BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Although he may not be as popular among Luzon voters, the name Rodrigo Duterte is a byword in the Visayas and Mindanao, a veritable goldmine for Muslim and Bisaya votes if the Davao City mayor takes the challenge to run for President in 2016.
The Visayas and Mindanao voting population is about 45 percent of total number of registered voters.
The 2016 election may be Duterte’s first foray into national politics, but Luzon may also chip in a sizable chunk of votes, with Duterte gaining nationwide popularity as a no-holds-barred anti-corruption and anti-crime politician in a nation mired in kleptocracy and zooming crime index.
Amid such landscape, Filipinos today wish for an alternative candidate to make change that they could find in theDavao City mayor.
The same preference could lead Cebuano-speaking Mindanao to gravitate to the Davao mayor.
Duterte’s imprint is also all over Mindanao: as mayor of the southern Philippines’ most progressive city and a key figure in the search for peace in an island hobbled by insurgency.
If the coming presidential election needs a poster boy with a face that could truly describe a Pinoy leader, it should be Duterte.
Davao City is the melting pot of the country’s varied regional groupings, its residents a rainbow of Ilocanos from the far north, the Tagalogs of central Luzon and the Bicolanos southern Luzon; the Cebuanos, Ilonggos and Warays of the Visayas; and the transplanted Christians and the Muslim and lumad tribes of Mindanao.
For over two decades now, Duterte as city mayor had marshalled his constituents of vary-colored persuasions and ethnic origins into a creating a city known for its progress and peace.
Social media arguments in support of a Duterte presidency posit this scenario: Duterte’s brand of leadership, flag-shipped by good governance and an iron-fist anticrime policy that made his city one of the most peaceful and progressive cities, could be replicated throughout the country if the man sits in Malacanang.
Other than regional bias— and belief in the man — voting for Duterte could be the answer to the Visayan psyche’s hanker for a Visayan leader in Malacanang.
After the late Boholano President Carlos P. Garcia many, many decades ago, the presidency has morphed into a face tagged ‘Imperial Manila’ with Luzon politicians sitting in Malacanang.
This political reality, added to inequitable distribution of national resources that gave priority to Luzon, developed a sense of rejection of the Manila government by the people of the Visayas and Mindanao and a hope the presidency would someday be held by a man of their own.
This undercurrent in voters’ preference in the Visayan region may as well be a major factor that could provide Duterte with enough firepower to capture Malacanang.
The Philippine insurgency is a two-faced headache that has remained incurable for decades: the communist New people’s Army (NPA) and the Moro insurgency represented by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Duterte, who espouses peace talks, has proven he could work well with the NPA and its leaders both on the ground and the higher echelon.
He has open lines with NPA front leaders in Mindanao, often acting as go-between in securing release of policemen and soldiers captured by the rebels.
In a testament of trust and confidence on Duterte as an effective partner in peace negotiations, the Netherlands-based Jose Maria Sison, founder the Communist Party of the Philippines, once said peace negotiations could be an easier path if Duterte is the president because of his good relations with the movement and its leaders and for his strong belief in the pro-people advocacies of the communist movement.
Duterte’s role in helping end the Moro insurgency in Mindanao is well-known: As one of Mindanao’s political leaders strongly advocating peace negotiations as a solution to the decades-old conflict, he touches base with both leaders of the MNLF and the MILF.
What is the chance of Duterte capturing the presidency if he had the overwhelming overwhelming support of the Bisaya and the Muslims?