Mayor Rodrigo Duterte insists he is merely holding the last card for peace in Mindanao. The growing number of his supporters insists he is the best card for the country in the 2016 elections.
Duterte was in Bacolod City March 13 as part of his advocacy for federalism but like other places he visited, his audience wanted him to commit to something else.
“I don’t want to be president. What will I get from that?” Duterte told reporters who waited for him at Metro Inn where his party was billeted.
Once again confronted with questions about his possible presidential bid, the mayor again flatly denied that he was interested.
Duterte said he was “not qualified” for the presidency, saying it should be for those who are “young and dynamic”.
Addressing a multisectoral forum at the Bay Center, the mayor said he is going around the country in his advocacy for federalism because “it is the only card available in our hands if ever the (Bangsamoro Basic Law) fails.”
In his welcome address, Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella praised Duterte for what he has done in Davao City.
Puentevella described Duterte as a “model” in a country that is “hungry for change”.
Duterte warned against the call for a “total war” in the light of the Mamasapano incident.
The mayor has remained the only passionate voice for peace among political leaders following the outrage over the death of 44 Special Action Force commandoes.
“Do you know what war is?” he asked, addressing those who are sounding the war drums.
Duterte warned that another war in Mindanao is “something we cannot afford, even if we want it.”
It was obvious, however, that many of those who attended the forum, entitled “A Talk on Federalism, Peace and Order and Industrialization” see Duterte as the “best card” in the 2016 elections.
Like he had declared many times before, Duterte said he was not interested.
During the open forum, the mayor continued to dodge the calls for him to run but this time, his supporters were ready.
During the open forum, lawyer Jesus Hinlo Jr. read the results of a survey conducted by the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos (UNO-R) last Jan. 9-14.
Hinlo, who introduced Duterte, described him as “the next president” of the Philippines.
The UNO-R survey, conducted among 1,000 respondents, had two questions.
The first was: “Who among the three personalities stated below could best address the criminality, insurgency, drug trafficking, corruption and poverty problems in the Philippines today?”
Vice President Jejomar Binay got 180 votes, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas received 320 while Duterte garnered 440 votes. Sixty of those polled abstained.
The next question was “If the Philippine Presidential election is held today, who would you vote to be the next President among the three personalities herein stated?”
Duterte again came first with 440 while Roxas had 360 and Binay, 160.
At the conclusion of the forum, Duterte was again referred to as the “next president”, which was greeted by wild applause, chants and a standing ovation.
The mayor could only hide his face in mock embarrassment behind the copy of the survey results.
Whether Duterte can continue to dodge the rising call for him to answer the challenge to lead a country described by Puentevella as “hungry for change”, the nation will find out when the time comes. (CHITO A. FUENTES)