Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is planning an overseas trip next month that is expected to fuel more speculation about his attempt to seek the presidency in 2016.
This will mark the first time that he will meet Filipinos abroad since the popular Davao City mayor started a nationwide swing to discuss what ails the country and to push for his advocacy to shift to a federal-parliamentary system of government.
The specific country, however, has not been officially announced, although members of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in Hong Kong speculated about Duterte’s visit to the former British colony in China. Quiboloy, whose ministry is based in Davao City, is a close friend of the mayor.
Hong Kong has the biggest number of OFW registered voters at 127,949 as of March 11, this year. Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is second with 112,954 absentee voters.
According to Commission on Election Spokesman James Jimenez, there are now over 1.167 million overseas Filipino voters. They are mostly in the Middle East & Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe and seafarers on board foreign ships.
In Valencia City, Bukidnon last Wednesday and in Batangas City, and Tanauan, Batangas on Friday, Duterte again called on the country to prepare Federalism as an alternative in the event the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) fails in Congress, the Supreme Court or in the people’s plebiscite. He warned that war is not an option.
He asserted that if government will give the BBL to the autonomous Muslim regions in Mindanao, it is bound to grant the same to the clamor of the Cordilleras and the other regions of the country on the principle of equality before the laws. “What we give to Pedro, we must give to Juan or Maria,” Duterte, a lawyer, pointed out.
Duterte traces the origins of the country’s key problems of conflict, corruption and underdevelopment to colonization and the unitary system imposed by Spain and America for control of the Philippine islands dating back almost six centuries ago.
In his first planned speaking engagement abroad, Duterte, who remains coy about his presidential plans, is expected to echo the same views and also consult OFWs on their working and living conditions away from their homeland.
In 1994, at the height of the execution of Filipina OFW Flor Contemplacion in Singapore, the feisty mayor became the poster boy of protest in the country. He led an indignation rally in front of Davao City Hall with the burning of a replica of the Singaporean flag. The event caused a stir with Singapore lodging a formal diplomatic protest.
The Davao mayor continues to attract popular support recently registering a surprising 12% in the March 1-7 Pulse Asia survey among potential presidential candidates for 2016. This was affirmed with the release on Thursday of the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey on March 20-23 showing him garnering 15%.
In many countries abroad, various support groups for Federalism and Duterte have sprung up among OFWs, creating their own presence in social media and awaiting any visit by the Davao mayor.
Many political analysts consider Duterte as a serious contender in spite of his insistence that he is not interested in the presidency. University of the Philippines (UP) Professor J Prospero de Vera III, commenting at Businessworld on the SWS survey, described him as a “viable alternative.” University of Santo Tomas (UST) Professor Edmund Tayao, dissecting the result of the surveys on dzMM Saturday morning, described him as “the dark horse.”