No 'Manila boy' Duterte to govern from new seat of power

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2016 05:07 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2016 06:51 PM

Malacañang of the South in Panacan, Davao City. Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

DAVAO CITY – Five minutes was all it took for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to receive a state media blueprint in the country's new seat of power that underscores his efforts to devolve power and wealth that has been held in the capital for generations.

The 71-year-old firebrand is building his government in a nondescript, two-storey house in coastal Panacan village here where politicians and foreign dignitaries have made a bee line in the days leading to his assumption into office on June 30.

Duterte has said he would govern the country both from Malacanang and this city where he served as mayor for over two decades, unmindful of the grueling commute that includes a nearly two-hour plane ride and navigating Metro Manila's traffic-choked streets.

“One of our platforms is federalism and towards federalism, greater autonomy, moving out departments. It is both a step of faith or the first step in a million steps of governing from Mindanao,” said Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's former vice presidential running mate who is tipped to become Senate president.

“Once he's there in office, he will see the problems there. But he can't become the Manila boy just because the capital is there,” Cayetano told ABS-CBN News.

One of Duterte's priorities is to shift the country's form of government to federal from presidential, which he has blamed for the relative lack of state funding for the Visayas and Mindanao.

WHITE WALLS

Incoming communications secretary Martin Andanar said he waited six hours in a holding room with bare white walls before he got an audience with Duterte on the second floor.

Andanar, a Davao native, said the meeting was over in five minutes as he had submitted his proposal to Duterte's executive assistant in advance.

“You can't even compare it to Malacanang. It's an ordinary office,” Andanar told ABS-CBN News.

Andanar said governing from Davao showed Duterte's commitment spur regional economies.

“Marginalization is over. Change has come. That will be the message to our poor countrymen in the provinces. The President is showing you that he means it,” he said.

HAUNTED PALACE

Duterte said he would not sleep in Malacanang because it was haunted.

He still retreats to a small green house in Davao's Matina suburbs, where he sleeps in a bed covered with a mosquito net. He said his official business would start at 1 p.m.
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His predecessor, outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, stays in a refurbished guest house at the Presidential Security Group (PSG) compound, across the Pasig river from the palace.

Former president Gloria Arroyo was the last president to actually live in Malacanang.

Arroyo also had the customs building in Cebu converted into an official residence in honor of the over one million votes she got in the province that helped her win the 2004 elections. The building was declared unsafe after an earthquake in 2013.

Former president Joseph Estrada had also promised to build a presidential palace in Mindanao and exploit the region's economic potential until he declared war with Muslim rebels in 2000 and subsequently booted from office a year later on corruption allegations.

SERIOUS COMMUTER

Cayetano said he thought it would be unlikely for Duterte to shuttle between Manila and Davao everyday, despite his public pronouncements that he would do so.

“I don't doubt that he will travel a lot. I don't doubt that he will spend time in Davao,” he said.

“Sometimes I think he is also teasing people when he says I'll always do this or do that (but) I believe in his statement that there will be a metamorphosis,” he added.

Andanar said Duterte was up for a grueling travel schedule and his staff should be able to keep up.

“He's not going to swim. He's taking the plane,” he said.