The Province of Bukidnon on April 15 showed an unfolding political phenomenon in Mindanao as different political groups gathered to welcome a man widely believed to be the country’s next President, Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte.
Led by the political kingpin of the province, Governor Jose Zubiri, the province’s four congressmen, 21 of the 22 mayors and over 400 barangay chairmen gathered in Valencia City for Duterte’s “Listening Tour,” a nation-wide consultative forum focusing on Federalism.
Setting aside their local political differences and agenda, the leaders of the province joined Zubiri in signifying support for Duterte who is being pushed by Mindanao leaders to vie for the Presidency, a move which could make him the first President from the troubled Southern Philippines.
“What is happening in Bukidnon will happen in the rest of Mindanao and the Southern Islands should Rody declare that he will run for President,” said Zubiri.
Zubiri’s statement reflected what happened in the previous sorties of Duterte in other parts of Mindanao where opposing political groups who were fighting tooth and nail agreed to rally behind the Davao City Mayor.
In Zamboanga del Norte in March, the feuding groups of the former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos and incumbent Governor Berto Uy both welcomed Duterte in separate events.
In other areas, opposing political groups are now arranging a modus vivendi to be able to throw their full support to the Davao City Mayor.
Political analysts believe that Mindanao and the Southern Islands will go full force for a Duterte Presidency because of his politically correct and practical solutions to the problems confronting the South.
Duterte’s advocacy on Federalism which proposes the creation of Federal States offers a viable and practical option to the beleaguered Bangsamoro Basic Law which calls for the establishment of a powerful autonomous Muslim region with no defined territories.
Under the Federalism advocacy of Duterte, he is proposing that the Bangsamoro People be given their own Federal State in a Federal Parliamentary system of government in the Philippines.
This is an option which is both acceptable to the majority Christians of the island who are wary of the intentions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is behind the BBL move and also to the minority Muslims who have long desired for self-governance.
On the issue of Sabah which strikes an emotional chord among the Tausugs, Duterte has declared that the Philippine government should not abandon the proprietary claim of the Sultanate of Sulu over the territory even if it is now part of the Federal States of Malaysia.
In the case of the 42-year-old Communist insurgency which has largely affected the development of Mindanao and also the rest of the country, Duterte has declared that he is willing to work with the Communists in his government provided they lay down their arms and pursue reforms legally.
Finally, for the people of Mindanao who are the country’s top producers of food and agricultural products, Duterte has emphasised the need for radical reforms in agriculture focusing on an all-out government support for the sector under the battle cry “Available and Affordable Food for the Filipinos.”
With a voting population of almost 15 million, Mindanao’s full support for a Duterte Presidency could give other Presidential contenders a very big headache.
“This is a political phenomenon unseen in Mindanao ever since. The people are excited to see a Mindanaoan become President and any local politician who will go against the tide of that popular sentiment risks losing the support of the voters,” said a Mindanao political analyst.
“Wala kang magagawa kung pulitiko ka, kailangan sumunod ka na lang sa gusto ng mga tao. Gusto nila si Duterte,” said retired police colonel Patricio Piñol who belongs to a big political clan in North Cotabato