Can Digong pull off an upset?

By Perry Diaz

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte

Not only can a presidential candidate with a shoestring budget win but when he also promises to stamp out corruption, he would be the butt of jokes. He’d be called a nuisance candidate or a quixotic wannabe, someone who dreams big and accomplishes nothing. And in today’s big-bucks presidential campaigns, it’s like racing the “Indianapolis 500” with a go-kart against the fastest cars ever made. Yes, you can laugh off anyone who’d try to do that. But there’s one candidate who’s doing just that. He goes by the moniker “Digong.” Okay, laugh if you may, but this guy might just pull off the biggest upset in Philippine elections.

Digong, as most voters probably know by now, is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. He was famous for cleaning his city of crime and drugs. Once the country’s – or Asia’s — murder capital, Davao City is now one of the safest – if not the safest – and cleanest cities in the country. How can anyone do that? Yes, nobody can do that unless you are Digong, feared by criminals and loved by his constituents.

And now Digong Duterte wants to be president of the Philippines? “Hahaha…” That was the reaction of some of the country’s big-time politicos. But that was last October when Digong decided to run for president. Today, these same politicians — some of whom are the most corrupt elected officials — cringe in fear at the thought of what Digong is going to do to them if he wins the presidency. Unthinkable… but the increasing probability of it happening is causing his opponents to worry. And this brings to mind the question: What makes Digong tick?

Gangster or gang-buster

Duterte: Gangster or gang-buster?

Duterte: Gangster or gang-buster?

Digong earned his reputation during the two decades that he was Davao City undisputed political leader. Some people call him a “gangster” for his gangster-style method of fighting the gangsters. But to others, he’s a “gang-buster,” a testament to his “don’t mess with me” way of dealing with criminals.

An urban legend that has been going around the city – and beyond – is the purported existence of a group of vigilantes called the “Davao Death Squad” or “DDS” for short. And this led some people, particularly those who hate and fear him, to claim that DDS stands for “Duterte Death Squad.” He didn’t deny the existence of the DDS; however, he didn’t say it existed either. But one thing for sure, nobody has questioned him about it… ever.

Big spenders

Vice President Jejomar Binay

Vice President Jejomar Binay

But what is apparent is what differs Digong from the rest of the pack. While one can say that several presidential candidates belong to groups controlled by “traditional politicians” – known pejoratively as “trapos” – and their rich patrons, Duterte has so far shunned any association with rich political donors who presumably expect a return of their “investments” in political campaigns. There are quite a few of them who’d give campaign donations to several – if not all – of the candidates as an insurance against a “loss.” In other words, whoever wins, they too win. Yes, they can’t lose unless Digong wins.

Recently, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that the Roxas-Robredo, Binay-Honasan, Llamanzares-Escudero campaigns have already spent more than P1 billion in TV, radio, and print ads from March 2015 to January 2016.

The data on “pre-campaign ads” were compiled by Nielsen Philippines, an independent research firm. It showed Binay as the biggest spender with P1.05 billion followed closely by Llamanzares with P1.02 billion. Roxas spent P969.2 million while Duterte only spent P146.4 million.

Cojuangco connection

Danding Cojuangco and Grace Poe-Llamanzares

Danding Cojuangco and Grace Poe-Llamanzares

The question is: Where did these tons of money come from? Reaction to Binay is typical: “Well, he’s corrupt so he has all the money to spend.” In the case of Roxas, the Liberal Party raises his campaign funds, and also he comes from a rich family. But Llamanzares — who is running as an independent with no party affiliation, and isn’t in the same league with Binay or Roxas when it comes to finances – seems to have a bottomless well overflowing with money going into her campaign war chest.

Who are her financiers? Speculation ran rife that she’s getting donations from billionaire Danding Cojuangco. It was fueled further when Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition endorsed the Llamanzares-Escudero tandem for the upcoming elections. But the rumor ignited a firestorm when Llamanzares took the cudgels for Danding — who was known as the “King of Cronies” during the Marcos regime – when she said that settling the coco levy fund issue is no longer the responsibility of Danding. “The money is now with the government,” she pointed out. Wrong!

It’s interesting to note that Llamanzares recently revealed that her campaign is being lent private aircraft from San Miguel Corporation of which Cojuangco is the chairman.

A recent news report from The Daily Tribune said that Llamanzares’ camp has accepted a total of P150 million in “political donations” from Sun City Holiday Resort owned by gambling mogul Alvin Chau. These donations were reportedly recorded with three cash vouchers issued last year. The Sun City Holiday Resort has been trying to establish a strong foothold in the local gaming industry. The company said it plans to expand its VIP room presence in Solaire and City of Dreams. If the report is true, then Llamanzares might have violated the law.

Social media

Duterte amd Social Media

Duterte amd Social Media

Duterte is up against two powerful and moneyed campaigns – Binay and Llamanzares. But he has taken two relatively inexpensive routes to the presidency. First is his grassroots campaign. Not having enough moolah to pay for expensive TV ads, Digong is taking his campaign to the provinces where TV ads don’t count much. Secondly, he is using social media to reach out to the tens of millions of Filipinos who are connected through the Internet. This “fever” that is rapidly spreading in the social media is unstoppable. And people love to “like” or “share “ it with their friends. It has gone viral and there is no antidote… and it’s free!

Digong is also doing Filipino-style “crowd sourcing.” He’d go alone on stage and attract the people to join him. And the crowds love it. It did not then come as a surprise when a recent Pulse Asia survey commissioned by ABS-CBN showed that Duterte and Llamanzares are at a statistical dead heat for first place! And Binay who had been the top choice for a long time is now down to third place.

With six weeks left in the campaign period, the next three weeks would be critical because after that the leading candidate’s bandwagon will swell as voters around the country jump in. And this begs the question: Can Digong pull off an upset?


9 Responses. Have your say.

  1. clemenz says:

    kapag hindi mandaya ang comelec…sigurado ako nga manalo si Mayor rodrigo Duterte….he is now in the top no.1 in the presidential campaign survey..

    • Rey. A. Juan says:

      COMELEC must uphold the Laws of the Land…in terms of good governance. With the current electronic voting system, the likehood of cheating is diminished. The world is watching and social media is very effective. It’s time, that people’s votes are truly acknowleged. Positive change can be diffecult but truly rewarding.
      from a concerned expat.

  2. Someone who can diminish corruption in the Philippines should be the one to be President. Please God help the people

  3. Don Azarias says:


    I would have preferred Mar Roxas for honest governance and dignity in office plus he has a topnotch academic background that a country’s president needs to project a strong image domestically and internationally. I don’t think anyone among his rivals even come close.

    If not Roxas, would you say that Rodrigo Duterte is the lesser evil compared to Jejomar Binay or Grace Poe?


    • perry says:

      Hi Don,

      I like Mar Roxas. I think he’s honest. But he can’t beat Binay, Poe or Duterte. He can beat Miriam but we all know that. Between the three, I’d put my money on Duterte. It’s a gamble worth taking. Binay is corrupt and Poe is inexperienced and a liar.


  4. Bitoy says:

    Bakit ba palaging sinasabe ang pangdaya at hindi naman sinasabe kung paano mandaya.

    Kahit nga a pagbili ng boto, mahirap dahil maaring tanggapin kuarta mo pero hindi ikaw ang iboto. Wala naman trail ang boto mo hindi katulad noon.

    Dito sa amin ang ginagawa nilang pandaraya, kung identified ka na kalaban, ang ginagawa nila ay ihostage ka maghapon para hindi ka makaboto.

  5. Greg Maiano, Jr says:

    We just recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution: NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW. With Mayor Duterte, there is that lingering possibility, no matter how small, of a revolutionary government or martial law, which he will not hesitate to invoke if he is not able to keep his promise of eliminating the drug problem, crime and corruption in 3-6 months, a promise said not to be doable by well informed officials.. (1) . (2) . He admits to killing criminals,1700 by his own voluntary admission instead of 700 by Amnesty International. In a democracy, human rights violation cannot be justified – . Mayor Duterte with his police and army can not be the Judge as well as the Jury and the Executioner rolled into one; summary killings of suspected criminals even in the name of drug-free/crime-free city cannot be tolerated. In the second presidential debate, he and VP Binay raised their hands to say yes, they will allow the burial of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. To me, this runs counter to their anti-corruption platform as now they want to honor the most corrupt president in the burial grounds of our heroes; this too is a mockery of the victims of Martial Law. I agree with others that glorifying a dictator in this manner is an insult to history. SO, NO TO MAYOR DUTERTE.

  6. Mac Flores Jr says:

    In the Presidential election cheating arrangement, if this will inevitably happen, the most vulnerable to be cheated I think will be Binay, in favor of the ‘blessed one’.

    It is anybody’s guess who this ‘blessed one’ is in case there are two (2) of them.

    Since Grace and Digong are close in a neck-to-neck Pulse (mispronounced sometimes as False) survey, what will happen if Grace upset Digong in a foreseen tight Presidential contest?

    • I think Digong and his supporters will vigorously protest the election result, especially in case the SC does not reverse the controversial majority decision (wherein 3 or 2 justices did not cast their votes) in favor of Grace before the election comes.
    • I recall Digong said that he eventually decided to run in the Presidential race because Grace was allowed to run despite Constitutional issues associated to her.
    • And, presumably it will be very difficult for Digong to accept the fact that Grace will take her oath as President, despite the unresolved SC decision on Grace, simply because the ‘voice of the people’ have spoken.

    But what if Digong upset Grace?

    • I think many will end up horizontally or vertically to their destined places, they said.
    • The famous antique bill/s in Congress not made into laws, will be consigned to the museum of ‘make believe’ of PHL history that some political analysts foresee, similar to ‘Believe it or Not’ tourists museum along Hollywood Ave in CA.
    • And, hello Human Rights? Hello China? Hello EDCA? Hello BBL? Hello Dynasts? Hello Amendments? Hello OFWs.…and many more hellos thereat.

    But as we all know on the pros and cons of whoever wins (I still wish Sen. Miriam good luck), let’s pray for what is best for the country hopes for; and expect the worst as well for 6 more years of sorrow state of the PHL…and who knows maybe beyond 6 years?

  7. perry says:

    Hi Perry:
    Yes Digong can pull an upset because of the inefficient leadership of Erap, GMA and this PNoy which has frustrated the Filipino nation. There is indeed a lax, personal and transactional justice system, specially in the local government levels, and pervasive corruption in almost all government offices since 1999. This baggage has dragged the economy down too, although no president since Erap has admitted the poor has grown more in number. And economic growth is EXCLUSIVE.

    This is evident in the fact that economic classes A and B of our registered voters prefer Digong. That can greatly influence the 70 of the electorate but realistically, there will still people who will accept 500-peso bribes and vote the moneyed, inefficient
    and opportunists (i.e. Binay, Poe, Roxas, Bongbong Marcos, Escudero, Trillianes).

    But Digong and his running mate will be ineffective and isolated by an opposition conservative congress–both houses. That is exactly the reason I am saying that we must scrutinize finely the candidates for Senators and Representatives who have the same mentality and dedication as Digong, for his regime to succeed and achieve the sufficient basis for realistic changes in the next six years.

    So my own version of these Senators for now are only three yet–Alunan, Valeroso and Gordon. We need to get elected Congressmen who spouse and believe in the Constitutional revision as spoused by the group of former chief justice, Renato Puno and former finance secretary Salvador Enriquez.

    Gil h.a. Santos
    (Sent by email)

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