Duterte trying to escape ICC through Mindanao secession — lawmaker

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan campaign rally in Victorias City Sports and Amusement Center, Negros Occidental on March 8, 2019.
Presidential photo / King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — A House minority lawmaker said on Thursday that former President Rodrigo Duterte may be pushing for Mindanao to secede from the country to stay out of the clutches of the International Criminal Court.

Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan Partylist) raised doubts over the timing of the former president’s “out-of-the-blue” call for a Mindanao secession, which was echoed by his ally Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte, 1st District).

The ICC in 2023 authorized the resumption of its investigation into Duterte's so-called "war on drugs" during his term as president, and earlier, as Davao City mayor. 

The Mindanao secession proposal — which Duterte floated earlier this week amid an explosive feud with his successor, President Marcos —  carries a “hidden agenda” in light of the ICC’s probe, Manuel said.

"In fact, the Dutertes just want to turn Mindanao into an escape bunker at a time when they are being hunted by the ICC when the investigation progresses and they are convicted of their crimes against the Filipino people,” Manuel said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The lawmaker added that Duterte did not make the same call during his six-year term as president — a time when Congress was largely dominated by his allies — and is doing so now in light of the “crumbling” Marcos-Duterte alliance.

“With all due respect, you don’t own Mindanao,” Manuel added.

Mindanaoan lawmakers at the House have expressed opposition to the Mindanao secession proposal, with Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, 2nd District) saying that the former president’s statements about it are meant to sow deeper political divides.

Rodriguez, who also chairs the House constitutional amendments panel, said in a press conference Thursday that pronouncements pushing for Mindanao’s complete independence “just (try) to really stoke the fire” as the region rarely gets a large chunk of the national budget.

Manuel said that what Mindanao needs instead is socioeconomic reforms that would address people's needs. 

“Real agrarian reform, national industrialization, proper social services, and others - things that Duterte did not address when he was president,” Manuel added.

From 2006 to 2018, which covers the administrations of Duterte, his predecessor former President Benigno Aquino III, and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, there was a notable decline in poverty and subsistence rates in Mindanao, but poverty rates remained higher compared to Luzon, according to a 2021 study published in the Social Science Research Network.

The study's authors, Carmel Abao and Jayeel Cornelio, noted an increase in the number of Filipinos self-rating themselves as poor starting 2017, the second year of Duterte's term.

The report also cited data from private pollster Social Weather Stations and said: "... (It) is worth highlighting that at the end of Duterte’s administration, self-rated poverty in Visayas and Mindanao is higher than the national average."

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