DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 03 November) – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte may or may not be a Roa, but certainly, he has no Meranaw roots.
That he may or may not be a Roa is explicitly stated in the book, “Beyond Will & Power: A biography of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” written by political analyst Earl Parreno, launched earlier in Metro Manila and soon in Davao.
Parreno, however, does not explicitly state in the 227-page book that Duterte has no Meranaw roots. He has left it to the readers to decipher that the first Mindanawon President, the first President to claim to have Moro, specifically Meranaw roots, has none.
“Digong has no Maranaw blood based on my research. The claim of some Maranaos that they are related to the Roas thru some Datu has been proven by the Roa genealogist as having no basis. This was in January this year when the Maranaos were trying to join the biennial reunion of the Roas in Cagayan de Oro,” Parreno replied to an e-mailed question from MindaNews on why he left it to the readers to decipher when he could have included a sentence or two on this research finding.
Parreno researched thoroughly on Duterte’s genealogy, pointing out that his grandfather Eleno was a Fernandez born out of wedlock, but who later adopted the family name Roa, and that his unnamed grandmother may or may not have been a Roa.
According to the book, Eleno was the son of Eugenio Fernandez, a Spanish-Chinese mestizo from Talisay, Cebu. Eleno’s unnamed mother, “was supposed to have died when he was very young and whose identity was kept secret by the family, even from their closest relatives.”
Eugenio later married Eduarda Delfin who reportedly ill-treated Eleno, prompting him to run way from home and move to Leyte, reportedly in search of his mother and her relatives.
There, the young Eleno met his namesake Eleno Roa, who was married to Escolastica Lolo. The couple had at least six children, according to Parreno’s research, two of them women named Leoncia and Victoriana. “One of them could have been young Eleno’s mother but having a child out of wedlock at the time was a taboo,” the book says.
The young Eleno was made to stay with Victoriano, second child of Eleno and Escolastica, but later returned to Talisay to ask his father to support him through Law school. His stepmother Eduarda, however, was not supportive so he went to Cebu City and approached Manuel Roa, “said to be a relative of his mother, to ask for help.”
Manuel Roa welcomed him to his home and supported him, prompting Eleno to change his family name to Roa although he “sometimes signed his name as Eleno Roa y Fernandez.”
The young Eleno Roa married Fortunata Gonzalez and had five children, among them Soledad Roa.
On the paternal side, Parreno noted that Duterte’s grandfather, Facundo Buot Duterte, son of Isabelo Duterte was actually a Veloso. Isabelo was the son of Maximo del Rosario Veloso and a woman surnamed Duterte, Parreno wrote.
“The two were not married and the Duterte woman, who was said to belong also to a wealthy family, insisted that her child carry her family name, not Maximo’s. Hence, their son became known as Isabelo Veloso Duterte,” the book said.
Isabelo married Damasa Buot and had four children, among them Facundo who married Zoila Gonzales.
Facundo Duterte and Zoila had five children, among them Vicente, father of Rodrigo.
Parreno said that according to records, Facundo also married Leonarda Alvarez and had a child named Andrea and that he “was also known to have a liaison with another woman surnamed Enriquez and he had a love child with her named Adolfo.”
The genealogy of the paternal and maternal sides of President Duterte does not show any linkage to the Meranaws.
But the book is silent on Duterte’s claims that he has Meranaw roots or that based on Parreno’s research, the President has “no Meranaw blood.”
“I just felt when I was writing the part that it’s not that important to spell it out,” Parreno told MindaNews.
“But I believe that there is a strong probability that the mother of Soling’s father was a Roa along the Roa-Lolo line of Laboon, Maasin (Leyte) pero circumstantial lahat ng proof. That’s why it was easy for Eleno Fernandez to adopt the Roa name. The Roas of Cagayan de Oro and the Roas of Maasin and even of Cebu don’t know how Nanay Soling is related to them,” Parreno told MindaNews.
The family tree illustration on pages 92 and 93 shows that the name of the “Duterte woman” who was the mother of Isabelo, may have been either Dionisia or Francisca.
It also shows that Vicente Duterte and Soledad Roa have the same middle name: Gonzales.
Asked if the Gonzales families were related, Parreno told MindaNews, “based on my data, Fortunata Gonzales (mother of Soledad) was from the Gonzales of Maasin (Leyte) and Zoila (mother of Vicente) was from the Gonzales of Carcar, Cebu.”
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, according to a Philippine Star report on October 16, said he would consult with President Duterte on Parreno’s claim that Duterte has no Meranaw roots.
The Philippine Star quoted Panelo as saying that the President has been saying all along that he has Meranaw roots. “I don’t think the President will say anything not true as regards that matter,” Panelo said.
While serving as Davao City mayor, Duterte named deputy mayors for the Moro and Lumad communities in the city but he was not known to have Meranaw roots.
Duterte’s claim he has Meranaw roots surfaced only during the Presidential campaign, when the then seven-term Davao City Mayor went on a listening tour in 2015.
In his speeches then, he would lecture on Mindanao history, on addressing the historical injustices committed against the Moro and that he was a Moro, too, that he had Meranaw blood.
Duterte won overwhelmingly in the Moro-dominated provinces in the May 2016 Presidential election.
MindaNews first heard him talk about his Meranaw roots in a speech in M’lang, North Cotabato in August 2015.
He told the crowd that half of his family members are Muslims, that his grandmother was a Meranaw, his grandfather a Chinese national, his mother has Meranaw blood, and some of his grandchildren are Muslims.
MindaNews asked some of those involved in his campaign when Duterte learned about his alleged Meranaw roots but no one could say when.
The Meranaw roots claim apparently began either shortly before or during his visit to Marawi City for his ‘listening tour on federalism’ in May 2015 when some Meranaws traced their links to the Roas. But as Parreno said in his e-mailed reply to MindaNews, this claim “has been proven by the Roa genealogist as having no basis.”
Neither pro nor anti
Beyond tracing Duterte’s ancestry, Parreno interviewed “nearly a hundred people,” among them Duterte’s siblings, friends, campaign leaders and other personalities in Davao, Metro Manila, Cebu, Leyte and Cagayan de Oro. He tried twice to seek an interview with the President but received no reply.
The book retraces Duterte’s childhood, high school days, life as a lawyer, a prosecutor, his entry into the political arena all the way to his Presidential campaign and ends with Duterte’s miting de avance at the Luneta on May 7, 2016, two days before the Presidential election.
The huge crowd of about 300,000, the biggest among the miting de avances of the five Presidential candidates, cheered him on.
“The shout of approval from the multitude drowned out whatever doubts Digong had. He was sure to win,” Parreno wrote.
In the book’s Introduction, Parreno said that as he was gathering materials for the book, he was asked by those he approached if he was writing a pro- or anti-Duterte book.
His reply: “It is neither. “
“This book is not a pro-Duterte or anti-Duterte,” Parreno said. What it is, he said, is “a portrait of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte based on accounts from nearly a hundred people and months of research – fairly and truthfully painted. This is about his ancestry, his family, his transformative years, and his rise to power.”
In his Preface, Edicio dela Torre described Parreno’s book as “an insightful biography of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, given as a code to help us decode him.”
Parreno is also the author of “Boss Danding,” an unauthorized biography of businessman Eduardo Cojuangco. Jr., published in 2003. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)