A nation in waiting
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2016 - 12:00am

Three days to go and the Philippines will have a new president. Rodrigo Roa Duterte will be our 16th president. Will he create a new Republic? Let’s wait and see.

I am ecstatic that a man from the rich lands of the South won the hearts of the Filipinos. It’s about time the promise land of Mindanao is protected by no less than a native from the island. We have many politicians swarming around Mindanao but are not true natives of the land. We have representations in the executive and legislative branches but Mindanao has remained stricken with civil strife and violent crimes. Worse, the ulterior motive is to exploit Mindanao for personal gain.

As my late father once wrote: The tragedy of Mindanao, however, though partly attributable to a natural phenomenon, reflects the long-term neglect and lack of vision which has kept our ‘Land of Promise’ backwards, steeped in ignorance, feudalism and lack of infrastructure. That brag about “the South” being the promise of our future dates back to Quezonian times and the pre-war Commonwealth. Tons of ‘promises’ have been heaped on Mindanao in the more than half-century between that Golden Yesterday and the disillusionment of modern times, but the promise has never been fulfilled.

Since the year 1935, when Manuel L. Quezon was sworn into the Presidency, eleven presidential and twelve senatorial and local polls have been conducted. In all these 23 electoral exercises, candidates have issued a litany of pledges while campaigning in Mindanao. Every election, candidates commit themselves to introducing the proper legislation, and allocating a substantial proportion of the budget for projects aimed at accelerating the island’s development.

If you draw a comparison with Hawaii, Mindanao can be called our Big Island. This huge island covers 101,998 square kilometers, or 34 percent of our country’s total land area. It is much larger than Taiwan’s 36,000 square kilometers, or Singapore’s miniscule 531.5 square kilometers. And yet, thousands of Filipino migrant workers go to desperately seek employment in Taiwan and Singapore. Mindanao is even slightly bigger than South Korea’s 98,990 square kilometers.

What’s more, Mindanao’s island – in less parched times – is highly fertile and suitable for a wide variety of agricultural crops. Even after massive deforestation, the island still contains 2.6 million hectares of timberland, or roughly 38.5 percent of our total forest cover. Its gold reserves are estimated about 50.3 million metric tons or 48.3 of the country’s estimated reserves of some 104.1 million metric tons. Its nickel reserves are pegged at over a billion metric tons, representing 63 percent of our total nickel reserves. Its fishing grounds teem with tuna, marlin, sardines and a wealth of aquatic resources. Perhaps 60 percent of our exports emanate from Mindanao.

And yet, what has all this natural “wealth” gotten Mindanao?

*      *      *

Digong as he is fondly called is a Filipino lawyer and politician of Visayan descent. Duterte is among the longest-serving mayors in the Philippines and has been Mayor of Davao City for seven terms, totaling more than 22 years. He has also served as vice-mayor and as congressman of the city.

He gained the moniker “The Punisher” because of the vigilante groups said to be responsible for the executions of drug traffickers, criminals, gang members and other lawless elements. Over a period of 20 years, he turned Davao City from the “murder capital of the Philippines” to what tourism organizations now describe as “the most peaceful city in Southeast Asia.”

Duterte had humble beginnings. His father, Vicente Duterte was a Cebuano lawyer while his mother, Soledad Roa, was a public school teacher and a civic leader of Maranao descent. His father was the provincial governor of Davao province and was once the acting mayor of Danao, Cebu. His cousin Ronald served as mayor of Cebu from 1983-1986 while Ronald’s father also held the position from 1957 to 1959. Considered relatives of the Duterte clan are Cebu-based political families of the Durano and Almendras. The Dutertes moved to Mindanao in 1948 and settled in the Davao region in 1951.

Duterte spent his elementary years at Laboon Elementary School in Maasin and in Sta. Ana Elementary School in Davao City where he graduated in 1956. He completed his secondary education at the Holy Cross College of Digos. After being expelled twice from previous schools, including one in Ateneo de Davao University due to misconduct, he finally graduated in 1968 with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the Lyceum of the Philippines University in Manila. He also obtained his law degree from San Beda College of Law, Manila in 1972. In the same year, he passed the bar exam. Duterte eventually became Special Counsel at the City Prosecution Office in Davao City from 1977-1979; Fourth Assistant City Prosecutor from 1979-1981; Third Assistant City Prosecutor from 1981-1983; and Second Assistant City Prosecutor from 1983-1986.

His political career began after the 1986 People Power Revolution. In 1988 he was appointed OIC vice mayor of Davao. In 1998 he ran for mayor and won. The rest is history.

Time magazine once featured him patrolling in Davao City’s streets on one of his big motorcycles, leading a convoy complete with blaring sirens and M16 rifles. He abhors display of pomp and grandeur. He is said to conduct his inspection of the city in a regular taxi, sometimes surprising his would-be passengers.

Although he has been very vocal about ruthlessly dealing with drug users and dealers, he used city government funds to build a P12-million drug rehabilitation and treatment center that provides 24-hour services. In 2003, he is said to have offered a P2,000 monthly allowance to drug addicts who personally approached him and committed to kick the habit. Duterte is also overtly known for visiting remote NPA camps negotiating peace and advocating diplomacy.

As the new president of the Philippines, he brings with him a strong conviction and the determination to curb crime with a zero tolerance policy and ensure that the Filipino people get the service they deserve from government. Despite the negative criticisms on his outlook on matters concerning religion and women’s rights, he carries on with his tirade what he thinks and believes is right for the people.

I can’t wait to see how this man will lead our nation. His leadership style may seem strange but who knows he may change the destiny of this nation.


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