Duterte: If Filipinos don't want federalism, I will support BBL
MANILA, Philippines – If majority of Filipinos vote against federalism in a plebiscite, President Rodrigo Duterte will throw his support behind the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), he said.
"If the Filipino nation in a plebiscite would not want it, I am ready to concede whatever is there in the BBL law. We will see to it that it will pass," said the Philippine president on Friday, July 8 during a gathering of Muslim leaders in Davao City.
Duterte said he is eyeing a "framework" on federalism to be ready by the end of 2016.
"Towards the end of the year, we can come up with the framework," he said. The framework could entail a "reconfiguration" of territories of ethnic groups like the Tausug, something desired by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari.
Congress is already laying the groundwork for a possible Constitutional Convention, one of the first steps towards a shift to federalism.
In his vision, federalism could incorporate the BBL. The BBL, an offshoot of the peace agreement signed by the Aquino administration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), failed to pass before Benigno Aquino III stepped down last June 30.
If Filipinos reject federalism, Duterte said he would insist that in the version of BBL to be passed, the MNLF should get the same deal as the MILF.
"Kung ayaw talaga ng the rest of the country (If the rest of the country doesn't like it), then what you give to the MI must be given to the MN kasi pareho lang (because it's the same)," he said.
Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president, asked his audience composed of Muslim leaders from all over the southern island, to be patient with his administration's pace in bringing about the shift to federalism.
"In my view, with the grace of Allah, I might be able to do this within the 6 years. It will not come overnight. Certainly it will not come next year. Probably it will be something about 2 to 3 years from now," he said.
But he gave supporters of federalism something to hope for: "I assure you, something will change before I end my term."
Duterte made federalism a central part of his platform when he ran for the presidency.
He believes federalism, a form of government that decentralizes power and gives more independence to regions, is one way to bring peace to Mindanao and prosperity all over the country.
But his Friday announcement means that if most Filipinos would rather not break the country into independent regions through federalism, only the Bangsamoro Region would become autonomous.
Duterte, who in the elections consistently called for "one Filipino nation" appealed to Muslims in Mindanao to seek unification with the rest of the country even if many of them support more administrative autonomy.
"These boundaries do not really intend to separate our brother Moro from the Christian. It is intended to delineate territories but that should not keep us apart from being Mindanaoans," he said.
Travel to Jolo
The President repeated his promise to travel to Jolo, Sulu, to talk to Misuari about the Mindanao peace process.
Duterte even joked that he hopes he will not get kidnapped by terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
"I might travel to Jolo. Sana huwag ako i-kidnap ng Abu Sayyaf. Wala akong pera mabigay sa kanya. E 'di diretsong putol na lang," he said. (I hope the Abu Sayyaf don't kidnap me. I don't have money to give so they'll just have to cut off my head right away.)
He ended his message with another appeal to unity despite the difference in religions. He is a self-professed Catholic with Muslim relatives.
"With that small bandage to you, let me use it as a bridge not only between Christians, let me use it as a bridge for all to be happy in this world and do things Allah wanted us to do." – Rappler.com