Duterte ushers in ‘cohesive’ South
OZAMIZ CITY—The throngs of high-profile well-wishers wanting to see Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte after his stunning victory on May 9 have symbolized the radical shift of the country’s center of political gravity to the south.
Although Duterte will eventually hold office in Malacañan Palace in Manila, expectations are high he will use his six-year term, which starts on June 30, as a historic opportunity to shine the spotlight on the regions, especially those in Mindanao where there is a long simmering discontent over its apparent neglect by the national government.
These high expectations among voters in Mindanao, plus the strong sympathy of the Bisaya— particularly the mainly Cebuano-speaking people in Central Visayas —for somebody they considered one of their own, helped catapult Duterte to the presidency.
Aside from helping elect the first Mindanaoan president, this electoral support also thwarted the magic of an Aquino endorsement, which worked in 1992 for then Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos whose run for the presidency had the strong backing of then President Corazon Aquino.
Based on figures from certificates of canvass (COCs) uploaded into the Commission on Elections (Comelec) server, Duterte received about 6.12 million votes in Mindanao, some 60 percent of around 10.28 million ballots cast. This is the highest rate of electoral support achieved since 1992 in Mindanao by a presidential candidate.
In 1998, then Vice President Joseph Estrada received 3.9 million votes in Mindanao, about 46 percent of total votes cast and accounting for 36 percent of the 10.7 million votes that made him president.
Duterte’s support was highest in his home court, the Davao Region, at 85 percent. He got 64 percent in Southern Mindanao, 60 percent in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 52 percent in the Caraga Region, 51 percent in Northern Mindanao and 36 percent in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Figures from COCs for Mindanao and the Visayas and the quick count in Luzon by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) showed that votes from Mindanao contributed 38 percent to Duterte’s national total of about 16.16 million votes.
Although Mindanao accounts for only 23 percent of the country’s total voters, Duterte’s dominance of the presidential race on the island was more than enough to overcome narrow margins in vote-rich Luzon and in the Visayas.
Duterte’s closest rival, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, got only 19 percent of the votes in Mindanao. Third placer Sen. Grace Poe only had 10 percent.
In the final week of the campaign, Duterte Diehard Supporters (DDS) asked sympathizers to work harder to give their candidate 80 percent of Mindanao’s votes on May 9.
Votes for president in Luzon were split among Vice President Jejomar Binay, Duterte, Poe and Roxas.
In Cagayan Valley, Binay had 46 percent of votes while Poe had 21 percent. Duterte led with 44 percent, against Poe’s 21 percent, in the National Capital Region.
The closest race was in Bicol where Poe and Roxas topped with 36.2 percent and 36.1 percent, respectively.
Votes in the other regions were almost fairly distributed among the candidates and the margins between leading contenders ranged from three to eight percent only.
In Luzon, Duterte bested Roxas by some 2.97 million votes but edged out Poe with just over 700,000 votes.
Ethno-linguistic affinity appears to have played a big role among Visayan voters.
Roxas, a native of Capiz, took big leads in the mainly Ilonggo-speaking areas of Western Visayas and Negros. Cebuano speakers highly favored Duterte, who has roots in Danao, Cebu and was born in Maasin, Southern Leyte.
Roxas dominated Western Visayas and Negros Island where he got 65 percent and 46 percent of the votes, respectively, with Duterte and Poe lagging far behind.
The big bulk of support for Duterte in the Visayas came from Bohol, Cebu, Leyte and Southern Leyte. Cebuano-speaking voters gave Duterte 2.02 million votes, or 74 percent of his Visayas total.
The Waray-speaking Samar provinces votes were split among Roxas, Poe, Duterte and Binay, with Roxas taking a slim lead.
Duterte edged Poe by about 1.4 million votes, but was short of 840,000 votes against Roxas’ total.
Roxas took 3.57 million votes or 38 percent of some 9.46 million votes in the Visayas. Duterte had 29 percent or some 2.73 million votes, which contributed 17 percent to his national tally.
In Mindanao, Duterte was way ahead of Roxas by some 4.2 million votes and about 4.8 million ahead of Poe.
The margin made it difficult for Roxas and Poe to catch up with Duterte, given their small leads in Luzon and the Visayas.
Duterte’s victory finally gave the Mindanao vote a cohesive shape and gave it greater significance.
The unity shown by Mindanaoans in the last elections arose from a widely shared perception that their issues and concerns were marginalized in the national policy discourse and development priorities.
Ordinary people in Mindanao joke that, in Manila, bridges (flyovers) are sprouting everywhere even if there are no rivers while many rivers on the island lack the same infrastructure.
They have always believed that Mindanaoans’ problems can only get the attention they deserve if someone from the island will hold a key policymaking position in the national government, especially the presidency.
The highest national post held by a Mindanaoan was the vice presidency. Emmanuel Pelaez was vice president from 1961 to 1965. Teofisto Guingona Jr. held the position from 2001 to 2004. Guingona was actually born in Manila but grew up in Mindanao.
Of the 15 presidents since the birth of the Philippine republic in 1898, three are from the Visayas and the rest are from Luzon.
Duterte’s victory realized the Mindanaoans long-held aspiration, expressed in such campaign slogans as “Duterte, Ato ni,” “Duterte, Taga ato ni,” “Duterte. Garbo sa Mindanao (Duterte, he is our man. Duterte, he is from our place. Duterte, the pride of Mindanao).”
Such sentiment is shared by Mindanaoans, including those transplanted from the Visayas or Luzon.
In the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, although Ilonggos comprise at least 40 percent of the population, Roxas got only 17 percent of the votes while support for Duterte was overwhelming.
Roxas seemingly failed to capitalize on his being a Bisaya, particularly an Ilonggo, to gain support for his presidential bid.
Or most likely, for the new generation of migrant Ilonggos, the prospect of a better Mindanao under a national government headed by Duterte had a stronger influence than ethno-linguistic affinity.
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