While critics are crucifying President Rodrigo Duterte for dropping those forbidden words like they were going out of fashion anytime soon, he is equally busy consolidating his political forces.
It was reported recently that Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change) has emerged from the President’s landslide victory just more than four months ago.
The movement is reputed to be the spearhead for a shift from a parliamentary to a federal form of government, a long-time advocacy of the President.
It represents a break from the PDP-Laban, the political party whose stalwarts include former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and under which the then-Davao City mayor ran, eventually winning the race to Malacañang in May 2016.
Mr. Duterte was not looking for adoptive parents for his Palace bid because other political parties were knocking at his door and asking him to be their standard-bearer, especially when survey numbers began to favor him in the homestretch of the campaign.
He picked PDP-Laban for a platform only because one of its leaders (who is now chief of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority) had purportedly given way to his contesting the presidency at the last minute.
He has paid back the political party by appointing Martin Dino to the Subic Freeport and making sure that Pimentel’s son Koko (Aquilino Pimentel 3rd) got elected as Senate president, among other debt settlements.
It was also reported that Kilusang Pagbabago would be led by Leoncio Evasco Jr, a former priest and communist New People’s Army member (some say he is actually still an NPA man). The KP is expected to transform into a political party to rival those that the then-partyless candidate Duterte swept at the polls.
Apparently, the Duterte camp’s inner circle to which Evasco belongs does not think that the thinly populated PDP-Laban, which also espouses federalism, can really do much to help the President establish the federal system in our country. It seemed moribund until DU30 came to its rescue.
The appearance of the Evasco-led movement as a bona fide political party in our crowded world of political groupings is sure to spell doom for what the more traditional and, perhaps, more pragmatic Filipinos have been pining for–a two-party system.
Well, we may end up with just one political party–the Kilusang Pagbabago–a likelihood that Mr. Duterte’s political enemies would feast on, perhaps even accusing the President of autocracy.
It seems that the former mayor will surely get what he wants.
Already, Celso Tizon, secretary of the Hugpong Federal Movement, on Thursday said they are expecting an “80 percent acceptance” by Filipinos of federalism by early 2017.
Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte is working the crowds, visiting soldiers wounded in battle and awarding them medals for valor, distributing relief goods to typhoon victims (an act seldom done if at all by all of his predecessors), raising the pay of the men and women in uniform–populist moves that show a clear grasp of realities on the ground and vote getters if ever the new political system is presented to the people in a referendum.
Also on Thursday, ordinary and law-abiding Muslim Filipinos were said to be shocked to see MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, a fugitive, being received at the presidential palace by the President.
Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front, has long been calling attention to the fact that a peace agreement that he and then-President Fidel V. Ramos signed in 1996 is still not fully implemented.
The message is clear: Duterte wants Ramos to spread the word among our Moro brothers that federalism, not separatism that another peace pact forged between the second President Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is the way to go for lasting peace in Mindanao.
Federalism we are told will grant independent political empowerment to all Filipinos. Inshallah.