BY ROGER M. BALANZA
The snowballing move to convince Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to run for President in 2016 has become so hot that it is now being talked about even in the diplomatic circles.
Duterte frankly admitted that foreign diplomats visiting Davao City needle him about his running for President.
I politely tell them that I am not interested in running, said Duterte in a recent edition of his television program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa on ABS/CBN Southern Mindanao.
He did not name names, but Duterte regularly welcomes ambassadors and other diplomats making a courtesy call at City Hall.
Duterte has repeatedly said he is not interested in running for President despite the persistent calls.
The push for Duterte to take a crack at the presidency began last year after Davao City village officials formed a group to convince him to run. The call to run has now taken a bandwagon effect, with the presidential election only 20 months away.
The Pilipinas Duterte 2016 Movement has gone nationwide in a signature campaign that has amassed more than a million signatures asking Duterte to change his mind.
Organizers of the group said the idea of a Duterte presidency was well received in the places they visited in Mindanao, the Visayas and Luzon, with some sectors volunteering to organize political machineries in case Duterte changes his mind.
Public sentiment in Metro Manila wants Duterte to run for President in the 2016 elections, according to the Center for Enterprise Advancement (CEA), one of several groups that had surfaced to push Duterte to run.
CEA said focus group discussions by youth, labor and business sectors in about 20 locations in Metro Manila, had Duterte emerging as the Number 1 pick for president in 2016.
Mindanao and Visayas political leaders vowed support in case Duterte would join the race.
Reports of a Duterte presidential run has even attracted Senator Miriam Santiago, who has said she would run for President if she is cured of cancer. But Santiago said she would love to have Duterte as her running mate.
The chances of a presidential run for Duterte under a major political party has gone bigger of late in wake of events in the administration Liberal Party (LP) of President Benigno Aquino and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada .
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the LP presidential bet, is hobbled by low ratings in surveys, while Vice President Jejomar Binay, UNA’s choice, is enmeshed in a politically fatal corruption scandal.
If any one of the two falls, Duterte can be a choice by either the LP or UNA, political observers say.
Duterte has made a name for the progress of Davao City which he has steered as mayor for more than 20 years. He is also known for his iron-fist anti-crime policy.