Duterte open to renaming Philippines to 'Maharlika'

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he agrees with late President Ferdinand Marcos in wanting to rename the country. 

Speaking at an event in Maguindanao Monday, Duterte told the crowd, "Tama si Marcos. Panahon ni Marcos, tama talaga si Marcos. Gusto niya palitan - Maharlika. The Republic of Maharlika, because maharlika is a Malay word and it means more of a concept of serenity and peace," he said. 

[Translation: Marcos was right. During Marcos' time, he was right. He wanted to change it to Maharlika. The Republic of Maharlika, because maharlika is a Malay word and it means more of a concept of serenity and peace.] 

Malacañang on Tuesday noted the President was, as usual, just "floating with an idea." 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who personally agreed with the statement, said renaming the country may be a way to assert our national identity. 

"Hindi ba ang style ng Presidente, he floats an idea? Idea lang 'yung kanya," Panelo said in his media briefing Tuesday. 

"Magandang pakinggan 'yung Maharlika. Sa Filipino language, Maharlika means 'royalty.' 

[Translation: Isn't it the style of the President, that he just floats with an idea? It's just an idea. The name 'Maharlika' is good to hear. In Filipino languague, Maharlika means royalty.] 

In 1978, then-Batasang Pambansa member Eddie Ilarde filed Parliamentary Bill 195 which sought to change the name of the country from "Philippines" to "Maharlika." 

The proposal was criticized, as the name was associated with Marcos, said the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). 

However, Panelo argued the name "Maharlika" did not originally come from Marcos. 

"Actually that's not Mr. Marcos' idea. I forgot the name of the person, but Mr. Marcos at the time welcomed that idea, pero it was not his original," the spokesperson told reporters.  

In his speech Monday, Duterte said there was little that could be done right now about the country's name, but that could change in the future. 

"Philippines because it was discovered by Magellan using the money of King Philip (II). Kaya pagdating ng u***, ginawang Philippines. Pero okay na 'yan. Balang araw palitan natin," he said. 

[Translation: Philippines because it was discovered by Magellan using the money of King Philip (II). So when the b*****d arrived, it was named Philippines. But that's okay. We'll change it one of these days.] 

Although it remains unclear whether the current administration will push for the name change, Panelo said officials are looking into the legalities. 

"Baka you issue an executive order or pass a legislation renaming it-- baka some constitutional experts might say, you cannot amend that, that's in the constitution. Pinag-aaralan namin how this word Philippines evolved to be the country's name," he said. 

[Translation: If you issue an executive order or pass a legislation naming it, maybe some constitutional experts might say, you cannot amend that, that's in the constitution. We're still studying how the word Philippines evolved to be the country's name.]

In 2017, Magdalo Party-list Representative Gary Alejano filed House Bill 5867 or "An Act Constituting a Geographic Renaming Commission to Rename Our Country."  

Alejano said, "If we want to be truly independent, then we should throw away the bonds of colonialism by establishing our own national identity." 

The bill called for the creation of a commission to look into renaming the Philippines.