DOJ opposes Duterte’s call for Mindanao secession

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
DOJ opposes Duterte�s call for Mindanao secession
This photo shows the Department of Justice office in Faura, Manila.
Philstar.com / File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) rejected the idea of an independent Mindanao from the Philippines proposed by former President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement released on Monday, the principal law agency of the executive department said that the call for secession is contradicting the principles of our democratic society” as stated in the 1987 Constitution. 

“The Department of Justice vehemently opposes calls for the secession of Mindanao or other parts of the country and stands firmly against any attempts to undermine the unity and territorial integrity of the Philippines, as enshrined in the Constitution,” the DOJ said. 

“The DOJ remains committed to protecting our sovereignty and upholding the sanctity of the highest law of the land,” it added. 

However, when asked if Duterte violated any law due to his pronouncement, DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano said that the justice department can only comment if there is a “pending matter” endorsed to the agency. 

“If their call is the division of the Philippines, our call naman is the unity ng buong bansa,” Clavano said in an interview with reporters. 

(If their call is the division of the Philippines, our call, on the other hand, is the unity of the entire country.)

On January 31, Duterte put forward the idea of separating Mindanao from the rest through a people’s initiative after accusing President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of being behind the people’s initiative signature campaign to change the Constitution.

Duterte's call, according to a Makabayan bloc lawmaker, is allegedly being used by the former president to evade the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court which gave the green light to resume its investigation into Duterte's "war on drugs," which saw thousands of deaths as recorded by local and international human rights groups.

Aside from the DOJ, the National Security Council (NSC) on Sunday also rejected Duterte’s secession pronouncement saying that it poses to progress made in peace and development.

“Any attempt to secede any part of the Philippines will be met by the government with resolute force, as it remains steadfast in securing the sovereignty and integrity of the national territory,” National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said, according to NSC’s statement on Sunday. 

In a separate statement, the Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro echoed NSC’s rejection of Duterte’s secession call.

“The mandate of the Department of National Defense is to secure the sovereignty of the state and integrity of the national territory as enshrined in the constitution,” Teodoro said in a statement on Monday.

“We will strictly enforce this mandate whether externally or internally,” he added.

On Friday, Carlito Galvez Jr., the presidential adviser on peace, reconciliation and unity, also urged Filipinos to reject any movement calling for an independent Mindanao to separate from the Philippines.

Both Año and Galvez are former Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines appointed during the Duterte administration. 

Mindanao governments’ rejection

Aside from government personalities and agencies, the Bangsamoro government and some governors of Mindanao also oppose the secession call of Duterte.

In separate statements, governors of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao del Sur on Sunday joined the rejection of the separation of Mindanao proposal. 

“Mindanao’s concerns should be resolved without pursuing secession…It would disrupt the interconnected productivity of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that has long sustained our national stability,” Sultan Kudarat Gov. Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu said.

Maguindanao del Sur Gov. Bai Mariam Mangudadatu, meanwhile, emphasized that secession will not resolve the concerns of Mindanao residents.

“We are for one and united Philippines,” she added.

The Bangsamoro leaders also opposed the secession idea, saying that they would continue to adhere to the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro "towards the right to self-determination."

“We, therefore, urge everyone to help protect the gains of the peace processes. Let us continue to support the current administration and allow peace and civility to reign over the affairs of our land,” BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim said in a statement on Friday. — with reports from John Unson, Gaea Katreena Cabico and Cristina Chi

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