DUTERTE’S candidacy has triggered a maelstrom of discourse. Down south where his base of support is greater, it is understandable that this is also where Institutions are arguably at their weakest.

When institutions fail, as they have always in Mindanao. The prospects of a crusader become more attractive; The Punisher as Time Magazine once brandied the Mayor of Davao City becomes the better alternative, a modern Machiavelli for others.

It is not uncommon to hear it as a result from the exasperation of Mindanaoans, we are an afterthought in national elections, a place of non-criticality especially when it comes to attention to platforms, the island that usually goes to the highest bidder. When was the last time the issue of Mindanao favored highly as a contentious issue? At best we’ve had the concern of rebellion being mentioned, at worst its rebellion without context as it’s simply grouped together, the NPA, the MILF, and the MNLF. Etc.

But while we spear the people of Mindanao and say well that’s your fault. We have only this very nation to blame too. The same nation and government, through complicity, neglects or intent has perpetuated this modern imperialism. A climate of fear accomplished through a systemic language of oppression.

It starts with policies that refer to anything outside Metro Manila as provinces; it begins as it creates an imagery of underdevelopment, it continues when it funnels all the best talents of public service in Metro Manila, while depriving, and failing to create a healthy environment for many other regions. It is fueled by totalized conflicts in Mindanao as representative of whole Mindanao. This nation through its institutions both private and public, have successfully draped the entire island under the package of instability.

Mindanao continues to be an embattled geography, even if it has never run short of eloquence, capability, and thought. But our voices have never been heard, or at least taken seriously.

Beyond the Duterte candidacy, I think this a great opportunity to provide a bigger conversation about the fate of our Island. This is an opportunity to shake up the political balance; because the reality is that another province in Mindanao that stays impoverished and underdeveloped will never make news. The entire nation would never be surprised if another war broke out down south. We need to make our interest matter, if not matter the most.

The first official Presidential debate will be on February 2016; we must rally together and challenge Presidential Aspirants to heed our call, and listen up. We need to show that we matter, that we will not follow blindly behind party lines, we refuse to go to the highest bidder, and we will not be another political afterthought. We need to challenge the legacy of conflict unfairly bestowed on us.

Ultimately we need to tell these aspirants, you have to give us answers, and you have to give us solutions. To our energy crisis, our need for infrastructure, our calls for autonomy, and our decade’s battle for recognition, WE need you to make us part of your agenda, and your platform.

We need to issue this warning, if you don’t hear our concerns be prepared to flat out lose in the South.