One of the issues being hurled against Mayor Duterte in this 2016 presidential election is the claim that he is a leftist. It is one of the oldest tricks in the book of Philippine politics and a tool used by rich politicians. In the past this strategy worked because the personalities accused were true leftists as shown by their overt acts and affiliation with leftists groups. But Mayor Duterte is not a member of any of the present leftist organizations, well not a card- bearing member at least. He is accused of being a leftist mainly because there seems to be good relations between him and the communist guerillas in his region.
That he was often asked to assist in negotiations whenever conflict between NPA and the military in his region arises strengthens the belief of some that the Mayor is a communist. This is not to mention that he also allowed the burial parade of one of the communist guerilla leader in his city.
The mayor’s friendship with communist founder Jose Maria Sison is also one of the issues hurled against him by the government of President Aquino. Add to this his pronouncements in some occasions that once he becomes president, one foot of the NPA will be in the palace and that Jose Ma. Sison can finally come home as a free man.
So is Mayor Duterte a communist or a leftist sympathizer at least?
Mayor Duterte is not a communist or a leftist. He is a pragmatist.
As Davao city politician for more than 20 years, one who we can literally say built his city from the ground up, the good Mayor is calculating, cunning, and a pragmatic leader. He knows there can never be progress in his city if peace is not included in his agenda.
Just like other provinces and cities outside Metro Manila, the mayor knows that he cannot take a hard-line stance against communist guerillas. The NPA is well entrenched in Davao well before he became a mayor and to fight them head-on is futile.
What Mayor Duterte did was to strike peace with the NPA for the good of his city. He took the pragmatic approach. Instead of seeing his city become a battleground and a nesting site for insurgency, he chose to sleep with the enemy so to speak. With the NPA at bay, he was able to focus on other pressing concerns like criminality, drugs, and the economic growth of his city.
This same approach he applied with Muslims. He must avoid a conflict between Christians and Muslims in his city so he built a foundation for peaceful co-existence between the two. With his co-equal posturing, he was able to strike friendship with Muslim leaders such as Nur Misuari.
In the end, Mayor Duterte was able to do his job as chief executive of his city. This resulted in people getting a relatively peaceful city worthy of recognition as the 9th safest city in the world.
So is he a leftist? Definitely not. He is a pragmatist willing to cut deals with different interests just so that he can see his grand plans through. Duterte took the logical approach to solving the problems of Davao. His actions bear the hallmarks of being a pragmatist. He is not beholden to any particular ideology. His only focus is to make sure that his plans are carried out for the good of his constituents.
This pragmatism translated to a better Davao city, far from its old tag as the “killing fields” and as a result made a charismatic leader out of Mayor Duterte.