Overworked, underpaid Rody: It’s lonely at the top

Giovanni Nilles - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It has started to sink in. Despite the adulation of millions who gave him the biggest number of votes in history for any Philippine presidential candidate, President Duterte is now feeling lonely at the top – and agonizing over being overworked and underpaid.

“Do not feel shortchanged. My will to work is there. But if you ask me if I’m happy, I am not. It’s lonely. And even when I am home, it is still work,” Duterte said in an address to the officers of the League of Cities and Provinces yesterday.

“I am not used to this kind of life,” he added as he asked the officers to take their seats and address him as a mayor instead. The Chief Executive had served as Davao City mayor for decades. As mayor, Duterte would make the rounds of his city incognito or spend time with friends at his favorite piano bar after work, before calling it a day.

He admitted feeling uncomfortable being called or addressed as President, as he offered to resign and vacate his post in three to four years if or when the French model of a federal system of government is adopted in the country.

The 71-year-old Chief Executive said his guards would knock at his door each morning to wake him up to start the workday.

There were times, he continued, that he would shed tears while walking, remembering his father, or thinking about the problems facing him as President of the country. It is during these moments that he would simply tell himself “That’s life.”

“Nagpaloko lang kasi ako… gusto ko suntukin ‘yung (nanloko),” Duterte said. (I allowed myself to be fooled… I want to punch (the one who had duped me into this),” he said.

“Tapos pag-uwi ko magba-barge… matulog. Wala na lahat. Pagod ka na… tapos tinanong ko ang sweldo, 130 – ‘Di mabuti pa nag-mayor ako yon lang pala. Ewan ko nga kung may allowance pa ako dito o wala. Hindi ako makatanong. Wala man akong matanungan (I go home by barge then I sleep. No more social life because you also get tired with all the work. And then they ask me how much I get paid, it is P130,000. It would have been better if I remained a mayor. I don’t even know if I have an allowance. I could not ask. I have no one to ask from),” he said, referring to the river crossing he makes each night from the Palace to Bahay Pagbabago across the Pasig, the Coast Guard ever alert.

The President stressed the only reason he is staying in the job is his love for the country.

The tough-talking Duterte – both famous and notorious for his unconventional approach to stamping out criminality, at times in a kind of brinkmanship with the law itself – was catapulted to power by over 16 million votes in the last May 9 elections. His campaign platform of change captivated a nation bruised by poverty, as well as by bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency.

He spends half the workweek in Manila, and goes home to Davao usually every Thursday to spend the weekend, and where more often than not he stops by the After Dark piano bar to sing a song or two, some maruya (fried banana fritters) on the side.

By Sunday he’s back in Manila, and to the reality of being president of more than 100 million Filipinos.

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