Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has gone a step away against running for President, and is opening his ears to listen to people’s clamor for him to take a crack at the presidency in the 2016 election.
Prior to this, Duterte has strongly and repeatedly junked suggestions for him to run for President.
The prayers, the tears and the cries of the people plus the two day rest here in Hong Kong which somehow gave him the luxury of time to look deep into himself have softened Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte’s hardline position against the call to run for President.
Last night, in front of his childhood friend and high school classmate Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, the former agriculture secretary, his aide, Christopher “Bong” Go and another friend, I finally cornered Mayor Duterte and made him to agree to listen to the voices of the people.
“Okey,” was his curt reply when I asked him not to close the door to people’s cry for him to lead the country as President in 2016.
“I’m not asking you to say “Yes” and declare that you are running for President. All that I am asking you to do is to not close the door and to listen to the voices of the people,” I asked Mayor Duterte as we had late night coffee in the 14th Floor of the Gateway Marco Polo Hotel in Hong Kong where the group stayed after watching the Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri fight in Macau Sunday.
I told Mayor Duterte that if after listening to the people’s voices and pleadings, he would still decide not to run for President for whatever reason, I and those who wish he would lead the country will accept and respect his decision.
That one word “Okey” did not come fast and easy.
We first had dinner in a Japanese restaurant near Canton Road and then proceeded to the 14th Floor of Gateway Marco Polo for coffee.
Sonny Dominguez and I had to explain to Mayor Duterte that in the face of issues of corruption, criminality and a deeply divided country, the Filipinos virtually have no options in leadership selection.
“Just listen and then if at the end of the line, you still feel you’re not up to it, then that’s it,” said Sonny Dominguez, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Mayor Duterte and who was his high school classmate.
(Duterte proudly says Sonny, who also became President of the Philippine Airlines and is now the chief executive of Marco Polo Davao, was a brilliant orator who participated in the “Voice of Democracy” competitions representing Ateneo de Davao.)
Mayor Duterte initially resisted the idea citing age, health and financial reasons but later opened up and shared his thoughts on what a President should do to bring the country back to its path towards a brighter tomorrow.
The very serious conversation was punctuated by jokes. Mayor Rody and Sonny also laughed out loud several times as they reminisced their high school days together.
At one time, I asked him: “Please tell me who should I support if you don’t run? Si B….? Si M..? I would rather stay in my farm and plant camote. This country will be headed to the garbage can.”
It was about 11 p.m. last night when he said the word I and Sonny have been asking him to say in response to our call for him to just listen and to not close the door.
When he said “Okey,” Sonny and I looked at each other and smiled.
There was no trace of irritation. All that I saw was a leader who feels the pain suffered by his people.
Fellow Filipinos, speak up! Rody Duterte is now listening.