At the risk of missing the deadline for my column last Sunday, I had to rush to Cebu for an urgent meet with the Lead Convenor of the Mindanao Indigenous People Customary Leader (MIPCL). I must get first-hand information on a brewing open protest movement by the Lumad to crush the apparent surge of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the top of the presidential contest. A week ago, Manila papers reported Duterte scoring a phenomenal capture of the top of pre-poll survey, rising at 26% above Grace Liamanzares, who got 24%, and Mar Roxas, at 21% being third, while Vice President Binay, hitherto in a statistical tie with Grace on top of previous surveys, dropping to a sorry fourth, at 19%.
It turned out the survey was bogus and its publication achieved no other purpose than to propel the Davao City butcher to the pinnacle of people’s psyche. No such survey was undertaken, came the clarification from Pulse Asia, the survey period being the Holy Week, when Pulse Asia doesn’t conduct surveys.
The indigenous people of Mindanao were strongly alarmed by this development. And that’s for two main reasons. First, they are in the best position to tell that Duterte’s political strength is simply that, media-deep. They expect wide dissemination of this information will neutralize the sudden perk in Duterte’s political upswing brought about by the publication of the above survey result. Second, and this is what the Lumad people fear most, a Duterte win in the presidential contest can constitute their final destruction.
“Hindi man totoo na makukuha niya ang Mindanao (It’s not true Mindanao is his turf),” complained the MIPCL head, who requested not to be identified lest his killing by Duterte be expedited; let’s just call him Datu Freddie.
Datu Freddie is a true blue Lumad royalty. He is a Manobo, the biggest among the tribes that comprise the MIPCL. Manobos people 6 regions of Mindanao, namely, Regions 9 to 13, including the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
According to Datu Freddie, it is impossible for Duterte to get the support of a people that have over the years been the object of Duterte’s persecution.
“Alam mo si Duterte kakampi ng NPA. E, iyang NPA nakikipareho na rin sa mga Lumad sa pag-angkin ng katutubong lupa o ancestral domain. Kaya ayaw naming maging presidente iyang si Duterte kasi siguradong ang katutubong lupa na pamana ng aming mga ninuno ay ibibigay niya lang sa mga NPA. O kaya sa malalaking mayayaman na kakampi rin niya.”
Datu Freddie cited a big rich person in Davao City who is a smuggling lord as one sure beneficiary of a Duterte presidency.
“Perang galing sa ismagling ang sumusuporta sa kampanya ni Duterte (Money from smuggling bankrolls Duterte’s campaign),” said Datu Freddie.
Joining us in the meet is former Congressman Jun Alcover of the Partylist group Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD). A former dedicated activist in the anti-dictatorship struggle and eventually a red fighter of the New People’s Army (NPA), Alcover has been one of the most fearless and vociferous critics of Duterte’s killings and has survived a number of assassination attempts by the most feared Davao Death Squads. Popularly called DDS, the group has acted as the executioners of many death sentences for which Duterte has claimed credit. Unrelenting in his condemnation of DDS (Duterte Death Squads), the firebrand now espousing promotion and protection of human rights travels around Cebu with a number of trusted lieutenants all lugging bullet-proof vests for ready, instant use when need arises.
Alcover is dismayed that Duterte is gaining the upper hand in the presidential contest. “Digong”, by which he terms Duterte, is the last person he’d like to sit as Philippine president.
“Ang kailangan na ngayon ay crisis management,” said the former rebel, who is a declared Binay supporter running for councilor under the ticket of the incumbent Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama. “Ang ginawa ni Duterte na pagpeke sa survey ay isang dirty trick na mas kaya nating gawin din.Leaftering dyan, postering dito. Gusto mong presidente na bastos sa mga babae? Gusto mong presidente na palamura sa mga taong banal? Gusto mong presidente na murderer? Ganung maiiksing islogan lang. Ako nang bahalang mag disseminate. Hawak natin ang maraming radio broadcaster. Lahat iyan gustong si Binay ang manalo. Kulang lang tayo nang pukpok. Ako na ang dirty tricks department. (Duterte’s faking the survey is a dirty trick which we can do much better. Leafletering there, postering here. You want a president who defiles women? You want a president who cusses holy men? You want a murderer for president?” Short slogans like those. I’ll take care of dissemination. We have a wide network of radio broadcasters all over Cebu and Mindanao. All of them root for Binay. All it takes is a little push from us. Let me be the dirty tricks department.)”
According to estimate by Alcover, Cebu voters number 3.5 million, by Datu Freddie of Mindanao, 12 million. Alcover envisions hard struggle in Cebu, though in terms of generating a majority come election day is very feasible, given hard work. Datu Freddie does not expect just as great a difficulty as far as the Lumads of Mindanao are concerned. Of the 12 million voters in Mindanao, 4 million are Lumads, and of these 4 million, 1 million is a command vote. The tribes vote as one, and as far as Duterte’s sanguine regard of these cultural minorities are concerned, he stands no chance of gaining their sympathy.
That’s why Datu Freddie tends to be cocksure when he declares Duterte won’t take Mindanao. It’s no empty boast to be sure. Already he has made the initial moves for holding a summit among indigenous people in which they will present to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay their agenda for addressing their various concerns. If plans push through, the summit will be held April 18 in Tagum City to be attended by all the tribal representations in the Mindanao Indigenous People Customary Leader (MIPCL). After the summit, the Lumad leaders, this time joined by their respective throngs of followers from Zamboanga, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Surigao, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte, will march to Duterte’s own front yard, Davao City –there to tell him in the face that the city proper’s meager population of 700,000 is no match to the mammoth throng representing millions upon millions of indigenous people called Lumad.
Datu Freddie waxes sentimental when he disclosed that VP Binay, being an Ibanag, is himself a Lumad, part of the country’s indigenous people. Clannish and exceedingly proud of their cultural heritage, the Lumads actually comprise 6 million of the total voting population of the country.
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay is expected to attend the Lumad Summit, there to deliver his supreme challenge to Duterte:
“Maliban sa pagiging berdugong mamamatay tao, saksakan ka pa ng kayabangan at hari ng kasinungalingan (Aside from being a butcher murderer, you reek of humbug and you are a paramount liar).
“Ang walang awang pagpatay mo sa mga napaghihinalaang lumabag sa batas ay hindi makatao. Ito ay hindi naaayon sa batas ng Diyos at tao, at isang pambabastos sa karapatang pantao (Your merciless butchery of suspected lawbreakers is inhuman. This is contrary to the laws of God and of men, and a travesty of human rights).
“We do not need a leader who wantonly disregards the sanctity of human life and whose only solution to the pressing problem of poverty is to kill the poor.”