Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte was moved to tears Sunday as a huge crowd composed of Muslim and Christian sectoral leaders from the Zamboanga Peninsula who attended the second leg of the “Listening Tour” in Zamboanga City chanted his name again and again and begged that he run for President.
Duterte, whose grandmother was a full-blooded Maranao, especially touched the pride of the Muslims present during the Fedrealism Forum as he declared his Muslim lineage and the marriage of his eldest son, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, to a Tausug girl, a union which gave him Muslim grandchildren.
Former ARMM assemblyman Abulajid Estino, who gave a 5-minute response to Duterte’s speech, led the crowd in urging Duterte to run for President saying that the Davao City Mayor should fulfill the aspirations of the Bangsamoro.
“This will be the first time that a leader with a genuine Bangsamoro blood has the potential of becoming President of the Philippines. He is the leader we have been praying for who could unite this country,” Estino said.
Christian leader Danny Sagaral, in a response which expressed the sentiments of the Christians in the Zamboanga Peninsula, said Duterte strengthens the hope of the people of Mindanao that peace could be achieved through a President who understands both the feelings of the Muslim minority and the Christians who make up about 90 per cent of the Philippines’ population.
Sagaral and Estino and other leaders supporting Duterte, turned over to Davao City Mayor thick folders containing petitions signed by at least 100,000 people asking him to run for President.
Duterte, in his speech advocating Federalism before a crowd of about 2,000 at the convention hall of the Astoria Hotel in downtown Zamboanga City, said that the massive corruption in Metro Manila has deprived people in the provinces of the services that they badly needed.
He cited the thousands of families whose homes were burned during the siege staged by rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Sept. 9, 2013 who still live in tents in Zamboanga City.
“How can they do that to these people. They divide among themselves hundreds of millions of pesos while thousands of people in Zamboanga remain homeless,” Duterte said.
Duterte said Federalism will correct the inequitable distribution of government resources and will spur the development of the countryside.
He said Federalism also offers a viable option should the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which seeks to create an autonomous Bangsamoro government in the South would be derailed because of Constitutional infirmities.
“I pray that the BBL would pass because if not, we will go back the troubled years like in 1972 (when Moro rebels under the MNLF fought a bloody secessionist battle against the Philippine government.)
“I am not campaigning for President but if I become President, I will make sure that everybody in this country, Muslims, Christians and the Indigenous People, will all be treated fairly and will enjoy equal rights and protection by the law,” he said.
The program, which was supposed to start early morning, had to be cut short by about 4 p.m. as Duterte was invited by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who was also in Zamboanga City Sunday, to meet with him before the President flies back to Manila.
Duterte continues the Listening Tour with the staging of the third leg in Pagadian City today, Monday.
The Pagadian sortie will start at 1 p.m. at the St. Columban College Gymnasium.