Duterte mulls changing name of the Philippines

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 11 2019 07:46 PM | Updated as of Feb 11 2019 11:09 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he might one day change the name of the Philippines and that a previous proposal to name the country "Maharlika," a term associated with the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was a good one.

Duterte, who often shuns the Philippines’ Spanish colonial roots, said it might better to have the Philippines change its name to something that is better suited for its “Malay” identity.

“The Philippines was discovered by Magellan using the money of King Philip… Okay na iyan. Balang araw palitan natin. Actually tama si Marcos… gusto niyang palitan - Maharlika,” Duterte said in a speech during the distribution of certificates of land ownership award in Maguindanao.

The Philippines was named after Spain's King Philip II in the 16th century, when the country was still a Spanish colony. Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos was the one who gave birth to the name “Las Islas Filipinas” for the archipelago.

It was former Sen. Eddie Ilarde who proposed through Parliamentary Bill 195 that the name of the Philippines be changed to Maharlika, which, allegedly means “nobly created.”

However, the word "maharlika" meant freemen and not kings, princes or nobles, according to historians. 

There is also no archeological or historical evidence supporting the existence of a kingdom called "Maharlika" in Southeast Asia.

The "Kingdom of Maharlika" is related to the claim that a clan called Tagean-Tallano owns the whole Philippine archipelago. In 2015, a supposed descendant of the clan, Julian Tallano, was charged with fabricating land titles in Metro Manila.

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Marcos also used "Maharlika" in faking his military records during the World War 2, according to US Army investigators.

He claimed to have commanded a group of guerrillas known as the "Maharlika Unit", but according to the New York Times, "Between 1945 and 1948 various Army officers rejected Mr. Marcos's two requests for official recognition of the unit, calling his claims distorted, exaggerated, fraudulent, contradictory and absurd. Army investigators finally concluded that Maharlika was a fictitious creation and that ''no such unit ever existed'' as a guerrilla organization during the war."

The New York Times added that the United States Veterans' Administration, helped by the Philippine Army, found in 1950 that some people who had claimed membership in Maharlika actually committed "atrocities" against Filipino civilians rather than fighting the Japanese and had engaged in "nefarious activity."