Federalism to solve Mindanao’s woes – Duterte

Giovanni Nilles, - The Philippine Star

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte yesterday stressed that federalism is the only solution to the prevailing problem in Mindanao, where lasting peace has remained elusive despite years of negotiations between the government and different rebel groups.

“I think the only acceptable option for the Moros as of the moment is federalism,” he said, referring to a term used by the Spanish colonizers for Muslims in Mindanao.

“The most acceptable arrangement is federalism. The most acceptable structure in Mindanao is really federal setup,” the President told more than 500 participants in the 3rd Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Local Government Unit Summit held at the SMX Convention Center here.

“Muslim rebellion is actually Moro nationalism,” the President said.

“What I really want to happen is a semblance of your territory, your governance and the happiness of the Moro people,” he explained.

He expressed fears the federalism effort would be lost if subjected to a plebiscite.

“How are we supposed to craft a new law or suggest that there will be a plebiscite until we should have begun a federal system – it will be lost in a plebiscite – back to square one,” Duterte said.

The President pointed out that the existing problem in Mindanao was not of the present generation’s making.

“This is not our fault; our ancestors handed this problem down to us. And since we are here already, we just have to fix it even for about 20 to 30 years,” the President said.

Duterte said he is confident of divine help in his pursuit of lasting peace for Mindanao.

“In the name of Allah we will be able to find a solution, by the grace of Allah. But we have to act on it now or it would be too late and there would be more war and more killings,” he said.

The President revealed he discussed the issue of federalism with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier in the day.

He said Alvarez had expressed concern over recent violence perpetrated by the Maute group in Lanao del Sur.

Duterte said he instructed Alvarez to hasten the crafting of a law on the establishment of a federal form of government.

He reiterated before ARMM officials his vow to immediately step down once a federal system of government is in place.

“I will step down. I won’t hang on to power. I’ve had it for 40 years,” the 71-year-old President said.

“If I can’t work a system after Oslo in Norway, if I cannot work on a federal setup and make it work, I can tell you I am a failure,” he added.

Duterte also criticized the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development implemented during the administration of former president Fidel Ramos, for reportedly having succeeded only in dividing the Muslims in Mindanao.

“Instead of uniting, it was more of a divisive measure, one against another Moro or grouping. Di ko alam saan ako pupunta (I really don’t know where to go)… there has always been the empty promise to the Moro people of a comfortable life,” Duterte lamented.


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