Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Launching and Commissioning of the Philippine Red Cross Humanitarian Vessel
Philippine Navy Headquarters, Roxas Boulevard, Manila
09 May 2017

Salamat. Kindly sit down.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III; Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial; Secretary Benjamin Diokno and the members of the Cabinet; Senator Richard Gordon, the incoming President of the Republic of the Philippines. [applause and cheers] 

The donors of Red Cross might want to consider the man behind Red Cross. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives; officials, employees of the Philippine Red Cross; men and women of the Philippine Navy; fellow workers in government; honored guests; my beloved countrymen.

You know, there are two persons I dread to be with if they are talking. [laughter]

One was, well, [modulates voice] he was not able to hurdle the Commission on Appointments but [laughter]…Well, he’s really bright, but… And every Cabinet meeting, I would be wondering what he’s saying. [laughter] And second is… The diction is perfect. The voice is good, but the drawl, it’s not even American, it’s not Texan, it’s a little bit of an Ilocano ang pagsalita. [laughter]

No offense intended, Mr. President Gordon, [cheers] but… You know, I come from a province and we seldom hear that kind of talk. Unless, there is a visiting American Navy or American tourist, I get to talk to them, and we are not quite adept in making out, especially if your hearing is not good, like me.

I was whispering to the City Health Secretary, “Can you make out of what the guy is talking?” And he said, “He was talking about Red Cross.” “Oh, I know.” [laughter]

You talk with a fast… You talk fast and the drawl is distinctly Ilocano, [laughter] parang…

Well, I have a prepared speech. It’s about two pages and if we want to go home early, I can accommodate you. It will take about less than a minute.

But I would like to share with you a very profound experience in my life.

You know, we, local government officials, I, like [Lito?] of Zamboanga, we have been… I have been mayor for the last 23 years in Davao before becoming a President. And we are not new to disasters, man-made or natural. And we deal with it almost every other day.

There’s a fire. You have to get up from bed, go to the fire scene, then start mobilizing your men and you stay there until you are satisfied that everything is in place. That is how we live as local officials. We stare eyeball-to-eyeball with the human tragedy.

But nothing can beat the November 8… Senator Gordon, ay President Gordon, [laughter] corrected me I thought it was November 5 and it was November 8, 2013.

I was really appalled that despite the fact that the warning came to us early and that it would be the most powerful typhoon so far in the century. But it’s not in the nonchalant attitude but many of our countrymen took it lightly.

And when it hit Leyte and Samar, we were all ignorant of what was really happening. The towers were down and there was no communication at all. I was able to get through and got the news from the military. You know wherever they are, they have this string that they can just — and communicate and the… I think it was the [?] of that place, the guy who was assigned to Davao before called me and told me, “Sir, bagsak ang Tacloban.” Sabi ko, “Gaano kabagsak?” “How bad is it?” And I thought that naïveté was really… And I said, “How many died? 300? 200?” He said, “No, Sir, there are thousands around town lying and in decay.”

So that was the following day. That night I mobilized 911 of Davao. Well, aside from… Second to Olongapo, I might be… First, Olongapo, first. [applause] And I have the best 911, the most complete. So I mobilized 10 doctors, 10 nurses, all male and I told them, “Bring as many alcohol as you can because…” I said, “We are not foreigners, aliens to this kind of event.”

So I flew by Cebu Pacific and took a chopper. And no offense intended to anyone. But when I look at the Gulf of Leyte, I could not see even one boat there in the water. There was no ship at all. And when I went down, the guy, I think he was a policeman assigned in the aviation, he has… I was carrying a bottled water, sinabi, “Sir, may tubig kayong dala?” And it dawned upon me that there was really a crisis.

I could not see any ship, of any size, doing any kind of work at all or just even paddling around. And even in the airport there were still bodies, and bodies after bodies, and I could not get a ride.

So I had to walk to the Regional Office of the PNP. And even on the gate, there were about — I could almost surmise that they were highway patrol policemen because of their long boots.

When you ride the motor you have to protect your legs and that’s why these policemen riding — they call it the “hagads” — they have these long boots. And there were three of them, just through the — in the gate. And I went inside and met the officials of the government.

I do not want to say something bad. It’s no longer time to do it. Anyway, we have the ship. It has been all compensated — the agony and suffering. It’s a refreshing sight that there’s a boat there ready to go to where the Filipino is suffering.

Pero iyong nakita ko, I cried twice. I was walking along towards the PNP Headquarters, I could see one family lying together, tapos dalawa, isa, dalawa, and male, female.

But I chanced upon this almost five months baby. She was alone beside a dead dog. And so I excused myself from the party, and said I’d like to pee. Actually I was looking for a — inside the wreckage and I cried.

I could not bear the sight. And what is really [garbled] is that… I do not mean any… Day two, kasi umalis na kaagad ako, I flew out in the afternoon. I went home in the evening. It was at the airport that I cried publicly.

But the following day I was following up because I prepared two teams, I knew or I know now, I knew then that they could only stand two days.

That’s my… That’s my experience in Davao and in the crisis in Mindanao and during the airplane crash when you are there. The stench and everything, the soldiers could only stand and the doctors for two days and after that they would bog down.

So I dispatched the other 20 a day after. And I told them — the original group to come home. And I was asking them, “Is there any activity, the gathering of the dead and everything, the decomposing bodies?” And said, “Not yet.” And I was really… I looked to the heaven and said, “My God what’s…” “Anong nangyari?”

Something went terribly wrong that Yolanda. Very, very wrong. And I just want to share it with you because I could not forget it. Still ‘yung bata na maliit. And there were… The wind must have carried the poor child. And I hope it would not happen again.

I went there because I was born in Leyte. I was… I’m a 1945… When the Americans landed in… My father was a soldier. He was with JAGO. And he was busy in Cebu City. I do not want to mention the personalities but they are old politicians. They were prosecuting them for collaboration with the Japanese government. But I think it was a correct move along the way, an amnesty was declared and everybody was forgiven.

So that’s how I really dread crisis and catastrophes like this. We have to give it to Senator—President Gordon. I have to get used to it, I’m sorry, Mr. President. [laughter] It’s only about a few more years and the… And he’s one guy who every time he goes out of the country, he buys a leather jacket because I ride a motor.

I have gone around the Philippines twice from Abra to — on a big bike. And during the days of crisis or the days of living dangerously, I and Gringo, I call him Gringo, I’d like to call him Gringo now. He was wanted by the government but he was in Davao with me and itong isa si Rod, the guy from the Air Force. We were having a great time touring around the place. [laughter] We were wearing helmets but that is how competent the Armed Forces is. [laughter]

The guy was… We were… I said we were having a great time traveling down the streets of Davao, eating durian on the sidewalk, and my God, nobody recognized Senator Honasan, [laughter] and I said that’s how good our Armed Forces are or is. [laughter]

You know I have to make the salutations and the terms of endearment. This would not have been possible were it not for the human spirit that you possess. And to you guys I salute you. [applause] And I would want to say my personal words and even to the guy — to do justice to the guy who prepared the speech. Para naman may…

When the tragedy of Yolanda struck our nation more than three years ago, emergency responders faced the formidable task of reaching the devastated areas due to insufficient transport facilities and heavily damaged infrastructure.

We already learned our lesson. I am therefore happy to join you today as we launch the state-of-the-art PRC Relief and Recovery Ship known as the “Amazing Grace”.

That is the song of those who are facing the firing squad. [laughter] What else can you display? Except accept it with grace.

When carrying a capacity of 20 vehicles and 130 passengers and the capability to dock on any port or beach, this ship shall serve as the realization of the PRC’s vision of effectively responding to any disaster anywhere in the country.

Through this ship, the PRC would be able to complement government forces in providing immediate relief assistance during emergency and crisis situations.

This ship shall also serve as a reminder of the will and determination of the PRC to face any obstacle in pursuit of its noble cause.

We therefore appreciate the efforts of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent Movement [applause] in ensuring that PRC would be able to purchase this ship to the funding of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with British, German, and Japanese Red Cross.

With the general assistance to its international partners, PRC has indeed played an indispensable role in the coordination and mobilization of relief operations whenever we face a country situation.

With the launching of this ship, we join the PRC in embracing the culture of volunteerism and selflessness.

May this inspire us to come together and reach out to anyone who may need aid and comfort. 

I also call upon PRC to take a more active role in the efforts to maintain peace and order in our communities.

Be vigilant not only in assisting our people from natural and man-made calamities, but also in initiating programs that would complement our fight against illegal drugs, crime and corruption.

May this ship serve as a concrete reminder to all of us that above all we must prioritize the safety, the well-being and the welfare of our people.

Salamat po. [applause]