Thousands fete Duterte in grand victory party

Joel Guinto and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2016 05:06 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2016 03:55 AM

DAVAO CITY (3rd UPDATE) - Hundreds of thousands celebrated President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's victory on Saturday in Davao City, filled with hope that the tough-talking outsider who shook national politics will deliver on his promise to defeat crime and corruption.

An estimated 500,00 people wearing shirts printed with the 71-year-old firebrand's image converged at a sprawling park that is right next to a crocodile farm.

It is the single largest public gathering in the city in recent memory, Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz, the city police spokeswoman, told ABS-CBN News.

Many endured hours on the road from surrounding provinces, some with sleeping blankets, to celebrate the victory of the first President-elect from Mindanao.

Duterte, an outsider in national politics, swept to power in the May 9 elections promising to uplift the lives of the poor by waging a relentless fight against crime and corruption.

"He should continue being strict, especially against drug lords and drug users. We hope he fulfills his promise," supermarket cashier and long-time Davao resident Queennie Grace Varela told ABS-CBN News.

Duterte should consider toning down his tough talk, which distracts people who are unfamiliar with him from appreciating his decisiveness as a leader, said school teacher Rahima Ali.

"Sana may pagbabago. Kung ano ang expectations ng tao sa kanya na dapat, sana ipalabas na niya," said Ali, who traveled 12 hours from Sultan Kudarat province to attend the "DU31" rally.

STREET PARTY

Loud bass thumped from loud speakers as Davao City-based singers entertained the crowd, who were sprawled on picnic blankets in the grass field.

Later in the evening, television stars and DJs from Manila worked up the crowd ahead of the new President's speech.

The park grounds bustled with vendors selling souvenir items including caps, key chains and shirts with pictures of Duterte and his youngest son, Sebastian, an unlikely heartthrob during the campaign because of his bad boy charm.

Local politicians assembled at a holding area, awaiting Duterte's arrival, where they were served with vanilla cupcakes, which were frosted to resemble the image of the country's new leader.

Another spread of 5,000 cupcakes were covered with icing in the colors of the Philippine flag.

Thousands fete Duterte in grand victory party 1
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, surrounded by close aides, talks to the crowd during the "DU31" victory party in Davao City on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of people, some from surrounding provinces, trooped to Davao City to join one of the largest public gatherings in the city in recent memory. Jonathan Cellona-ABS-CBN News

MINDANAO SON

Duterte's election victory has brought hope to the poor of Mindanao, who have long felt marginalized with power and commerce centered in the capital, Manila.

Duterte has promised to spread economic growth to the provinces, calling Manila, with chronic traffic jams and creaking infrastructure, a "dead city."

“We are very proud that our next president is from Mindanao,” 34-year-old Jimmy Legaspi told ABS-CBN News at his roadside Pomeroy stall here. “We want peace, not just in Mindanao but in the entire country.”

The main southern island of Mindanao has been mired in poverty due to a decades-long Muslim insurgency.

Duterte's Davao is a rare patch of calm where business thrives and his supporters attribute this to his tough policies which include a smoking and drinking ban and a night curfew for minors.

Duterte's critics, however, accuse the mayor of tolerating vigilante “death squads.” He has denied the allegation.

“We've heard of criminals being killed, but we're not afraid because we are not doing anything wrong,” said Legaspi's 33-year-old wife, Inday.

The Legaspi couple, both high school dropouts, said they would attend Saturday's party with their seven-year-old son, whom they hope would finish college.

Duterte has stayed in Davao since the May 9 elections. Congress officially proclaimed him last week and he will take over from outgoing President Benigno Aquino on June 30.

He has also promised to govern from both Manila and Davao even if it meant a grueling daily commute by plane.