contradiction. This is why when the Public Duterte ordered the police to go all-out against the scourge of illegal drugs, the Private Rody went around to show his support for those at the frontlines.
We have an underestimated, quintessential President. He is at the same instance determined and humorous, simple and imaginative, brave and softhearted. He loves the least among us, especially the children. He hates the worst among us, especially the drug dealers.
After a hundred days of the Duterte administration, our people are beginning to understand this complex character. As they do, they are willing to invest their trust in the man chosen to lead the nation.
The public opinion surveys give President Duterte the highest satisfaction ratings in the first hundred days in 24 years. But the President himself rates his performance a “6” on a scale of 10. This is so characteristic of a man daring the challenges and yet unmoved in his humility.
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