'Kung 'di pa yan lulusot, mahihirapan na kayo'
MANILA – Federalism is the country's ''last card'' in solving Mindanao's separatist insurgency, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
Duterte said future administrations may find it hard to solve the longstanding conflict in Mindanao if his proposal for a shift to a federal form of government is rejected by Filipinos.
''That is why I ran, ang centerpiece ko talaga was federalism. ‘Yan ang hinihingi ni Misuari,'' Duterte said, referring to Nur Misuari, the founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
''Parang pinaka-areglo na lang. Kung hindi pa ‘yan lulusot sa six years ko, believe me, mahirapan na kayo."
The Duterte administration has made the shift to federalism a legislative priority, saying the current unitary presidential system has failed to address the needs and aspirations of Filipinos.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with which the previous Aquino administration brokered a peace deal that spawned the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), earlier expressed unease with the proposal to shelve the BBL in favor of federalism.
The MILF insisted that the BBL should still be pursued by the Duterte administration. The group said the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which was the product of peace talks between the Aquino government and the group, will address the specific problems of the Bangsamoro people and their homeland.
In his speech delivered at the testimonial dinner by the San Beda Law Alumni Association, Duterte said while he ''cannot ignore the BBL and Nur Misuari,'' a shift to federalism ''is the last card."
''Unless we address the historical injustice committed against the Moro people, there will never be peace in Mindanao. Ang last card diyan is pumayag na lang sila. Kung wala ng iba, federal,'' he said.
The MILF, nonetheless, eventually expressed support for Duterte's efforts to solve the Bangsamoro conflict. Together with MNLF's Muslimin Sema faction, the MILF signed a joint communique stating that the two groups will ''work at common goals and objectives to engage with the new Philippine administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte."
Duterte also said he might eventually back BBL's passage if his proposed shift to federalism is rejected in a plebiscite.
In an effort to unify all Bangsamoro groups in Mindanao, Duterte is now trying to reach out to his friend, Misuari, who is currently in hiding as he is facing rebellion charges stemming from the 2013 Zamboanga City siege.
The bloody siege took place as the MNLF's Misuari faction felt left out by the peace talks between the MILF and the previous government. Misuari's camp said the MILF peace talks practically abrogated MNLF's existing agreements with previous governments.
The MILF is a breakaway faction of the MNLF.