“If after one year, no reform has taken place or if I cannot penetrate the political structures including what is right and what is wrong, I will declare a revolutionary government”
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Peace has always been elusive for Mindanao. Many are rooting for you to run for President in 2016 because what you’ve done for Davao City, they say, can also be implemented on a national scope. As for peace, lasting peace, how would you attain it, that is, if you do become President?
MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: I have one solution: Give them freedom. Mindanao is already an existing empire for many years before it was denied to them. We were not known as Filipinos before the Spaniards came. We belonged to the Malay race. Suddenly in 1521, white people arrived and imposed their government on us and brought with them the Christian religion. I don’t want this to sound like I’m making an issue of religion. Religion is good in the sense that it provides the anchor of our values in life. The problem was the government. When Magellan landed, he proclaimed these islands as the property of Spain. Suddenly the islands were owned by the king of Spain. For the longest time we identified ourselves through religion with Spain and with the rest of the Western world. Except Mindanao. And so they fought and rallied under one banner: Islam. Not only did they fight against the government, they also fought against Spain’s religion. At the Treaty of Paris, we were ceded by Spain to America.
So the long and short of it is: For the longest time we were never given the rights over the islands. But we cannot go back to 1521. During the American occupation, people from different parts of the country were allowed to migrate to Mindanao. American sloganeering said: “Go to Mindanao because it is a land of promise.” So because of the proximity of the islands, Visayans went to Mindanao, most were Christians. This is the reason why Mindanao has a huge Visayan-speaking population.
But see, this is where the problem lies. But we cannot return all the lands or all the things that were absorbed by the migrants. We cannot go back in time. We cannot return to Mindanaoans what was taken from them. All we can now offer is a new set-up: Federalism. I’ve had many a conversation with Nur Misuari. He accepts federalism.
GRAPHIC: Do you believe in incorporating the idea of a federal state in the Bangsamoro Basic Law?
DUTERTE: I’ve read the Bangsamoro Basic Law. I’m a lawyer and as a lawyer I have my misgivings about the BBL. Even at this stage, many have been pointing to legal infirmities. But I still hope that for the sake of peace in Mindanao, they could pull it off.
As we all know, Misuari has been agitating for a separate republic. I told him that could lead to chaos. And when I asked him for the best option, he said federalism. If nothing else, and if the BBL succeeds, that could be the template. But we have to be very definite about the boundaries because we have to go federal. There has to be a sense of security within our boundaries. With federalism, we retain most of our earnings and whatever is of value to us here. We can send part of our earnings to the central Federal government as our contribution for the upkeep. In this present setup, our contribution is sent as unitary type and all the extras are at the mercy of this administration. I’m not referring to just Aquino but all other administrations in the history of this country.
GRAPHIC: Is this part of the reason why you were quoted as saying that you want to abolish Congress if you ever become President?
DUTERTE: I am not interested in being the President. I do not like to be President. Besides, I do not have the money. There should always be a prefix here. A prefix that’s something like, if I were Roxas, Binay, Escudero and Poe, then I would use the “I” because it’s more convenient to express it. So, if “I” become the President, I’ll give everybody a chance and tell them let us, at least for once in our generation, vote for candidates that could make a difference. For own good, this time. Okay, maybe this time, we work on it. Let us give ourselves about one year. Then, we try to reform. Everybody—the Judiciary, Congress, the Military. Let us do it for ourselves. Give it six months to a year. How am I going to do it? How can I fast-track reforms?
You see, if you leave it to the existing structures, even to natural evolution, nothing’s going to work. Ignorance is still a real problem among Filipinos. Hopefully, by the grace of God, we can educate many of them. But what’s happening is the opposite. The country has breached the one hundred million mark in population. I am not blaming the Church, but they should understand the problem. Many people bear children because they have nothing better to do. The gap between the rich and the poor—this will catch up with us, the earliest being 2050.
So, if you elect me as President, I will have a problem. Now, this I can guarantee you with my life: If I become the President, I would not sit there for a full term, after six uneventful years and say, “I tried my best, but you know, my best was not good enough. There’s this Congress, there’s the investigation, there’s…”You can forget it. If that would be the case, then I suggest you look for somebody else.
I’ve been elected mayor seven times or eight times already, so what am I after in this life? I cannot be President and squander the remaining years of my life doing nothing. You know, a little reform here, a little change there. That’s absurd. I cannot accept that.
If after one year, no reform has taken place or if I cannot penetrate the political structures including what is right and what is wrong, I will declare a revolutionary government. My template? Cory’s revolutionary government. She was elected President and she declared a revolutionary government. Since she received the mandate, it wasn’t hard to accept it. It will be the same under my watch.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Define your style of “revolutionary government”?
DUTERTE: I will close Congress, everything. I will forbid government to go into business, the private corporations. I will privatize the GSIS by giving it to a consortium. That way, the people will not have difficulty getting what is theirs in the first place. I will close all government corporations. Government has no business getting into business.
Then the eternal conflict: The Bureau of Internal Revenue. Our taxes. How much do you earn, your gross salary? Let’s make it simple then. Fill in the blanks and pay the bank. Why even go through all the hassle that we are having now? The BIR, the Bureau of Customs, I’ll have them all semi-privatized, just to keep the integrity of the money of government.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Just to clarify: You would choose to simplify the tax code.
DUTERTE: Yes. Taxes, gross. Keep it all simple. You get a gross salary of P15,000. You pay taxes for what you get. That simple.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: What about not going into business? Can you explain that? No more dealings and projects?
DUTERTE: I will not embark on new projects. I will simply choose to rehabilitate existing ones. Then I will spend the money on the education of our children. I will not go into ambitious projects anymore, those that run in the billions. For example: Our mass transport system must be improved.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Metro Manila does not know you as well your constituents in Davao. So when you say “revolutionary government,” it might come off as another form of strong-arm tactics. At one point you’ve been rumored as the head of the Davao death squad. So, how will you explain your idea of a revolutionary government to people in Metro Manila?
DUTERTE: “If you’re into drug pushing, extortion, kidnapping, whether you’re part of the police or military, I don’t care. These are serious crimes and you might want to think it over. But as for law-abiding citizens, you have nothing to fear. They once said I was a candidate for the communists. Do you see any communist running loose around Davao?”
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: So you really believe what you have accomplished in Davao can be done on a national scale?
DUTERTE: Look, I can talk to communists. As for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I will let it remain with the head of government. The police, however, I will take away from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). I will recreate the Philippine Constabulary and give the police back to the mayors. But if officials start f*cking with their powers, then I will take that power away and put in your stead the Philippines Constabulary—elections or no elections. That simple.
DUTERTE: Alam mo, if we go into equalization, there is only one government. They have to be decommissioned.
But let me make something clear: You don’t have to fear communists. Why do you fear communists and communism? The Communist Party is only a name, but what is being stressed there is socialism. Socialists, where do you find them? In Greece, Spain, France, Germany. Some people have an idea of communism as living in a collective commune—in a farm. You’re afraid of communism? Look at China. America owes China $3 trillion. I was once invited to visit China. Their airport taxi service are all Mercedes Benzes. It was only in China that I was able to ride a Rolls Royce.
So, you’re afraid of communists? Now tell me, who will be stupid enough to go and live in a collective commune? Even the Chinese don’t buy the idea! If I find a communist who agrees with that, I will tell him to his face that he is stupid. Let’s follow the example of China. China, today, is a market-driven economy. It boasts of some of the world’s billionaires. There’s no reason to fear communists.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: It has been said that the trickle-down effect of the economy is a false concept, that it is not true. If that is the case, then there’s no reason for an economy that is good only on paper to help improve the lives of people. What are your thoughts on the matter?
DUTERTE: That is correct. The secret is to close the gap. How do you do that? You have to give full support to the micro-economy, the small- and medium-scale entrepreneur. Since we’re on the subject of China, let’s have China as an example. China’s economy started out small. After small profits, you drum up the sales and continue until you reach some success. I agree with Manny Villar’s principle of making the money available to small enterprises. The same is true with land reform. They asked me once if as President I will continue land reform. I said, I will. There are lands that are really productive that are owned and managed by big multinationals. But the problem is, as I have said before, we are left with very few lands. To land beneficiaries, they must get the needed support—tractors or carabaos or seedlings. I say maintain their farm gates by buying their products. Do not import.
As it is, land beneficiaries do not get fertilizers and seedlings. No support at all. As President, I will subsidize the farmers and make them my priority all because our country is mainly agricultural. Land and human resource productivity is where we must focus our resources. Let’s put rural communities first. After which we go urban.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: That’s also your blueprint for land reform?
DUTERTE: Yes. Tignan mo ang land reform.Papaano ang land reform? Wala namang… walang fertilizer, walang seedlings. You have to… I-subsidize ko because our country actually is agricultural-based. So yan, diyan mo ibuhos ang productivity ng tao.Doon unahin mo yung mga rural. Then you go up sa urban. The present setup cannot go on. Also a salary of P25,000 should not be taxed. This will help the individual a lot. Government will still have the needed funds. As I have said earlier, we will not involve ourselves in major projects, just the rehabilitation of existing ones. The next President after me can do it, if he chooses. The rural communities must come first: that’s my blueprint.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC:But how will you ensure continuity of existing projects?
DUTERTE: You have to see to it that money is available for existing ones. Take for example mass transport. It has to be subsidized. Let’s not fool ourselves. If you’re going to let the people shoulder the cost of rehabilitation of the mass transport system, they will not afford it. One reason: the prices of oil. Something has to give here. If I will ever get into new projects, it’s going to be mass transport.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC:What about social justice: Courts, judges…
DUTERTE: You know, Marcos, for the first seven years of his time was really very good. I will just copy the template of Marcos. I will follow what is right.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: A lot of people in Manila, and in other places, had been subjected to the abuses and cruelty of the Marcos regime. Won’t that scare people?
DUTERTE: That will not happen if I’m the president.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: How can you assure that?
DUTERTE: I’ll shoot you, if you’re a criminal. This is how it works. The backbone of any society is peace. A leader can only accomplish things if on one level, he thinks and acts like a dictator. If you don’t trust me, then don’t vote for me. I have no ambitions.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: And what of the military and the police?
DUTERTE: I will limit the number of years of service of generals. I want the leadership of the military and police to belong to the best and the brightest Filipinos. As it is, being a general is like a merchandize. They ask for the position, they get a desk. It’s crazy. And not all who graduate become generals. Give the position to the best and the brightest. It is only then that it will have integrity.
Most of our military officers get a salary that is not in keeping with dignity. Your term as general is six years, then go for three. I will pay you. You’re a general? Then you’ll get paid P500,000. Remember, if I become President, I will close Congress. As such I have the money. I will even give you extra, just to make you happy. But make no mistake. If you make a fool out of me, I will summon you and I will hurl you into the Pasig River. Now why will I do something like this? Look at our policemen. Their salary is about P18,000. Enrollment of children comes and they immediately borrow money. At the end of the day, his take home pay amounts to a thousand, two thousand pesos. Not enough.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: I’m sure you also mean to help teachers.
DUTERTE: In one of the elementary schools here, there are teachers, two or three, who owe money—five-six. This is the group I am telling you about, the group who needs support: Teachers, police, soldiers, officials.
Look at what happened to the Special Action Force (SAF). How can a SAF officer have the talent for fighting when, while advancing into the enemy’s lair, they are thinking of death at the back of their minds, and what they will leave for their families if they do die? What would come of my wife and children? How can one even concentrate?
This is the group I am referring to. Patrolman, I will give you P100,000 plus P20,000 extra for your extra-curricular activities. Spend the money for your mistress for all I care. Your children’s education will be free from kindergarten to high school. I’ll give you an example. If fighting breaks out anywhere—Samar, Mindoro, Cotabato, Davao del Norte—who do we send to stop the chaos? The police and military. They get the same pension and salary for about seven years even after they die. If that will be the case, then I’m not surprised if some will just commit suicide. They don’t only have to be protected—military gear, etc.—you also have to put some sense in their work, in the job of protecting the country.
If I become President, I will prioritize also the military and police. But if a general starts f*cking with me, I will shoot him right in his office.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: PDAF and DAP. Savings, money. How can you assure the public that not a single centavo will go into your wallet?
DUTERTE: I will create a high commission. All officials of government, including the President, will not hold money, but with the discretion of when to spend it, where and to whom it should be given. We have to do it in a budget. The high commission, if you want big businessmen to be part of it, or even priests, it’s all up to you. Let’s put 15 people there. The Office of the President will just have money to run the office. Say for example, lunch. The President can order but he doesn’t hold the money. But everything has to be straightforward. If you want a tractor, tell me why you want it. “The terrain is rocky.” That’s what you want? Then you can have it. Every month, a signed report should be submitted: list of completed projects, expenses, etc.
DUTERTE: My grandfather was Chinese. Once I went to China alone. I asked them to stop their expansion and then there will be no problems. But if you keep advancing, people will be fearful. What do you want? Shared exploration? That’s okay with me. But if you keep on threatening the country, this will be my deal with China: You are nearing our shores. That being the case I will slice Palawan in half—lengthwise. I will tell the Americans they can come here, build another Subic or Clark airbase. Pay only the Filipino $1,000. They can create what they want, place all their missiles here, then let’s fight. Whatever else can I do? I can also invite Australia whose been expressing some interest in Palawan. They can all have the coastal areas, they can build anything they like. What assures my country’s safety is my only interest here.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: As for the Freedom of Information Bill…
DUTERTE: It has to pass. We need that bill. And if I become President, I will just sign an Executive Order. I will sign the draft itself.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Aren’t you afraid of this bill?
DUTERTE: Why should we fear the bill? I’m not holding the money. I have nothing to hide. I mean, the Customs, I don’t care what you bring in, as long as you don’t bring in illegal drugs. Son of a bitch, if you do, I will set your containers on fire.
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: So, if the people want you to run for president…
DUTERTE: I do not want to. Is this the end of the interview? Okay, let me be very clear: What I am presenting to you now is to give the idea of federalism a face. Wala kasi itong mukha.Problem was, when this was first broached back then by Pimentel and Lito Osmeña, no one listened. Worse, no one listens even to me. If I did not say I will run for President and I’ll punch your faces, no one would listen. Now I have your ears, don’t I?
PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: You were just getting the people’s attention?
DUTERTE: Yes, I have to give the idea a face. To be clear: Just because I am presenting the alternative does not mean I am interested to run. One is that I do not have any money. That’s why I said in Facebook, as early as two years ago, I am not interested because I do not have money. And because I do not have any money, I am not interested. I have no ambition to become President. If by some unfortunate chance I become President, then what I narrated to you, all of it, will happen. I don’t want to sit as President only to tell you in the end, “My beloved countrymen, I will now turn over the reins of power to my successor. I have achieved very little in the fight against corruption, I have not done enough because of the courts, also Congress.” No. That will not happen. If you elect me as President, then you have to follow me. Simple as that. If you don’t, we will have a fight.
(*The interview with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was conducted by Graphic editor-in-chief Joel Pablo Salud and Graphic associate editor Alma Anonas-Carpio at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.)