President Duterte’s Daughter; Who Is Sara Duterte?

Joshua Romero
4 min readJun 27, 2020

Sara Duterte’s expanded appearance on the national politics fires speculation of her possible route to Presidency.

FILE PHOTO: Presidential Daughter and Davao City Mayor ‘Inday’ Sara Duterte on a State Dinner hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on His Majesty’s Enthronement in Japan.

Who is Sara Duterte? The Philippines First Daughter, lawyer, City Mayor of Davao, a rebellious (as what her father describes), commercial and brand ambassador, motorcycle-loving person, who is frequently viewed by Filipinos as a frontrunner in the race to follow his father’s footsteps, Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency. Let’s take a closer look at Inday Sara’s life, what we know about her past, what that might tell to the future, and the vision she has for the country.

We begin with her early years growing up as a daughter of Davao. Inday Sara was and is a child of Davao, born and raised in the city, to life much evolves in governance and politics. She was the second of the fourth child of President Rodrigo Duterte and former Flight Attendant Elizabeth Zimmerman.

In 1986, Rodrigo Duterte was appointed as City Vice-Mayor by President then, Corazon Aquino, and later won for the mayoral seat in 1988 until 1998. Rodrigo has been credited for turning Davao City from murder capital to the fourth safest city in the Philippines. The family lives a simple life, Sara referring to his father Rodrigo, as a disciplinarian with a stiff parental approach, while her mom Elizabeth is someone she can always lean on. However, his father’s parental approach thrusts her to what and where she is today, a lawyer, a public servant, and a mother.

Sara took up her bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy at San Pedro College and graduated in 1999. In her inaugural speech as City Mayor of Davao, Sara said she first wanted to be a pediatrician instead of a politician. She later took up a law degree at the San Sebastian College and graduated in May 2005, a year later she passed the Philippine Bar Exam.

At the height of her law school years, Sara underwent what every student feels, on the verge of giving up and feeling hopeless as she badly struggled on Wills and Successions, on a desperate need to speak to a lawyer; Which she declared as someone who bears no emotions in terms of personal advice. She rarely talks to her father, they are more likely to have a love-hate relationship, her father, Rodrigo is ‘hard to love.’ One night back then, Rodrigo’s aide has advised her to call his father, and she did. She could not speak, and can’t even utter a single word as emotion flows on the conversation and cried non-stop like a dying dog. “Asa ka? (Where are you?)” her father, Rodrigo started with an alarmed tone. There was silence at the other end of the phone before he asked her: “Buntis ka?”

That was the time when she started to laugh. A laughed so hard, really hard- like a hyena frantic for air. She then confessed her struggle on Wills and Successions. She could hear the exasperation in his voice as he answered: “The answers are not in your tears. Go back to your books!” In 2006, on her first take, she passed the Philippine Bar Exam and successfully become a high-caliber lawyer.

In 2010, she followed her father’s footsteps and won a mayoral seat in Davao City, becoming the first female and youngest mayor to be elected in office. Sara first became a national figure in the Philippines in 2011 when the mayor back then, was filmed beating a sheriff during a dispute over a shantytown demolition.

On the rise of her popularity, Sara has been tag as “The Iron Lady of the South” due to her feisty rule and governance in the city. At her forties, the Lady Mayor is indeed a looker, has gained another important and prolific career as a popular public where she has been tapped to be a brand ambassador of a medium to large domestic brands like; Rexidol, NCCC Mall, Bioderm, Davao-based Fashion designer Silverio Creation, and so much more.

On her father, Rodrigo Duterte’s victory on the 2016 Presidential Elections, she is said to serve as incumbent First Lady, which she later declined due to her mayoral duty in Davao City, but she accompanied her father’s foreign trips and appear as a First Lady where she met world leaders such as the Japanese Royal Family, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Singapore President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; Chinese President Xi Jinping; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, etc. Midway through Duterte’s six-year term, the controversial leader’s popularity is falling amid rising political and economic dilemmas. But while the father’s star may be waning, the daughter’s is glowing brightly.

It is noted that Sara often mimics her father’s trademark tough talk and usually strikes his father’s critics. It is also said to believe that she plays a major role in a coup that ousted House Speaker and Davao del Norte 1st district Representative Pantaleon Alvarez and later replaced by former President Gloria Macapagal — Arroyo. In February 2018, she has launched a broad coalition party, Hugpong Ng Pagbabago to strive against the opposition’s Otso Diretso led by Vice President Leni Robredo. On a landslide victory, Sara’s party won a landslide which has catapulted 9-candidate to the senate and leaves no room for opposition bets.

Sara has resided humble and has yet to announce her decision by 2021 about a possible presidential run in 2022. Her father has frequently quipped about her as a possible future president, while politicians in his camp have already endorsed her potential candidacy.

As President Duterte shows signs of his own political retirement, the next generation of the emerging dynasty looks increasingly well-placed to keep the Duterte on top.



Joshua Romero

Writes about Psychology & Emotional Intelligence | Transformation & Innovation | E: