DAVAO CITY – More than anybody, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte wants the conflict with Muslim extremists in Mindanao settled.
“If there is anybody who wishes that this bloody problem would end soon, it is I because I am both Moro and Christian,” Duterte declared in an interview with former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol.
Duterte’s insights on the bloodshed involving Muslim armed groups were the latest installment in Pinol’s series on different issues which he intends to condense in a book.
The mayor revealed that he feels strongly about the settlement because he is “both Christian and Muslim”.
Pinol said it was the first the mayor admitted that his maternal grandmother had Moro lineage.
“I feel the fear of the Christians and share the dreams of the Moro people who feel that they have been dispossessed of their land and identity,” Duterte said.
Pinol pointed out that his ties with the Muslims were made even stronger because his eldest son, Paulo, who is now Davao vice mayor, converted to Islam when he married a Muslim Tausug girl.
In his speech during the first Mindanao Summit on Federalism, Duterte said half of his grandchildren are Muslims.
“I have grandchildren who are either Muslim or Christian. Would I want to see a situation in the future where even my own grandchildren would be dragged into this conflict?” he asked.
Duterte’s successful steering of Davao from a hotbed of violence in the 80s into a thriving peaceful metropolis has captured the imagination of an increasing number of Filipinos who see him as an alternative to Manila-based politicians.
Mindanao leaders consider the undisputed leader of the country’s second largest island the most likely to make history as the first president from the region.
Duterte, whose father served as city mayor of Danao, Cebu and whose mother hails from Leyte, is also well-loved in the Visayas because of his silent but immediate response to calamities in the region starting with the Ormoc flood in 1992.
Volunteers of the Duterte 2016 Movement said they were surprised with the warm reception in nearly all the places in Luzon they visited which they attribute to the mayor’s reputation against all forms of criminalities.
His critics have accused him of making legal shortcuts to sustain his peace and order campaigns but Duterte countered that unless no one is willing to be killed or to kill, “nothing will happen with this country.”
Davao has been labeled the fourth safest city in the world because of its strict implementation of the laws banning smoking, firecrackers, noisy videokes past 9 pm, alcohol beyond 2 am, speeding and aerial spraying.
Under Duterte’s stewardship, Davao rose to become the fifth leading economy among cities in the country, the only one from outside Metro Manila in the top 5.
Despite the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law last year, many Mindanaoans, both Christians and Muslims, are skeptical of its success unless the country elects a leader who has a keen understanding of the situation and who feels for the region.
Duterte, who is running out of arguments against the surging presidential draft for him, is the only one who fits the bill.
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