Officials who agree with Duterte on renaming Philippines ‘Maharlika’

February 13, 2019 - 7:10 PM
Maharlika interaksyon
Environmentalist Gina Lopez and Senator Panfilo Lacson agreed to President Rodrigo Duterte's plans to change the name of the Philippines to Maharlika. (Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos)

Environmental advocate Gina Lopez and Sen. Ping Lacson expressed their support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s idea to change the name of the country from the Philippines to Maharlika.

Duterte mulled on the name change following late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ fictitious guerrilla unit with the same name.

Lopez, whose previous appointment to the environment agency was backed by Duterte, concurred on Facebook with his idea.

The president is amazing. A friend sent this to me this…

Posted by Gina Lopez on Monday, February 11, 2019


“Our biggest challenge as a people is our colonial mentality. We tend to feel small, the foreigners and ‘white people’ are better, imported is better etc….changing our name would address our consciousness problem,” she said.

“If we can define just what it means to be great, to be ‘Maha,’ it would be very good for our consciousness as a people!” she added.

Duterte’s appointment of Lopez as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources got rejected by the Commission of Appointments in 2017.

Current Secretary Roy Cimatu, former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, succeeded her.

While no longer in the public sector, Lopez continues to campaign for ecotourism in some far-flung areas.

Meanwhile, Lacson said on Twitter that he will be proud to be called a “Maharlikan” than the current name “Philippines.”

“Take out the politics attached to it, Maharlika sounds like truly ours. I will be proud to be a Maharlikan,” the senator said.

This proposal was first put up in 1978 by former senator Eddie Ilarde but he was criticized due to its association to Marcos’ fake guerrilla unit dubbed “Ang Mga Maharlika.”

A report from the New York Times rejected the strongman’s requests for the unit to be recognized. Researchers even found some alleged guerilla members who were accused of atrocities against Filipinos.

Aside from showing support to Marcos, Duterte also reasoned that “Maharlika” sounds fitting to the Filipinos’ Malay origins.

The Philippines was named after King Philip II of colonizing power Spain in the 16th century.

‘Maharlika’ a mistranslation

Historian Xiao Chua, however, argues that the Maharlika was mistranslated from all texts to mean “nobility.” It was further interpreted as “royal blooded.”

In an interview with, Chua said that “Maharlika” is a romanticized term, when it originally meant a “free person.”

Highest ranking free persons were datus while the lowest ranked were the “timawa” or freed slaves.

Change ‘Philippines’ to ‘Maharlika’? It’s not that easy.

Adopting a new name requires a new law, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said. He said Duterte was just expressing an idea.

“The Constitution provides that Congress may enact a law that can change the name of the country and submit it to the people for a referendum. Let’s see how it evolves. He is expressing an idea again as usual,” he said.

Section 2 of Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution provides that the Congress may legally adopt a new name for the country upon ratification by the people through a national referendum or a public voting.

“The Congress may, by law, adopt a new name for the country, a national anthem, or a national seal, which shall all be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people. Such law shall take effect only upon its ratification by the people in a national referendum.”