BY ROGER M. BALANZA
By the time he finishes his nationwide campaign to sell Federalism as a form of government that could cure the country’s woes, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s “Listening Tour” could already have reached one million people.
Organizers of the tour said intense public discussion spilling over from the information campaign could also attract an estimated 10 million people.
Duterte, in what is seem to be a messianic mission, is going around the country to lure support for a shift to a new form of governance as the country is mired in corruption, rising crime and other ills.
Duterte said a federal type of government is the solution to the Moro and communist insurgency, provides for equitable distribution of national wealth and put an end to bureaucratic thievery.
Started last year, the Listening Tour consists of speaking engagements and forums focused on Duterte selling the idea of a shift to a federal government from the current presidential.
Thousands of people attended every event so far held in key cities from Mindanao to Luzon.
We expect a million could already have an appreciation of what federalism is and the good it could bring to the country once we wrap up the tour, a Duterte aide who wants to remain anonymous said. The aide did not say when the tour would end.
We also expect Duterte and the tour and the public discussion generated to heat up a fever that could spark more interest on federalism as a form of government, said the aide who gave a rough estimate of not less than ten million people exposed to federalism after the tour.
The Listening Tour has been luring from 2,000 to 5,000 political leaders, students, businessmen and professionals and sectoral groups in the key cities in the Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon including Baguio City in the north.
Public interest on federalism has grown tremendously after the Listening Tour started and the shift to federalism has become focus of news in local and national media.
Observers, however, said Duterte is using the Listening Tour as a political vehicle for a presidential bid.
Duterte vehemently denies he is running for President in 2016, but his political stock has zoomed high of late, landing third, after Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe in a Pulsa Asia survey on presidential preference.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is still undecided about running for president in the 2016 presidential elections despite his high rating in the Pulse Asia survey conducted from March 1 to 7 this year.
Duterte tied with former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada with a 12% rating, two notches down Vice President Jejomar Binay with 26% and Senator Grace Poe with 14%.
“I appreciate the development but I have yet to decide whether to run or not,” Duterte said, admitting that he could not care less about the result of the survey since he is not a presidential candidate.
“I cannot really answer you on the result of the survey since I do not have a basis why I reached that ranking,” he added. Duterte said he has to think 100% about running for president given the daunting problems of the country not only in the economy but problems on hunger and criminality that discourage anyone from running.
The best way to improve the life of the Filipinos is to increase their economic level and that is a very difficult task, he added.
While Pulse Asia’s survey showed Duterte as the third most well-liked probable presidential candidate, it also showed that he is the most preferred candidate by Mindanaoans with 34%, followed by Binay’s 22% and Estrada’s 18%.
It can be recalled that Estrada got the largest number of votes in Mindanao during the 2010 elections. Duterte is also next only to Binay when it comes to the presidential choice of the ABC class voters with votes of 22% and 21%, respectively.
Both Duterte and Estrada have opposing stands when it comes to the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao. While Estrada is known for his all-out-war policy on the Bangsamoro problem based from his war declaration against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2000, Duterte is sympathetic to the Bangsamoro problem.
“We cannot afford to stop the peace talks especially if we do not want trouble. In a civil war, nobody wins,” Duterte said. “Mindanao is for all, Muslims and Christians. My appeal to everybody is to remain united. I always tell the Lumads, Christians and Muslims, do not talk about religion. We can always talk peace,” he added. (PNA)