Updated 09:19 AM PHT Thu, March 9, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — He had tried and tested it. It worked for his city. And he stuck with it for the next two decades. Now he says he is doing the same thing — this time, for the entire country.
President Rodrigo Duterte gave words of wisdom about local governance based on his own experience when he talked to councilors from all over the country at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on Wednesday.
The 71-year old president harked back on how progress came to Davao City when he cleaned up the streets of criminals in the late 80s. And he did it through fear: by threatening to kill drug pushers and kidnappers.
"I hold it as an article of faith that no progress... and development can take place 'pag ang lugar mo magulo at maraming krimen. Tandaan ninyo 'yan [if your city is into crime and violence. Keep that in mind]," Duterte said.
"(The first thing I did) was really to improve on the law and order. And I was quite a bit strong in my language as I am have to and I said that those of you who are trying to destroy the city, if you continue to plunder the citizenry and the community, I will just have to kill you."
And for the 23 years that he was mayor, that message had kept the peace in Davao City — up until the present, he said.
From mayor to president
Duterte continued to say that now that he had a country to build, his formula has not changed.
"As President, I again reiterated my slogan. And I said that if you are trying to destroy the Philippines, I would just have to kill you."
He confirmed that many had died during his mayoral term. And as president, many had been killed — and more will be killed — until the last drug pusher is off the streets.
But he said he was no executioner.
"Never was a time that I executed a person kneeling down or with his hands pleading. Hindi naman talaga pwede 'yung ganun, parang hindi ka lalaki [It shouldn't be done like that, if you are really man enough]."
Duterte had repeatedly said that he gave the police orders to hunt down drug criminals, arrest them if possible; but if they fought back, shoot — "and when you shoot, you shoot to kill."
"So I am ready to go to jail, rot in there for the right charges and for the right punishment," he repeated as he said he would assume full responsibility for those who would face charges for following his orders.
Giving his word vs corruption
The President told the councilors to guard against corruption — as local governments were steeped in it — so that when the day comes and they would aspire for a higher office, they could hold their head up high.
"Para sa pagdating mo sa panahon mo, you can talk about corruption without batting an eyelash. Hindi ka na kailangan mahiya [You have nothing to be ashamed of]."
Duterte also vouched for the integrity of his Cabinet members. But, he said, he could not speak for those down the line, specially for government agencies "where corruption abounds."
"And even sa local government, pinakamarami diyan [rampant too in local governments]."
No change in character, language
Just as he had maintained his strategy for keeping the peace, so did he keep his habit of spewing expletives in his speeches. And Duterte was candid about this.
"I'm talking to you as a mayor, probably as a vice-mayor. Huwag ninyo akong isiping Presidente, for frankly ang ugali ko hanggang ngayon, pati 'yung pananalita never graduated to the level of a statesman befitting a President [I have never changed then and now]."
He admitted that he was indeed finding it hard to adjust to being the highest public official in the land.
"And I do not think I will improve in the next ten years. Hanggang dito lang talaga ako [This is me — no more, no less]. And I just have to contend with my mouth and my behavior."