By Chito A. Fuentes
After Zambales and Pangasinan in late April, Labor Day and the defeat of boxing hero Manny Pacquiao by Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Listening Tour of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has returned to “home base” – Mindanao – with its May 5 holding in Marawi City.
Now looming as a presidential candidate in 2016, Duterte paid courtesy calls
on Marawi Mayor Fahad Salic, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong and had lunch with former Marawi City Mayor Omar Solitario Ali before proceeding to the multi-sectoral forum at the GMA Terminal Complex.
Duterte, Mindanao’s most prominent contemporary political figure, was mobbed in the predominantly Muslim city, just as he had been virtually mobbed wherever he goes in Mindanao, the country’s second biggest island which political analysts said could be Duterte’s “Solid South” if he runs for President.
In latest surveys by Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia, Duterte landed third behind Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe. In the SWS survey in Mindanao, Duterte beat Binay and Poe.
The mayor has already visited the cities of Butuan, Zamboanga, Pagadian, Dipolog, Dapitan, Ozamis, Iligan, Valencia, Mati, Tagum and many major towns in the Mindanao. The Listening Tour has also gone to key cities in the Visayas and Luzon where Duterte was also warmly welcomed.
From Marawi, Duterte’s Listening Tour will go to Cotabato.and Cagayan de Oro.
The mayor’s Marawi and Cotabao forays come on the heels of his highly-successful and well-received sorties in Iba, Zambales and Urdaneta City, Pangasinan in late May.
Duterte was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception he received in both places with no less than the chief local executives on hand to roll out the red carpet.
Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane and Iba Jun Rundstedt Ebdane led the welcoming horde in Iba that was estimated to be close to 3,000 people.
Gov. Ebdane paid a glowing tribute to Duterte whom he considers the “best mayor in the country”.
“In the implementation of the law, (Duterte) is my idol,” the governor unabashedly declared.
Meanwhile, Mayor Amadeo Perez III welcomed Duterte in Urdaneta.
A third generation mayor from the most prominent political clan in the city, Perez said he respects Duterte’s leadership.
Also present was former Pangasinan Vice Gov. Gonzalo Duque who hosted Duterte’s visit in Dagupan City.
More than a thousand people flocked to the different venues where Duterte spoke, many of them already supportive of his advocacies enough to urge him to run.
While people in the Visayas and Luzon are slowly opening their minds on Duterte’s advocacy for federalism, it takes on a more urgent tone in Mindanao as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) faces rough sailing in Congress.
Duterte has repeatedly warned that hostilities will break down if the BBL fails and hammered home the obvious that Mindanao will be the battleground.
More than any part of the country, it is in Mindanao where the fate of the BBL is being awaited because it will be the most directly affected.
Duterte has pointed out the obvious: no leader of national consequence has come out with a clear position on what he or she intends to do in Mindanao in case the BBL fails.
No one, except Duterte has proposed federalism in Mindanao – and perhaps the country’s – as the last card to avert bloodshed and fragmentation of the republic.
Precisely because of that, more and more people see Duterte as the best card going into the next six years, one who can spell the difference between a captain who has the competence, credibility and experience to steer the ship through rough seas and those who can make the same claim without nothing to prove it.