Mindanao has shattered the Tagalog-Pampango grip on political power. That’s good.
The oft-repeated narrative about Mr. Duterte’s seemingly improbably presidential victory was its launching place. Not from the Senate, not from the office of the Vice President, not from a Cabinet post but from a city hall. The last time people talked about a major city as a presidential launching pad was in the 1961 presidential election. Manila Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson was about to make history as the first mayor to transition into the presidency with overwhelming support when fate – a cardiac arrest rather – decided otherwise.
From then on until 2010, the elected president (except for Mrs. Aquino who assumed the presidency under times of extreme tumult) either came from the Senate, the vice presidency or the Cabinet. In 2016, Mr. Duterte ran from his Davao City Hall and made history as the first president coming from an LGU.
The reference to Erap’s supposed ascent into the presidency via the LGU route is not exactly right. Mr. Estrada was elected senator in 1987 and was the vice president when he sought the presidency in 1992.
He had been removed from his LGU roots by then.
There is one angle yet to be written and fully explained. That is far more significant than the LGU launching pad of Mr. Duterte’s successful presidential quest. With the victory of The Digong, Mindanao, finally, gets its president. And one more thing. Duterte’s win shattered the long grip of the Tagalog-Pampango areas on the presidency. By this I mean the two regions that flank Metro Manila, what the late Ka Blas Ople had called the “Tagalo-Pampango Empire”–the two regions that flourished politically, culturally and economically due to their proximity to the seat of power, Metro Manila.
On the whole, shattering that hold on power will be good for Mindanao and for the rest of the country as well.
How tight was that hold on power?
Many years back, I was asked to write an article about Central Luzon (I come from the region), with specific details on its contributions to the country’s life. Offhand, I knew there were many and these were contributions of real significance. But what struck me most was this fact. With Aurora province declared as part of Central Luzon (mostly for the administrative and operational purposes of the national government), the region has turned out six Philippine presidents, from Manuel Luis Quezon to Benigno Aquino 3rd.
We have 18 regions, 17 administrative and 1 autonomous region (ARMM). Yet, six presidents have come from one region, which basically does not skew well for the rest of the country. We have had MLQ (Baler), Ramon Magsaysay (Zambales ), the two Macapagals (Pampanga ), the two Aquinos (Tarlac).
Erap Estrada’s home province is Laguna, which gives Southern Luzon and Central Luzon seven presidents. If one includes the Malolos Republic (Emilio Aguinaldo of Cavite ) and the Japanese regime (Jose Laurel of Batangas), the two regions get nine presidents.
Meanwhile the vast spread from the northernmost part of the country to Rosales in Pangasinan (the town that shares a boundary with Tarlac), has had turned out three presidents (Quirino, Marcos and Ramos). Using the old map, where Pangasinan was lumped up with the Central Plains and not with the Ilocos Region, Mr. Ramos becomes another addition to the president from the Plains.
Visayas has had only two (Osmena and Garcia). Mindanao, the Land of Promise, had none, until the 2016 election.
I repeat. This will be good for the country.
Mindanao, the Island of Promise, is now a Slough of Despond. Outside of the large-scale banana and pineapple plantations partly owned by multinational corporations, its agriculture sector has been languishing due to neglect. It has the land area and the production conditions to be the country’s food basket. But it can’t simply live up to its potentials. It has excellent research universities led by the MSU system, yet there is only pathetic R and D work being turned out. And the manpower trained in the good tertiary schools have to move to Metro Manila to find full meaning to meritocracy.
It is bedeviled by two armed challenges, from the Left’s army to the splintered factions of the Muslim insurgency. The secular nature of the Muslim insurgency is now laced with the dangerous injection of intolerant Muslim fundamentalism, ISIL, Al-Qaeda, whatever.
Dynastic politics remain the norm, not the exception. While there are isolated oases of well-governed LGUs, the Caragas and the ARMM remain Exhibits A and B of debilitating poverty and underdevelopment.
With his full understanding of the Mindanao context – and his recruitment of top aides from Mindanao — Mr. Duterte will hit the ground running on development and peace issues related to Mindanao. A plethora of Mindanao-centric policies, hopefully, will exploit to the hilt the region’s awesome natural and human potentials.
Cheaper freight due to the amended Cabotage Law and the development of a Mindanao Railway System will hopefully help. Mr. Duterte should make the Land of Promise a true zone of development.
The regions such as Central Luzon, this is the plain truth, can take care of themselves. And Mr. Duterte can afford to pay little attention to these areas so he can make that policy pivot to Mindanao. I will emphatically explain why.
The Pinatubo eruption marks its 25th year today. The calamitous event, the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, dealt what was close to Armageddon on a vast spread of Central Luzon, with my province, Pampanga, at the epicenter of the tragedy.
Prognostications of the future were all about gloom and doom. With little help from government, my province and the affected areas have risen, literally, from the ashes.