"Here is the transcript of an interview given by the President’s niece."
The following is the edited transcript of Facts First—Christian Esguerra’s podcast interview with Dr. Nuelle Duterte, Sept. 6, 2021.
We would like to ask you first, tell us something about yourself and how are you related to President Duterte?
I grew up in Davao City. I lived there in my first 24 years of life. I studied there. I finished medical school there and after that, I left for Manila and then the US.
I’m related to him because he (Rodrigo Duterte) is my dad’s brother.
The President is the oldest of the boys.
I was my mother’s only child. My dad has a son now. So, I have a half-brother.
Last time I met (President Duterte) it was definitely way before I turned 10--maybe eight—maybe younger.
I grew up like maybe five blocks away from Lola Soling’s house. So, that’s where I would see some of the cousins, relatives. That was where I usually saw him anyway. That was the place I remembered seeing him last.
Esguerra: And you are now based in New Zealand, right?
Duterte: Correct. I work as a psychiatrist.
Esguerra: Were you close to the President?
Duterte: No. Not close.
I don’t really know him personally that well. I heard stories when I was growing up from our other relatives.
Esguerra: Are you happy being a Duterte?
Duterte: Yes. Because being a Duterte for me was something I made myself. When I was growing up in Davao, I wasn’t—you know (big deal)… before he (Rodrigo Duterte) even entered politics, I know that their father was the governor. But I never identified myself as the daughter of—or the—cousin of—or the—niece of—or the—granddaughter of—I was just Nuelle.
I made Nuelle Duterte, my identity. So, it had really very little to do with whatever.
Esguerra: Your (Duterte) surname--how is that affecting you?
I recently moved here (New Zealand). I was previously living in New York and that—yeah, I was there during that 2016 elections, both the US and Philippine (elections).
At first, it was really hard to hide that he (Rodrigo Duterte) was running. I didn’t really believe it. So, lesson learned, I should believe things that I…I was told about it back in 2013 by some people from Davao that he was going to run.
I said like—”No. No. That’s not gonna happen.” Pero yun pala totoo—my gosh.
May balita na umiikot-ikot siya around the country na parang soft campaign kumbaga nagpapakilala. So, may nagsabi sa akin nung 2013, it was about December na yung nga daw—yun ang kanilang ipu-push.
He’s going to be the next president. I’m like—”No, imposible!” But apparently pwede pala.
I didn’t know that he was qualified to be president. And I just—knowing his mouth how that would be on a national scale—international scale pa. Can you imagine that?
I was once told by one of my high school classmates who asked me about him, I said, “really—hanggang Davao lang dapat talaga siya. He should not try for more pa.”
Esguerra: Talk to us about your interesting exchanges with people.
Duterte: A lot of Filipinos in New York were impressed by the style of his speech.
He’s unfiltered. He just says whatever is on his mind. They probably voted for Trump too—I’m sure—come to think of it.
A lot of questions that I got were—”wow, kamag-anak mo?” Oh my gosh. Impressed na impressed sila. And I’m—really? Nothing to be impressed by (with him).
Esguerra: Anong sinasabi mo sa kanila?
I would say, “there’s nothing to be impressed by.” After he won, I would actually put it out bluntly like—”he kills people”--and usually that stops the conversation and they don’t really want to talk about me anymore once I say that.
They didn’t continue to engage with me. Parang conversation killer siya pag sinabi kong pumapatay siya ng tao, talagang totoo yun. And then they’ll say—ah talaga. Okey, next topic.
Hindi sila naniwala.
Yung iba medyo natahimik. Hindi na sila masyadong nagtatanong about him pero yung iba bilib na bilib pa rin.
Meron akong colleague dun sa New York (sa healthcare) na talagang bilib na bilib talaga hanggang ngayon. Feeling niya dapat si Sara ang maging presidente next.
Esguerra: Is this your choice to come out publicly?
Duterte: Yes. I thought that someone had to speak up. I was reading—iba pa yung Facebook ko noon eh—2016—it was my old Facebook account where I was connected with a lot of classmates from Davao.
And it was really horrifying to see posts na nakikipag-away, nang-iinsulto. It was not nice.
And then nung—the news of the Korean businessman who was killed by the police sa Camp Crame. After that, it was really like somebody has to save-- Wala talaga that I saw from Davao was saying anything except, privately.
So, I thought, no. This can’t go on. Somebody has to say something and it has to be me, so I told my mom before I started. Nag-usap muna kami, sabi ko, this is what I’m going to do.
Esguerra: How about threats?
Ewan ko kung trolls or real people but yung sa social media--you know-telling me to shut up or dilawan ka, whatever.
Walang threats to harm. Yung lang—dilawan ka, tumahimik ka, inggit ka lang. Hanggang dun lang talaga.
It’s not as bad as other critics have gotten in terms of actual threats na “sana ma-rape ka or “Kapag umuwi ka dito, mamatay ka”.
To be continued