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Duterte meets with MILF, vows to push for BBL

Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, introduces presidential wannabe Rodrigo Duterte to members of the MILF’s central committee before their dialogue on Saturday in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. Philstar.com/John Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Presidential wannabe Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday made a pitch of his having had a Maranaw grandmother to woe the support of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and bashed rivals for “lack of knowledge” on the political dimensions of the nagging Mindanao problem.

Duterte, in a meeting on Saturday with members of the MILF’s central committee led by Ghazali Jaafar, the group’s vice chairman for political affairs, said he would work out the grant of self-governance, in the context of federalism, to Mindanao’s Bangsamoro sectors, if elected president.

“We can have the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) as `template’ for federalism in other regions,” he told MILF officials during their two-hour dialogue at Camp Darapanan.

Camp Darapanan is the MILF’s main enclave, located west of Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Without mentioning names, Duterte said his rivals lack knowledge on the real context of the Bangsamoro problem hounding the nation for four decades now.

He said the southern secessionist conflict is “not about criminality,” but a political problem that can be addressed through nation-building and genuine diplomatic and political solutions.

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He promised to have the BBL mentioned explicitly in the Constitution if he makes it to the presidency.

“Your present BBL, under your configuration, you can have it,” Duterte told MILF officials, in the presence of journalists, apparently referring to the group’s bid for the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity through the proposed law, which Congress failed to approve.

He said he is aware of the disappointment in the ranks of the MILF as a result of the non-passage of the proposed enabling measure for the creation of a Bangsamoro government.

“Please hold on just hold on for a little while. Just wait for a little more time. Don’t embark on anything that can derail the peace process,” he told Jaafar and his companions.

Duterte said he is not worried of possible rejection by anti-Moro sectors in Luzon and Visayas for his being supportive of the Moro cause.

“It’s a matter of principle,” he said.

Duterte drew the applause of MILF officials when he told them he would address the drug problem besetting the country and corruption in the government if elected.

“I came here not to campaign, because I know you in the MILF are apolitical. I just want you to know of my plans if I am elected president,” he said.

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