History was made when President Rodrigo R. Duterte was sworn into office as President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2016. For the first time ever, a son of Mindanao is now the President of our beloved Philippines. This blog will follow President Duterte as he performs the duties of the office of the Chief Executive over the next 6 years. Many others will be watching the President: so-called experts and self-appointed critics, bearing fancy titles and touting impressive credentials, supposedly educated from the best universities here and abroad. Most probably just lie in wait for the President to make a mistake – any mistake – so they can write about how and why he does not have what it takes to be President. They will be entertaining…amusing. But those who cannot do, write. And they will pounce on the President like hyenas on the carcass of a dead cow. I do not claim any area of expertise. I’m just a lawyer who happens to be also from Mindanao. All I have is the legal training and education I received from a provincial school in this fair island of the Southern Philippines. But it was all I needed to pass the bar in the United States -where I now practice law. So I am from Mindanao myself, and will watch the President with pride. I will write about him from the point of view of an ordinary man on the street who wishes the best for a fellow probinsyano who not only made good, but is now President of the Philippines. Hence, this blog’s title: “The Mindanaoan”. My first post is a reprint of an article I wrote in my column for an online newspaper (The Mindanao Current).
PROUD TO BE MINDANAOAN
It has been a long time coming, but finally a true Mindanaoan will be the President of our beloved Philippines. I say a true Mindanaoan, because many who claim to be from Mindanao, leave and choose to live in Manila permanently to be close to the corridors of power. Mayor Duterte never did. He may have studied there, even worked there as a member of Congress. But he always came home to Davao. Bisan pa ang kuwarta kuno sa Pilpinas gabiyo-biyo lang sa Manila. Yet, this Mindanaoan will now be the center of the corridors of power in Manila – without ever giving in to the trappings and allure of the big city. It’s about time that Manila is reminded that it is not the Philippines – and the Philippines is not Manila.
Manila will not take this lying down. All outsiders are kept at arm’s length, to be sized up before giving them their due. Manila’s sense of entitlement finds difficulty in believing that people from other parts of the country – the Bicol region, the Visayas and Mindanao – are just as capable – if not more so. Thus, Manila is aghast that someone from the south will now assume the presidency of this Republic. Already, there is a belittling of the probinsiyano…for instance, the so-called funny pronunciation…as if only Manila can speak English properly. Manaway sila nga gahi kuno ang dila sa Bisaya, mora ra ba’g sakto pirmi ang ilang Ininglisan!
But whether Manila likes it or not, this Mindanaoan will be our President for the next 6 years. I am hopeful that Mayor Duterte will lift up Mindano and fulfill the promise she has long held. For so long, Manila chose to ignore Mindanao. A close friend is fond of telling his story about how Maning Pelaez once had to gather all the members of Congress from Mindanao so they could act together to bring development and infrastructure to their island. Otherwise, the late former Vice- President said, Manila would keep it all to herself.
The inauguration of Mayor Duterte next month as our President is historic. He is the first from Mindanao. He will have his detractors and his critics. Mga bright kuno. Manila will jump at every chance to bring him down. He is obviously a maverick, expressing unorthodox views, suggesting extraordinary solutions to our country’s problems, and forming unexpected alliances with, some may call, “fringe” sectors. But this is exactly why the Filipino voted for him. Traditional politics, from dictators and criminals to martyrs to sentimental favorites – all were in vain and totally for naught. Mayor Duterte has outlined an 8-point agenda, but I believe that our future may very well lie in his plans for federalism. This country has had enough, and is desperate for change.
Change is just as needed in our foreign relations. The Philippines needs to regain her standing in the international community. For example, why were we excluded form the Trans-Pacific Partnership? And there’s a lot to be desired in our ties to the United States. With our shared history, one would think that the Philippines deserves to be treated better. However, this same history shows that the U.S has not been fair to the Philippines. When we were a U.S. territory, we were American nationals. Nevertheless, Filipinos were treated as aliens under U.S. immigration laws. But precisely because we were American nationals, Filipinos had the duty to fight in World War II under the U.S. Armed Forces. So why are Filipino WW II veterans – what’s left of them, anyway – continue to be denied U.S. veterans’ benefits? Another questions is this: when children left behind by U.S. servicemen serving in Southeast Asia were granted special immigration benefits, why were children left behind in the Philippines excluded? Many more aspects invite scrutiny. All these should be reason enough for the Philippines to ensure that in every agreement we have with the U.S., the Philippines is given fair and equal treatment. There is no reason, for instance, why the Philippines should waive jurisdiction over certain criminal acts under the Visiting Forces Agreement. The Philippines must be on equal footing to the United States, especially now with American military bases being opened all over the country. Both parties have something to bring to the table.
I have faith that Mayor Duterte can bring about the change we need – wherever we need it. But he needs our help. As Mindanaons, let us rally behind our own and give him our full support in every possible way. Busa tindog mga taga-Mindanao!
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte makes me proud to be Mindanaoan.