Philippines president pines for motorcycle, doubts will ride again

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte spoke of his sadness on Friday at having to forfeit his beloved motorcycles in becoming president, and offered tips on handling two wheels and why a Honda was better than a Harley.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a speech during the inauguration of a drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center inside the military headquarters in Fort Magsaysay, in the Nueva Ecija province, north of Manila, Philippines November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The 71-year-old reminisced about touring the Philippines by motorbike and how as a city mayor he used to ride every week on a motorcycle that his security team made him mothball a day after winning a presidential election in May.

“I really do not know if I will be able to ride again with the constricted environment I have now ... That is the drawback of being the president,” Duterte told graduates of a police highway patrol training course.

“I lost the desire because when I go out, my security follow me. Just forget it.”

Duterte’s image as an easy rider adds to the down-to-earth approach that has endeared him to millions of Filipinos.

When he was Davao City mayor he shunned protocol by making visiting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ride pillion on his bike, and he once forced a policeman to fine him for riding without his helmet.

Duterte gave a few lessons in motorcycle safety and recalled a few accidents, including one that damaged a nerve in his neck, which he is frequently seen massaging to prevent headaches.

He boasted of having reached speeds of 180 kph and owning a Yamaha and Honda as well as a Harley Davidson, although he said he was not too happy with that model as it over-heated.

“Throw it in the ditch. It is useless and hot,” he said.

Duterte has overseen a tough anti-drugs campaign in which more than 2,500 people have been killed since he took office on June 30, about three-quarters in police operations, and the rest apparently victims of vigilantes or druglords eliminating rivals.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Martin Petty