With a voting strength of an estimated 14 million and a population excited at the thought that the South could produce its first President, Mindanao leaders are crossing party lines and consolidating behind Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte as the filing of the Certificates of Candidacy nears.
“There is nothing much we could do to stop this phenomenon,” said an administration party stalwart who said that while he belongs to the Liberal Party (LP) he may not succeed in herding his people to support former secretary Manuel A. Roxas III.
While Duterte himself has asked for more time to do a “final soul-searching,” Mindanao’s political leaders have all agreed that the reluctant Presidential candidate has no other choice but to run for the country’s highest post.
“It has become clear to him that this is already a moral obligation,” said former Congressman and Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez last night.
The general consensus is that should Duterte throw his hat into the Presidential octagon, Mindanao political leaders will be faced with a situation where, if they do not support the Davao City Mayor, they would have to contend with the wrath of their own people.
The biggest loser in Mindanao, should Duterte decide to run, is expected to be Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Binay’s key political operator in the South, Congressman Tonyboy Floreindo, whose family owns a multi-billion peso agricultural corporation producing cavendish banana for export, has already pledged his support to Duterte.
Floreindo’s support for Duterte is rooted in friendship rather than politics.
Duterte was a legal consultant to the late father of Cong. Floreindo, Don Antonio Floreindo.
Another key leader that Binay would lose in the event Duterte runs is Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, an old Duterte friend.
While Pacquiao belongs to Binay’s party, UNA, he is expected to run as an independent Senatorial candidate as a gesture of respect for his friend Duterte and also for his political party-mate Binay.
Once Duterte runs, all the other Presidential candidates are expected to lose heavily in Mindanao.
In a recent survey in the Davao Region, composed of the City of Davao and the provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental with a total voting population of about 4 million, Duterte’s approval rating ranges from 82% to 90%.
In the remaining areas of Mindanao with an estimated voting population of 10-million, Duterte’s approval rating is at 47% and this is considered low because of his pronouncements that he was not running.
The biggest ethnic support for Duterte in Mindanao would come from the Visayans and the Muslims.
Duterte, who was born in Maasin, Southern Leyte, traces his roots to Danao, Cebu where his father, the late Davao Governor Vicente Duterte, was once a mayor.
Duterte’s mother, retired public school teacher Soledad Roa, was from Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte.
Duterte’s maternal grandmother was a full-blooded Maranao from Lanao del Sur and this kinship with the Muslims of the South is expected to gain for him the support of an estimated 3-million ethnic voters.
With about 7 million Mindanao votes in his political tank, the Duterte caravan could pick up a few million votes in the Visayas on the way to a final showdown in Metro Manila.
Metro Manila, where in the last survey he was recorded to have an unexpected and phenomenal 21% acceptance rating, could be an exciting battleground for Duterte.
By June 30, 2016, the Duterte caravan could be burning bonfires in the grounds of the Palace by the Pasig River.
(Photos: Duterte shares dinner with Mindanao leaders led by Congressman Tonyboy Floreindo and former Cong. Pantaleon Alvarez in Hotel Elena last night; Duterte with Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.)