When he was Mayor of Davao City, transport group leaders asked Rody Duterte for a permit to hold a one-day transport strike.
To the surprise of the transport group leaders, Duterte issued them a week-long permit and even gave them sacks of rice to feed the strikers.
When he related the story to me, I asked him why he did it and his reply was very simple.
“I have always respected people’s right to air their grievance against government. I will allow them to walk until they are tired and shout until their voices are hoarse,” he said.
Beyond that statement, however, I saw the gambit of a brilliant strategist, one who uses the strength of his opponents to weaken them.
Classic Duterte but sadly, not many people know this facet of his political persona.
Today, as the national transport strike of jeepney groups enters a second day, President Duterte has again announced that there will be no work in government offices and no classes in all levels.
There was never any attempt on the part of the President to negotiate with the transport groups to stop their strike.
There are no policemen controlling their activities.
By ordering that there will be no work in government offices and no classes in all levels, President Duterte deprives the rallyists their main weapon in pressuring government which is discomfort and inconvenience to commuters.
Classic example of using the enemy’s strength to overpower him.
At the end of the day today, I am sure the leaders of the transport groups will ask themselves: What have we achieved? How much did we lose in daily earnings?
Then, they will realise that their attempt to paralyse Metro Manila by staging a transport strike has actually exploded in their faces.
I guess people now know who paid a dear price for a tactical mistake.
The moral lesson: Don’t engage Duterte unless you truly know him.