Hopes of a better future rises among Mindanaons under a Duterte presidency

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte’s expected landslide victory will make him the first Philippine president from Mindanao, raising hopes of a better life for natives of the resource-rich but troubled region.

Duterte, 71, will also be the oldest to assume the presidency in the country and the first to take the highest office in the land direct from a local position. He is currently mayor of Davao City, a post he has held for a total of 21 years.

Although Duterte was born in Leyte, he has lived in Davao City since he was four. His father, Vicente Duterte, is a Cebuano and his mother Soledad Roa is of Maranao descent. The older Duterte served as governor of Davao before it was subdivided into several provinces in the 1960s.

Only three out of 15 Philippine presidents were not from Luzon: Sergio Osmeña from Cebu, Manuel Roxas from Capiz, and Carlos P. Garcia from Bohol.

Sense of pride

Many Mindanaons feel a strong sense of pride that one of their own will be the leader of the nation.

In a Muslim community in Quezon City’s Barangay Culiat, many residents hope a Duterte presidency will bring about long overdue development in the south that will make Mindanaons return to where there will no longer be poverty and conflict to keep them away.

Hadja Ainah Didato misses her native Marawi City and longs to return home. But she said life there is still chaotic and miserable. She endures being away from her roots and makes a living for her family sewing traditional Muslim dresses.

Gusto kong makauwi. Gusto ko, kasi … yan ang dating tirahan namin [I want to come back. I want to because that is where my home is],” she said.

Her husband, Hadji Milo, who was a long-time village official in Marawi, said life can be extremely dangerous there, especially during elections.

Optimism Mindanao will get its due

Amina Rasul-Bernardo, director of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, expressed optimism about a Duterte administration.

“He would make sure that Mindanao gets what is due to Mindanao,” she said.

She believes Duterte can re-balance power and resources between Manila and Mindanao.

Yung malayo sa kusina, huling kakain [The one farthest from the kitchen will be last to eat],” she said, using “kitchen” as a metaphor for the center of government or the capital.

She sees Davao becoming  a “kitchen annex” to dispense resources in the south. “For all Mindanaons, imperial Davao is certainly closer than imperial Manila,” she said.

But when Duterte’s transition team presented its eight-point economic agenda on Thursday (May 12), Bernardo expressed disappointment that the Mindanao peace process was not included.

The peace process, however, may be addressed by Duterte in future statements, particularly in connection with his goal of shifting to a federal form of government.

Bernardo said a peaceful Mindanao will magnify whatever economic gains the Duterte presidency may achieve.

“The hope is extremely high among all Mindanaons, that whatever wrongs may have been committed in the past, can be righted by a Mindanao president,” said Bernardo.