Childhood & Early Years
Rodrigo Duterte was born on March 28, 1945, in Maasin, Philippines. His father, Vicente G. Duterte, was a Cebuano lawyer. Later he became the acting mayor of Danao and after that, the provincial governor of the then-undivided Davao province.
Rodrigo’s mother, Soledad Roa, was a school teacher and a civic leader. Rodrigo was born second of his parents’ five children. His sister Eleanore was the eldest of the lot while Jocelyn was the youngest. Between him and Jocelyn are two brothers, Emmanuel or Blue Boy; and Benjamin or Bong.
Rodrigo, lovingly called Digong, started his education at Laboon Elementary School in Maasin. But within one year, the family shifted to Davao City, where he was admitted to Santa Ana Elementary School, passing out from there in 1956.
His high school education was not at all smooth. After being expelled from two schools for unruly behavior, he was finally admitted to the High School Department of the then Holy Cross College (now Cor Jesu College) in Digos and ultimately completed his schooling from there.
It was not that he was a bad student. He just enjoyed hanging around with city toughs and became street-smart, picking up their vocabulary and mannerism. Although it caused immense trouble during his school days and earned him severe whipping at home the experience later helped him to connect with the masses.
After passing out from school, he was sent to Manila and admitted to Lyceum of the Philippines University. In 1968, he graduated from there with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
Subsequently, he entered San Beda College of Law, also in Manila and earned his degree in 1972. In the same year, he also cleared his bar examination.
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Rodrigo Roa Duterte began his career at Davao City bar. Subsequently in 1977, he became Special Counsel at the City Prosecution Office, serving in the post until 1979.
From 1979 to 1981, he served as the Fourth Assistant City Prosecutor; from 1981 to 1983, as the Third Assistant City Prosecutor and from 1983 to 1986, as the Second Assistant City Prosecutor.
Meanwhile in 1983, People’s Power Revolution began which in 1986, overthrew the dictatorial government of Ferdinand Marcos and restored democratic institutions in the country. In the same year, Duterte was appointed as the Officer-in-charge Vice Mayor for the City of Davao.
In 1988, he contested the election for the Mayoral post and won. Subsequently, he won two more terms, remaining in the position till 1998. During this period, he set an example by choosing his deputy mayors from the Lumad and Moro communities, a practice that was later emulated by other cities.
As the country’s law does not allow any person to hold any civic office for more than three consecutive terms, he could not stand in the mayoral election in 1998. So, Duterte chose to run for the House of Representatives and won.
From 1998 to 2001, he served as the Congressman of the 1st District of Davao City under the Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino coalition, a job he found immensely boring. Therefore in 2001, he once more stood for the mayoral election in Davao.
Subsequently, he won three more consecutive terms (2001, 2004 and 2007). During this period, the condition of Davao City improved in all respects. It won the National Literacy Hall of Fame Award for winning the first place in the Outstanding Local Government Unit, Highly Urbanized City category thrice.
Moreover, Duterte never confined himself to his office. He worked at the street level and was often seen leading from the front, riding his big motor cycle with a convoy, fitted with M16 rifles, following him. As a result, the crime rate was drastically reduced during his tenure.
More significant was his war on drugs. In addition, he imposed anti-smoking rules and prohibited selling, serving, and consuming alcoholic beverages from 01:00 AM until 08:00 AM. He also introduced women’s rights bill that aimed to eliminate discrimination against women and promote their rights.
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In 2010, after running three consecutive terms as the Mayor of the Davao City, he was once again barred by law to contest for the same post. Therefore, he ran for the post of Vice Mayor while his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio became the Mayor.
In 2013, he again ran for the post of the Mayor of Davao City and won. He now continued his work on making the city crime free. Previously, he had refused to become the Interior Secretary four times, preferring to serve his city; but now he began to take interest in national politics.
In 2014, Duterte gave a call for forming a federal form of government, which would reflect the aspiration of the Pilipino people including the various tribes. The following year, he was asked to run for the post of President.
Initially he was very hesitant, citing lack of campaign funds and political machinery for his reticence. He only agreed when his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio shaved her head as a mark of her protest.
The General Election took place on May 9, 2016. On May 27, 2016, the 16th Congress of the Philippines proclaimed Rodrigo Duterte of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan party as the President-elect of the Philippines. He won with 16,601,997 (39.01%) votes, which is 6.6 million more than his nearest rival.
President Duterte began his term on 30 June 2016. As the President of Philippines, he now resides in Manila, but visits Davao City every week.
Duterte’s war on drugs is one of his most important works that he undertook as the Mayor of Davao City. Although many accuse him of human rights violation and extra judicial killings he was able to eradicate the menace and make the city free from drugs
Using city funds, he also had a drug rehabilitation and treatment center built at the cost of ₱12-million. It provides 24-hour services. In 2003, he floated a plan that provided a monthly allowance of ₱2,000 to drug addicts who personally approached him and promised to give up the habit.
As a Mayor, he also started a war on crime. During his tenure the crime rate went down drastically. While in 1985, the rate was triple digit figure per 1000 people, from 1999 to 2005, it became 8.0 cases 1000. Because of his ruthless eradication of criminals he has been dubbed as ‘The Punisher’ by Times Magazine.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1973, Rodrigo Duterte married Elizabeth Abellana Zimmerman, a flight attended of German-American ancestry. They have three children; Paolo, Sara and Sebastian Duterte. Among them Paolo and Sara joined politics while Sebastian became a businessman.
Duterte was not a faithful husband. Even while he was married to Zimmerman, he went public about his infidelity and philandering. Consequently in 1998, Zimmerman filed an annulment, which was granted in 2000. They however, remained friends and as the marriage was not nullified by Roman Catholic Church she continues to use her former husband’s surname Duterte.
In the middle of 1990s, Duterte developed a relationship with Filipino businessperson and former nurse Cielito Avanceña. Later she became his common-law-wife and they now live together in Manila. They have a daughter called Veronica.
Duterte was once a heavy smoker, but later gave it up due to health reason. But because of it, he now suffers from Thromboangiitis obliterans, a disease involving recurring progressive inflammation and thrombosis of blood vessels in the hands and feet.