Duterte sets presidential bid, 30-day Visayan sortie

A DARK horse from Mindanao will attempt to woo the tilt the vote-rich Mindanao even as Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II, the presumptive standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party, is still reeling from the “fatwa” and Vice President Jejomar Binay, the one leading the presidential race surveys, considers the region an opposition bailiwick.

Controversial Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to join the presidential race and started the sorties in his mother’s hometown Butuan City, which is completely under the control of the Liberals.

Duterte announced his plans to do a “listening tour” nationwide in 30 days to inform the public about his plans to replicate throughout the country the things he had done in Davao City.

A supporter of Duterte, North Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol, said Duterte will be in Zamboanga City on Jan. 25 and then Pagadian City the day after.

Another visit is scheduled shortly after to Cebu, then to Puerto Princesa, Dumaguete and Dipolog, all in the Visayan-speaking heartland.

But interspersed in between forays in his regional base, Duterte will also be going to Baguio, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan within the next 30 days.

This early, Duterte showed his supporters he was a serious presidential contender as he distributed during the Jan. 23 Butuan symposium a two-page pamphlet that they read before the Davao mayor’s arrival.

The pamphlet was written in Cebuano Bisaya, and there was an enumeration of all the country’s presidents beginning with Andres Bonifacio of the Tagalog Republic of 1896, all the way to the incumbent Benigno Aquino III.

“In all of 118 years, only two Bisaya became presidents of the Philippines, and both accidentally: Osmeña, when Quezon died and Garcia when Magsaysay died in a plane crash.  It has been almost 60 years when we had a Bisaya for President,” says the flyer that is attributed to a movement called Kita ang Magmugna sa atong Kaugmahon [We should determine our own future].”

The venue was festooned with tarpaulins proclaiming Duterte as “Anak sa Mindanao ug Kabisay-an, Lider sa Katawhan (Son of Mindanao and the Visayas, Leader of the People).”

Duterte’s wanting to be the third Bisaya president comes at a time when Roxas’ fatwa has yet to be lifted and Binay is still leading the presidential race surveys.

Roxas hails from Aklan in the Visayas while Binay is from Northern Luzon.

Roxas, who lost to Binay in the May 2010 elections, opposed the signing of an agreement that would have created a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in Mindanao in 2008.

Muslim ulamas issued a fatwa against Roxas, deposed President Joseph Estrada, and then senatorial candidate Franklin Drilon, declaring them enemies of Islam and sanctioning votes for them as “haram” or forbidden.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the appointment of Roxas as chief of staff of President Benigno Aquino III did not bode well for the peace process.

“Our leaders in Manila hardly understand the cultural and social realities of Mindanao and impose their policies trying to forge an impractical peace pact,” Duterte told the crowd.

“While I pray for the sake of peace that the BBL or the Bangsamoro Basic Law will pass into law, I know and you know that it will not appease all our Muslim brothers. The only solution to prevent further trouble is to shift to federalism.”

The crowd was in rapt attention, but it was when he described in an hour-long extemporaneous speech and in colorful Bisaya peppered with expletives how he disciplined rogue policemen and cleansed his large domain of drug lords and hardened criminals, while instilling a strict sense of discipline among its population that he elicited lusty cheers and thunderous applause, Duterte’s supporters said.

“I have to protect two million residents of my city, not to count the hundreds of thousands who visit us for business or tourism, which is why I threaten the few criminals who prey upon my citizens or destroy the lives of our youth, warning them they better leave Davao, vertically or horizontally, for all I care [expletive deleted],” Duterte said.  And the crowd, including elderly women who must have come to the hall from the nearby Santo Niño Cathedral, roared in approval.

In the humid capital of Caraga, Duterte flew in around noon Thursday aboard a small helicopter, and immediately drove in a simple motorcade to the Doña Ynes Convention Center where a crowd of professionals, businessmen, market and transport sector leaders, and students from the two largest universities in the city waited for more than two hours.

Other than Agusan del Norte Gov. Maria Angelica Amante, who hails from Cabadbaran, the town where Duterte’s mother Soledad Roa was born and raised, there was none of the usual politicians in a city completely controlled by the Liberal Party.

With none of the usual florid introductions, Duterte went up the platform clad in denims and a striped red shirt and began a lecture on his advocacy: the conversion of the highly centralized unitary system into a federal political structure similar to Malaysia and even the USA.



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