Duterte urged to stop secession talks

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Duterte urged to stop secession talks
In a statement, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has urged former president Rodrigo Duterte and former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to stop any talk about Mindanao secession.
Presidential photo / King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker from Mindanao yesterday called for a stop to talks about separating the region from the rest of the Philippines, saying that even President Marcos has already made clear his position on the matter.

In a statement, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has urged former president Rodrigo Duterte and former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to stop any talk about Mindanao secession.

Rodriguez underscored that the President had already declared that he would not allow any group to split the country.

“The former president, former speaker and their followers, should stop any talk and any actual plan – if there is any – to secede Mindanao. President Marcos has categorically stated that he would not permit our national territory to be reduced ‘even by one square inch’ and would not allow ‘even an iota of suggestion of its breaking apart,’” he said.

According to Rodriguez, Marcos is “serious” in his position, and those pushing for Mindanao independence “should take his statements seriously.”

The lawmaker pointed out that talk of secession does not really help Mindanao.

“It is counterproductive. It scares away investors. Most of our island – the Davao provinces in particular, the bailiwick of PRRD (Duterte) – is now economically progressive and peaceful, including the BARMM area,” he added.

Rodriguez said that Mindanaoans should “trust, and give a chance to President Marcos to support and develop Mindanao. After all, he is just one year and seven months into his six-year term.”

He maintained that Mindanao still needs a bigger budget under the Marcos administration, because in this year’s budget only 16 percent is given to the region. This is far behind the Luzon regions and Metro Manila.

Mindanao produces 25 percent of the national wealth and accounts for 23 percent of the country’s population. Seven of the 10 poorest provinces in the Philippines is found in Mindanao.

Citing a statement of Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, who comes from Mindanao, Rodriguez maintained that the national government “has been working to sustain peace and prosperity in the island” and that its programs “were starting to bear fruit.”

“Unlike in the past, our beloved island is represented in the Cabinet. So, let’s take her word and stop all this secession talk, which negates progress,” he added.

Mindanao is part of the national territory and, according to Manila Representative Joel Chua, separating Mindanao cannot be done without revising the 1987 Constitution.

“Secession per se is, therefore, unconstitutional… Mindanao is part of our national territory and, therefore, must be protected,” Chua said.

He noted that revision – not merely amendment – is required “because it is not just Article I on the National Territory that is affected.”

Also affected are several other articles, including those about the national economy and patrimony, how national and local elections are conducted, how citizens are represented in Congress, the conduct of foreign relations, the armed forces, the national police and the jurisdiction of national government agencies.

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