Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has taken his advocacy for federalism to a different level, saying concentration of power in a highly centralized government based in Metro Manila has spawned biases against people from the provinces, including heroes and historical personalities.
“You are so unfair. Your heroes here like Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio are installed on pedestals and their birthdays are declared public holidays,” Duterte told members of the different Rotary Clubs of Metro Manila who gathered at the Century Park Sheraton in Manila on Wednesday evening.
“But what have you done to our hero, Lapu-lapu, the first Filipino to fight the imperialists? You named a fish after him and everyday you have fried Lapu-lapu and escabecheng Lapu-lapu,” the mayor said, drawing wild laughter from the Rotarians.
“Lapu-lapu is our hero and he ends up on the chopping board. We have another hero from Bohol, Francisco Dagohoy, who fought the Spaniards but his name is also given derogatory meaning,” Duterte added.
“In police lingo, “Dagohoy” means a ‘holdupper,’” he said.
There are also other heroes from southern Philippines, among them Sultan Kudara, who ruled the plains of Central Mindanao in the 1600s and fought invading Spaniards in bloody hand-to-hand combat.
He was declared a national hero, perhaps the only Muslim to be accorded the honor, by then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
Along with Lapu-lapu and Dagohoy, Sultan Kudarat is also largely unknown among people in northern Philippines.
“You have always looked at Mindanao as a distant star. But we are Filipinos just like you and
I am here to ask you to make us feel that we are your brothers,” Duterte also told the
The colorful Davao City mayor’s appearance before the members of the different Rotary Clubs was part of the “Listening Tour” that he started in January.
The tour has brought him to different parts of the country to advocate for a shift from the presidential unitary form of government to a federal parliamentary form.
Duterte said a highly centralized government where almost every action by local government units requires approval from the central government has stunted the growth of the regions.
He cited a proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) project for Davao City that was submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for review and assessment.
“It has been there for three years now but so far I have not received a word on whether they will approve it or not,” the mayor said.
The proposed LRT project is planned to connect the southernmost barangay (village) of Davao City to its northern district to cut travel time and address expected traffic congestion with the projected growth of the city.
The South Korean consultants who have proposed the project, however, have complained that they have been given the run-around in Metro Manila.
“Kaya ang dapat itawag sa NEDA ay NADA, as in walang nada [So NEDA should be called Nada or nothing],” Duterte said.
After his Manila meeting with the Rotarians, Duterte flew to Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, for another leg of the “Listening Tour.”