Many have already been rejoicing over Mayor Rodrigo (nicknamed Digong) Duterte’s landslide victory based on the unofficial vote counting from the COMELEC. Having a huge lead from his rivals, he will soon be the Republic of the Philippines’ 16th President. As the Philippine Elections draw to a close, let’s take a closer look at Digong’s history aside from the several news stories we see, hear and read about him.
Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte was born to Vicente G. Duterte and Soledad Roa on March 28, 1945 in Maasin, capital of Southern Leyte. His father is a Cebuano lawyer, while his mother is a native of Cabadbaran, Agusan, and was a school teacher and a civic leader of Maranao descent. His father used to be mayor of Danao in Cebu. Other relatives has also served political positions in Cebu and Davao Provinces. The Dutertes finally settled in the Davao Region in 1951, where Vicente as a lawyer engaged in private practice, while Soledad taught in public schools as a teacher, but later retired as a supervisor in 1952 when her lawyer-husband entered politics there. She left government service owing to the demands of being a wife of an active politician. As wife of the governor, she became familiar with the social and economic problems of the people, especially out-of-school youth, women, children and the disabled.
Duterte went to Laboon Elementary School in Maasin, for a year, then spent his remaining elementary days at the Santa Ana Elementary School in Davao City, where he graduated in 1956. He finished his secondary education at the Holy Cross Academy of Digos after being expelled twice from previous schools due to misconduct. He went to college at the Lyceum of the Philippines University in Manila, where graduated in 1968 with a degree in the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He also obtained a law degree from San Beda College of Law in 1972. In the same year, he passed the bar exam. Duterte eventually became Special Counsel at the City Prosecution Office in Davao City from 1977-1979; Fourth Assistant City Prosecutor from 1979-1981; Third Assistant City Prosecutor from 1981-1983; and Second Assistant City Prosecutor from 1983-1986.
He has siblings named Benjamin “Bong” Duterte, a one-term city councilor of Davao between 1992 to 1995; younger sister Jocelyn Duterte, who lost in several attempts to grab a Third District city council seat as well as for the mayor post in 2001; and Blue Boy Duterte who ran and lost in the First District congressional race in 1998.
Digong is also an avid fan of big bikes, and loathes luxury cars. He once owned a second-hand Harley Davidson and currently a Yamaha Virago. Once a habitual smoker, he eventually quit after a doctor’s suggestion due to health concerns. He is also openly supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights and is an enthusiastic reader of Robert Ludlum and Sidney Sheldon novels.
He has his own local show in Davao City called Gikan Sa Masa, Para Sa Masa (“From the Masses, For the Masses”) aired as a blocktimer on ABS-CBN Davao. He is also a member of Lex Talionis Fraternitas, a fraternity based in the San Beda College of Law and the Ateneo de Davao University.
He was once married to Elizabeth Abellana Zimmerman. She is a flight attendant from Davao City and is of German American descent with roots as well in Tuburan, Cebu. Together, they have three children: Paolo (“Pulong”), Sara (“Inday Sara”) and Sebastian (“Bastê”). Paolo and Sara ventured into politics while Baste concentrated on business. Duterte’s father Vicente died in 1968, while his mother Soledad died on February 4, 2012, at the age of 95. Zimmerman was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2015.
Duterte has been publicly very open about his infidelity and philandering while married to Zimmerman and cited it as the reason for his failed first marriage when asked in interviews. In 1998, Zimmerman filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court in Pasig to nullify her marriage. Duterte never appeared in court and did not contest Zimmerman’s petition. Two years later, the court decided in her favor, ending the 27-year marriage of Duterte and Zimmerman. Duterte and Zimmerman have been on good terms in recent years with Zimmerman stating, “Yes, he [Rodrigo] is really a very good leader. That is all he is. But when it comes to family, he is not capable of taking care of it.” In 2001, Zimmerman eventually ran for a seat on the city council but lost. Duterte and Zimmerman are said to have patched things up and appear to be civil to each other, 15 years after their marriage was declared null and void. Zimmerman eventually joined the campaign trail for Duterte’s presidential candidacy in early 2016 called Byaheng Du30 in which she would travel by bus to major cities together with her daughter Sara and a number of delegates.
Despite his status being listed as “single” in the Davao City government website, Duterte is currently living with his common-law wife Cieleto “Honeylet” Avanceña, a nurse, with whom he has one daughter named Veronica (“Kitty”). Duterte has eight grandchildren, half of whom are Muslims and the other half Christian.
Despite being raised as a communicant of the Catholic Church, on January 19, 2016, while meeting with businessmen in Binondo, Manila, he clarified that he has not attended Mass for quite some time already since he deemed it incompatible with his mayoral responsibilities: “(Kung) pakinggan ko ‘yang Ten Commandments, pati ‘yong pari diyan, wala na akong magagawa sa pagka-mayor ko” (“If I listened to the Ten Commandments or to the priests, I would not be able to do anything as a mayor”). Duterte then clarified that he had not abandoned God, only “forfeited” his religion for the meantime.
Duterte personally disclosed that he suffers from Buerger’s Disease, an inflammation of blood vessels mostly in the limbs that has been traced to previous habitual smoking, contrary to earlier rumors of throat cancer.
Credits to: Wikipedia