Foes turned allies, old pals help Duterte build new gov't

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

DAVAO CITY -- A quiet but steady tide of supporters has begun to arrive at a swank hotel here, where presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte is building a new government with close friends and sworn adversaries that are now among his closest allies.

The new administration, which promises to be both tough and sympathetic, is being assembled at the Marco Polo Hotel, owned by businessman Carlos Dominguez, whom Duterte calls his "boyhood chum," and is tipped to become captain of the economic team as secretary of finance.

Foes turned allies, old pals help Duterte build new gov't 1
Carlos Dominguez Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The "transition team" is a holdover of the relatively small campaign team that oversaw Duterte's rise from reluctant candidate to winning the elections with one of the largest mandates since the restoration of democracy in 1986.

"What is important for the mayor is getting people who can deliver. We have a lot of promises to meet and we have to have impact immediately," Duterte's spokesman, Peter Laviña, told ABS-CBN News.

Peter Laviña, Leoncio Evasco, Duterte, and Bong Go. Photo courtesy of Duterte '2016' Bohol Movement

Laviña recalled the martial law years when, as a young activist, he was on the other side of the ideological fence as Duterte, who was then a public prosecutor.

The divide was wider with former rebel priest Leoncio Evasco, who was prosecuted in court by the young Duterte. Evasco, now mayor of Maribojoc town, was the maverick mayor's national campaign manager.

"He was against them (at first), but because of their exchanges, the mayor realized that these are people who are fighting for their principles. He started to admire these people," Lavina told ABS-CBN News.

Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco (left) with Duterte Photo courtesy of Duterte '2016' Bohol Movement

"I remember his message to Evasco at the start of the campaign: vet the people who will come into our team. You have to be very careful. That same standard we will follow when getting people into government," he said.


Laviña has worked with the Duterte family for many years, starting with the mayor's mother, Soledad.

Laviña, a former journalist and businessman, said he dropped a foreign consultancy job to join the Duterte campaign.

Another transition team member, Christopher Go, is Duterte's all-around assistant, in charge of his schedule and finances.

The boyish-looking Go is often seen behind the mayor's ear in campaign pictures, earning him the "photobomber" title on social media.

Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Duterte Facebook page 

Go is the grandson of a long-time friend of the Dutertes and has been working with the mayor since 1998, when he briefly served in Congress before returning as mayor in 2001.

On the second night after the elections, when it became clear that his boss was poised to be president, Go shot some hoops with Duterte's running mate, Alan Peter Cayetano in Davao.


If not appointed to manage the country's finances, Dominguez will likely serve as transportation secretary, to manage a government agency that Duterte described as among the most corrupt.

"He's my boyhood chum and neighbor namin. We grew up together," Duterte told reporters, when asked why Dominguez would be joining his cabinet.

In a profanity-laden speech at his final campaign rally last week, Duterte blasted rival and former transportation secretary Mar Roxas for mismanaging Manila's Metro Rail Transit.

"Ano nangyari? Nahulog ang tren. Nakita mo ang Pilipino, diyan ako nasasaktan. I am a Filipino tapos gaganunin mo ang bayan ko?"

Foes turned allies, old pals help Duterte build new gov't 2

Another old friend joining the Cabinet is former peace adviser and press secretary Jesus Dureza, whose "expertise," according to Duterte, is uplifting the lives of the poor in the conflict-wracked southern island of Mindanao.

He jokes fondly about their days at the Ateneo de Davao, where Duterte was expelled before he finished his law studies at San Beda College.

"He got 94. I got 75," Duterte said of Dureza.


Laviña is aware of the tough road ahead. Duterte inherits an economy that has grown at record pace, but whose gains have not been felt by the poorest of the poor.

The new government is also tasked with ending decades of insurgency in the south after a peace pact with the country's largest Muslim rebel group failed to pass in Congress under incumbent President Benigno Aquino III.

"We are good soldiers. We are ready, boy scouts kami. We have a good agenda this is for the good of the country, so sacrifice kami lahat," Laviña said.

"We are just very simple people. Wala kaming ambisyon, that's why people like us gravitate towards the mayor. Bilib kami sa kanya," he said.