MANILA – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said there will be no room for failure if he chooses to run and becomes president in 2016.
During a speech before overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong last Sunday, Duterte said he is still ''trying to feel the pulse of the people, relate to their local leaders, and ask myself whether I am ready for the awesome responsibilities of the presidency."
According to Duterte, ''should I run for President and win in 2016, there will be no room for him to fail."
"I will not be president and sit for six years and at the end of my term, tell you that I tried my best, but failed. No…if I run and win, I cannot afford to fail my people. So if it is His will for me to run, then God help me."
Duterte, who spent most of his political life being the mayor of Davao City, emerged as the third most preferred potential presidential candidate in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. He was tied with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is the presumptive bet of the ruling Liberal Party.
Duterte explained that despite his decades of experience in politics, ''the presidency is not an easy job."
''You have to hit the ground running, and you can never stop providing solutions to poverty, high prices, joblessness, while ensuring that people are safe in their homes and in the streets,'' he said.
A possible Duterte presidential bid would likely center on empowering the country's provinces under a federal type of government.
According to Duterte, the Philippines must depart from the current system ''where most of the resources from the provinces are remitted to the central government and very little is brought back to the provinces.''
"Kaya nago-OFW maski ang hirap ng kalagayan, o kaya, sumisisksik sa Metro Manila maski squatter, dahil ang mga probinsya, pinapabayaan," he told the audience.
Duterte has been going around the country to promote a shift to federalism. His speaking engagement in Hong Kong was the first to be done outside the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Duterte also told the audience not to rely on surveys in determining their candidate of choice. He also lamented that presidential preference surveys are now being used by political parties in choosing their respective bets.
"Poll surveys seem to have replaced political parties in our choice of future leaders. Before, there were party conventions where mayors, governors and other party leaders from all over the country choose who they considered to be the best to represent their party in the electoral battle,'' said Duterte, who is a member of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party.
''Now, if you do not fare well in the pre-election surveys, your own party mates desert you,'' he added, in what could be a reference to Roxas, who has not been doing well in pre-election surveys.
Senator Grace Poe, who topped the 2013 senatorial elections, is already closing in on Vice President Jejomar Binay in the presidential preference surveys. Some pundits believe that Poe may soon overtake Binay, as the latter suffers a political crisis over his allegedly unexplained wealth.
Duterte is known for his hardline stance against criminality in his city, but this very same reputation could prove to be a stumbling block in his potential bid for presidency.
Duterte, who first became Davao City mayor in 1988, has been accused by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of tolerating the killing activities of the so-called Davao Death Squad.
''The Philippine government should take a zero-tolerance approach to any public official who publicly endorses extrajudicial killings as an acceptable means of crime control,'' said Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director.
''Duterte’s public support for the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals should prompt a long overdue investigation into Duterte’s possible role in those deaths."
HRW said Duterte made no attempt to conceal his style in combating crimes when, in a speaking tour speech last week, he said, ''We're the ninth safest city. How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities? Kill them all [criminals].''
HRW said Duterte has so far escaped responsibility for the death squad killings.
''The Ombudsman has not investigated Duterte for his role in the Davao death squad. Neither has the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which is under the Office of the President and has administrative and supervisory control over municipal governments,'' it said.
''The National Bureau of Investigation, which is under the Department of Justice, has likewise failed to probe Duterte’s alleged links to the Davao death squad."