MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Tuesday night that some Filipinos are not yet ready for a federal type of government even as he asserted that it would be the best solution to problems plaguing the country under a centralized system.
Speaking to reporters, Duterte stressed the need to resolve the decades-long Bangsamoro struggle, which he said can be addressed if the Philippine government would “concede” to some demands of Moro groups.
“'Pagka walang nangyari sa usapan, both the MI[LF] (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and MN[LF] (Moro National Liberation Front), you’ll be busy all of you in Mindanao covering a terrible fissure,” Duterte said during a Christmas party with the Malacañang Press Corps.
Government has been seeking the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the enabling measure of a peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014. The BBL aims to create a Bangsamoro political entity with enhanced autonomy.
The passage of the BBL into law would prompt a restructuring of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the grant of more powers to the region.
Government is pushing for the passage of the BBL even as there are also efforts in Congress by Duterte’s allies to shift the country’s form of government to federal, where powers once exclusively held by the national government would be devolved to states.
The President, however, said the “problem is I think the Filipinos are not yet ready for a federal type [of government]. It doesn’t seem to ring a bell in the Visayas and Mindanao.”
He said if the government fails to find the “right formula” in bringing peace to Mindanao, “our country, all of us, will suffer.”
Duterte said he is not asking Congress to hasten Constitutional amendments necessary for the federal shift.
“Kailangan talaga magbigay tayo diyan. And if Congress fails, and I’m not hurrying them up, I’m not thinking of anything else, there will be trouble,” he said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said he wants to speed up discussions on the proposal to shift the system of government from unitary to federal through a constituent assembly.
Alvarez said he would propose to the Senate that Congress convene as early as January 2018 as a constituent assembly and discuss charter change.