By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
President Duterte may appear as someone who is as tough as steel, but behind the toughness of this firebrand leader is a man who is well-loved, even by those who are many years younger or those who are called the “millennials.”
Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the country’s 16th president, has been known to deliver curse-laden impromptu speeches. People around him have described him as a man who likes to joke. But despite all these, he is a man who should be taken seriously.
“He does not waste words,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque once described the president who turns 73 today.
Duterte has been in politics for at least 20 years. He served as mayor, vice-mayor, and congressman before he was catapulted into the presidency buoyed by more than 16 million votes.
“Millennial” government workers, or those born from 1980 to 2000 according to Time Magazine, describe here President Duterte in seven ways for the seven decades he has lived his life.
1.‘On top of things’
Twenty-seven-year-old Anna Mae Lamentillo, chairman of the ‘Build, Build, Build!’ committee of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), describes the President as a leader who wants to get things done fast and personally checks on the updates.
“When Typhoon Urduja struck the province of Biliran, Mayor Duterte was the first to respond. He saw the damage of Caray-Caray Bridge and instructed [DPWH] Secretary Mark [Villar] to ensure that the bridge is passable in a span of one month,” Lamentillo recalled.
“When I saw the damage — I thought the timeline was impossible. But in the end, the project was finished on schedule. Mayor has always taught us that it was important to get things done, now and fast,” she added.
Lamentillo, a columnist of the Manila Bulletin, recounted another experience with the President, this time during the onslaught of Typhoon Nina during the Christmas season in 2016 where the President chose to skip the formalities and went straight to giving his orders to help the affected citizens in the Bicol region.
“By December 27, we were already on the ground with Mayor Duterte — first in Catanduanes, and then in Camarines Sur. He skipped the gift-giving ceremonies and called it ‘corny’ and ‘over-dramatic.” But behind the scene, away from the camera, he met his men and asked them to deliver,” Lamentillo said.
2.‘The reluctant President’
Over the past 19 months that she has worked for the government, Lamentillo noticed one of President Duterte’s traits that make him stand out — his simplicity.
“The President does not use his protocol license plate. He has prohibited his Cabinet members from using the number 6. He has consistently asked public officials not to seek special treatment,” she said.
“This was a man who never dreamed of the presidency, who was comfortable not wearing socks, who enjoyed the videoke. When Mayor Duterte won in the May 9 presidential election, it may well be safe to say that everyone celebrated except for the man himself,” she added.
To 23-year-old Julius Disamburun, President Duterte is a serious leader. Disamburun, who was a PTV4 reporter/anchor for five years before moving to the Department of Tourism in February, 2018, described President Duterte as a man of action.
“Seryoso kung mag-trabaho talaga si Pangulong Duterte. Pansin sa kanya ‘yung pagiging action man (President Duterte is serious when it comes to his job. You can really tell that he is an action man),” he said.
4.‘What you see is what you get’
Disamburun said it was always an exciting experience when he was assigned to cover presidential events or serve as moderator for President Duterte’s press briefings or interviews.
Over the almost two years he worked as a reliever covering the President, Disamburun observed that the President is not finicky and is very sincere in serving his people.
“Kwela pero makikita mo pa din ang sinseridad niya bilang public servant, mamamayan at magulang. Walang kaarte-arte sa katawan (He is quite a jokester but you can see that he is a sincere public servant, citizen, and parent. He does not put on airs),” he said.
For 23-year-old Tiziana Piatos, a Davao-based writer and transcriber at the Presidential News Desk (PND), President Duterte is straightforward and a caring person.
“The President is the kind of leader who does not mince words — ‘yung tipong hindi talaga mahilig sa (the type who does not like) flowery words. He really talks to his people straight to the point. He talks to the nation frankly and without reservations,” Piatos said.
“He’s a father-like leader. He finds time to listen and to understand his people, and encourages them to do better in their work. Madisiplina rin siya sa mga tao niya (He disciplines his people). But the President is very sincere sa kapakanan ng kanyang mga tao (when it comes to the people’s welfare),” she added.
Piatos said Duterte is a father figure who thinks of the condition of the people around him.
Piatos recalled one incident where the President inquired about the condition of the reporters she was with as they were squeezed tight in the media box while waiting for the event to start.
“Nakita ni President na medyo nahirapan ako ng konti sa posisyon ko kasi marami ring mga taga-media ang naka-squat sa floor that time, tapos tinanong niya ako ng ‘Okay ka lang diyan?’ Sabi ko, ‘Opo, sir.’ Tapos sabi niya ‘Sigurado ka, ha?’ Then tinanong na rin po niya ‘yung mga katabi ko (He saw that I was having a hard time squatting. He asked me if I was fine, I said, ‘Yes.’ He asked me if I was sure. Then he asked the other media men if they were fine, too),” Piatos shared.
“That was when I realized na kahit busy siya (that even if he is busy), he would still find time to ask people of they are okay,” she added.
Piatos also described the President as a workaholic but still manages his schedule so he could spend quality time with his loved ones.
“He does not rest until his agenda for the day is done, minsan nga natatapos na siya ng madaling araw (There were even times when he stays up until past midnight just to finish his work). He also continues to say and do things he wants to implement,” she said.
“Despite his very busy schedule, President Duterte is a family man — he really finds time to spend quality time with his friends and loved ones,” she added.