Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he is willing to run for President “if only to save the Republic.”
Speaking before at least 2,000 participants, mostly young people and students, to the FirstFederalism Forum in Northern Luzon held at the Lyceum-Northwestern University, the 69-year-old Duterte said the Philippines faces an imminent disaster as it is confronted with problems on corruption, criminality and the possible collapse of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“If only to save this Republic, I could run for President,” Duterte, who has been tagged as the country’s “Dirty Harry,” told the forum.
“I could make this sacrifice if only to save this country from being fractured,” he said. Duterte’s announcement surprised even his closest advisers.
It was the first categorical statement by the colourful and controversial mayor indicating that he has finally yielded to the clamour of the people to seek the country’s highest post.
He made the announcement during the open forum, responding to a question fielded by a participant who asked him what he could do to address the ills of the country.
In a forum early this year in Butuan City, Agusan del Sur, Duterte said if he becomes president, his first task will be to end corruption.
He said he will ask corrupt officials to step down.
“If they won’t resign, then I will have them arrested. If you don’t trust me as a dictator in the presidency, then that’s your problem,” Duterte said.
Former Pangasinan congressman Eric Acuna said it was the Davao City mayor’s moral obligation to save the country.
“It is no longer a personal decision for you. It is your moral obligation. You have to save this country,” Acuna told Duterte.
He said he and his group will launch the “Save the Philippines Movement” to mobilize people in Northern Luzon to support the mayor.
Duterte’s declaration was a radical departure from his position a year ago when he categorically said he was not interested in running for President.
In November 2014, however, he yielded to public clamor for him to listen, instead of closing the door on calls for him to consider running for the presidency.
Last month, Duterte agreed to launch the “Listening Tour,” a nationwide campaign to promote a shift from the unitary presidential system to a federal parliamentary system.
He said a federal parliamentary form of government would address neglect of the countryside as well as the Mindanao problem in the face of an expected rejection of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by Congress.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption lauded Duterte. “Finally, we heard the words that we have long waited for. This is a game changer for the country,” VACC head Dante Jimenez said.