Duterte proposes Philippine name change again, says Muslims don’t like being called ‘Filipinos’

President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo: Presidential Communications’ (Government of the Philippines) Facebook page)
President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo: Presidential Communications’ (Government of the Philippines) Facebook page)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appears to dislike the country’s name — like, a lot.

Yesterday he once again broached the possibility that the country’s name could change in the future by saying that Muslims do not like being called “Filipinos” because it reminded them of King Philip II of Spain, whose name the country was named after.

The president said this during a speech at the National Assembly of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas (National Assembly of the League of Villages in the Philippines) at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

After discussing the Bangsamoro Law, he mentioned Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairperson Nur Misuari

“He is a Tausug,” Duterte said. “Maybe he may not consider [himself] a Filipino in the right sense. Because it’s in the name, the name of the king of Spain. ‘Philip’ [became] ‘[the] Philippines.’ And that will never be accepted by the Moro people, believe me.”

Duterte added that Muslims prefer to identify themselves by the name of their tribes. He said: “Whenever they go out, [they would say] ‘I’m a Tausug. I’m Maranao.’ They will never say ‘I’m a Filipino.’ Maybe the diplomats, those in the career positions, and [those working for the] government [they would say that] but the average Moro….”

The president is partly right. According to the book Muslims: The Misunderstood Filipinos, in some rural areas in Mindanao, there are some Muslims who refuse to be called “Filipinos” because they believe that it means someone is not a Muslim. However, this is certainly not true for all Filipino Muslims.

“Whatever develops in the future, even in the name we leave it up to the people of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro [to decide]. They want to call it Maharlika, fine,” said Duterte.

Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos named the country “Felipinas” in 1542, in honor of Philip who was then Spain’s crown prince.

Two weeks ago, Duterte proposed that the country should be named “Republic of Maharlika,” an idea that was supported by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the past.

Marcos, a former soldier, claimed that he led a guerilla unit in World War II called “Ang Mga Maharlika” (“The Maharlika“).

However, the United States Army said that Marcos’ guerilla group was fictitious and that “no such unit ever existed” during the War, reported The New York Times. 

Duterte also said that King Philip II was not a good role model and that people should read more about him on — of all places — Facebook.

“The King of Spain, you should read what’s on your Facebook. Find out who King Felipe was or is.  He was not a good man. He had so many wives, unlike me, I only had two. Him, he had a lot. And he was a despot. He was lording it over the country because it was the Spanish era of dominance in Europe.”

Today, Facebook is one of the worst places to read about history because a number of accounts on the platform spread misinformation. Here in the Philippines, it’s been used by certain people to cast doubt on the 1986 EDSA Revolution for example, such as Duterte supporter Mocha Uson.

Last year, she ran a poll asking people whether the revolution was a product of fake news, and an overwhelming majority said it was.  This, despite the existence of countless articles, photographs, and videos that recorded the event.

A few months after that, senatorial candidate and Marcos’ former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile appeared on a Facebook video where he said that martial law was a peaceful time in the Philippines, even though numerous human rights violations occurred during those years. 

Another video, meanwhile, tells netizens on Facebook that the revolution is being used by the opposition to gain power. It also paints traditional local media as biased sources.

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