DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan—Appearing at a forum composed of students at the Lyceum Northwestern University and later at a Rotary Club meeting at Le Duc Hotel, Davao City’s tough-talking mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to running for president “if only to save the Republic.”
“To save this country from being fractured, I could make the sacrifice,” he said.
Duterte’s no-nonsense approach on crime—which has garnered both praise from his constituents in Davao City and criticism from his detractors—has made him hugely popular around the country reeling from high-profile cases of corruption, crime, and the deteriorating security situation in Mindanao.
While he had previously rejected calls for him to vie for the presidency, Duterte has been going around the country on a “Listening Tour” to enable him to know the sentiments of the people and to push for a federal parliamentary system of government.
Prior to his categorical statement, Duterte had said he will first abolish Congress and establish a “revolutionary government” to solve the country’s social ills.
“It’s Your Moral Obligation”
According to Lyceum president Gonzalo Dique, Duterte’s talks elicited a positive reaction among his listeners.
Among those who attended were former government officials, including former Pangasinan vice governor Gonzalo Duque, former Armed Forces chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon, and former Pangasinan third district representative Eric Acuna.
Acuna, a provincial leader, said it is no longer Duterte’s personal choice to run for the president.
“It is your moral obligation to save this country,” he told the mayor.
As a show of solidarity, Acuna said he will mobilize the “Save the Philippines” movement to shore up campaign funds and support from Northern Luzon for Duterte.
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption head Dante Jimenez, an avid supporter of Duterte, said he was pleased with the mayor’s latest announcement.
“We waited so long for him to say those words. This changes everything for the country,” he said.