Who Says the Mayor Cannot be a National and International Leader?

Prior to being elected as the Chief Executive of our country, President Duterte served as Mayor of Davao City for more than two decades. He first came into office during the late 1980's, at a time when Mindanao was dealing with serious peace and order issues, and Davao City was not what it is now, the center of business and commerce in the island, and one of the most orderly cities in the country. Except for brief stints in Congress and as Vice Mayor to his daughter, current Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, the President, backed up with his experience as a lawyer and banking on the need to make his city survive, successfully steered Davao City into what it is today.

Despite his stellar career as a local government executive, the President's critics and detractors, most of whom are members of the political and economic elite in Manila, question his ability to deal with national and international issues, and use his leadership skills and instinct in leading the Philippines toward its rightful place in the world stage. One of them looked down on him, saying that a Mayor like cannot get the job of President of the Philippines done. Aside from questioning his physical and psychological well-being, they too are now attacking his political and leadership skills.

President Duterte is not the first mayor to be elected as a country's head of state or head of government. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the mayor of Istanbul before becoming prime minister, and, now, president. Prior to becoming the head of government of his country, former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi served as the mayor of Florence from 2009 to 2014. Former French President Francois Hollande served as the mayor of Tulle, a commune in Central France, for seven years before becoming the leader of the Socialist Party, and, later on, being elected as President.

Being former mayors and the lack of prior national office experience did not deter Erdogan, Renzi and Hollande from fulfilling the duties and responsibilities that were assigned to them as leaders of their respective countries.

I believe the same thing can be said about President Duterte. The former Mayor of Davao City, despite the lack of experience in national politics and with tough challenges facing him and his administration, is, so far, doing well as our country's leader, addressing key concerns of almost every Filipino from all sectors of society; and ensuring that economic growth will increase and be sustained and the goal of economic development of all regions will be achieved. He is trying his best to replicate what he did in Davao City during his 20 or so years as mayor to the rest of the country now that he is President.

What impresses me a lot about President Duterte, so far, is his ability to assert himself and the interests of the Philippines on a global scale. Who would have thought that a former mayor, who lacked national political experience and whose leadership skills were being questioned by members of the Manila elite, is now being recognized as a well-respected and very capable leader in Asia, more specifically of the ten-nation ASEAN bloc, pushing for what seems to be a "Asia for Asians" goal, with countries in the region cooperating with each other terms of politics and trade, and settling their differences the way Asians do? Who would have thought that the outspoken former Mayor of Davao City is now dealing with and enjoying rapport with some of the world's most powerful national leaders, namely Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump? Who would have thought that Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the former city mayor, turned the office of President of the Philippines from one being often overlooked prior to him being elected in 2016 toward something of greater global significance, with his statements now being listened to by his counterparts and the major global players now taking him and the Philippines seriously?

President Duterte, the long-time city mayor who lacked national political experience, and whose leadership skills were being questioned by those who vehemently oppose or doubt him, is slowly proving to everyone both in the Philippines and overseas that he can play the role of both national leader and global player with grace.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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