If you look south and it’s me you see, and if Gov. (Jose) Zubiri is beside me, I might think about (running for President in 2016),” Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said at the conclusion of his speech on April 15 during a forum on federalism in Valencua City in Bukidnon.
It touched off a thunderous applause instead.
Duterte has been categorical about his disinterest in the presidency and he said so again at the start of his speech during the “Summit on Federalism and Current Issues” at the Valencia City gym.
He recalled that he was merely chosen to give a face to federalism by two of the region’s elder statesmen, former Assemblyman Ruben Canoy and ex-Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. which is the reason why he is going around the country.
Canoy, who was seated at the presidential table on stage, nodded in agreement.
On September last year while the country’s Muslims were jubilating and eagerly awaiting the creation of a new Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao, the Philippine southern island’s Christian political leaders were hatching up a plan yo prod Manila to adopt a federal form of government in Mindanao.
Duterte met in a closed-door meeting with five influential Mindanao political leaders to discuss federalism.
The political leaders in the historic Davao City meeting were Romeo Jalosjos of Dapitan City, Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, former Cagayan de Oro City mayor Vicente Emano, former DOTC secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, and Rueben Canoy of the Radio Mindanao Network. The meeting of the group called “Council of Leaders,” would be followed by the launching of the Federal Movement in Mindanao in Davao City in December.
Duterte was eagerly awaited inside the 4,000-capacity gym. The audience stood and clapped as he made his way to the stage and once again when his turn to speak came.
There was no mistaking the agenda of the gathering with tarpaulins welcoming Duterte saying: “the Filipino people should support a presidential candidate who promises during his incumbency (a) federal parliamentary form of government will be a reality.”
Zubiri left no doubt about the importance of the gathering, pointing out that only one of Bukidnon’s 20 town mayors and two city mayors was absent while all 464 barangays were represented.
Also present were Representatives Jose Zubiri III, Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba and Rogelio Neil Roque.
Former Sen.Miguel Zubiri also graced the event.
The scene inside the gym was a virtual microcosm of Mindanao: indigenous peoples in their ethnic costumes, government officials in their office uniforms, religious leaders, ordinary citizens and soldiers and policemen.
The welcome fit for a president was not what Duterte wanted, but which he could do nothing about.
In the end, he was left with little choice but to acknowledge that he might just think over what he said is like “a distant star”.
For people in a region that has been looking north since the birth of the republic, there is little doubt it is time to look south.
With the elections still more than a year ahead, that is good enough for his audience who rewarded him with a thunderous applause.
Worrying over BBL
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte expressed his concern about the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is facing rough sailing in Congress during a forum on Federalism in Valencia City in Bukidnon on April 15.
The mayor had repeatedly warned that violence will break out in the event that the BBL fails.
Duterte, however, made it clear that he is merely hoping for the passage of the BBL “for the sake of peace”.
The mayor pointed out that if the BBL is given to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the government is bound to give it to all.
“There must be equality of the law,” he stressed.
The BBL has come under closer scrutiny after the Mamapasano incident with at least four senators voicing opposition to it.
With the BBL hanging in the balance, Duterte said the problem is that the government has no plan B.
“Nobody is minding the store,” he added, pointing to the uncertainty in the region which he said will again be the battleground.