Duterte to expand BBL; Poe evades question

MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he will continue ongoing talks for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but will expand the process by also moving to change the country's centralized system of government to federalism.

Duterte made this statement at the presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday, February 21. The debate – the first in a series being mounted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its media partners – was organized by GMA-7 and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Senator Grace Poe, for her part, did not categorically answer the question on whether or not to junk the BBL, but instead stressed she wanted "transparent, inclusive and sustainable" peace talks. And then she discussed infrastructure and development programs for the region. 

"Poe, while harping on inclusion, digressed. Duterte was more categorical regarding his position on BBL," said Oxfam's Marie Nunez, who joined Rappler's panel during the debate.

The question was: Kapag kayo ang nahalal, isusulong niyo ba uli ang BBL o mayroon kayong ibang programa? (If you're elected [president], will you pursue BBL or do you have another program?)

Duterte said federalism is the only move that would appease Mindanao, harping on the need to "right the historical wrong committed against the Moro people."

"I would not only offer BBL with the same configuration, but I would offer federalism to all pati kay Nur Misuari on the western side. That would appease everybody," said Duterte.

Poe responded: "Ang nais ko po ay magkaroon ng isang trasparent, inclusive, at sustainable na pag-uusap at kasunduan. Kailangan talaga sa pagbuo ng kasunduan, kailangan isama lahat ng grupo. (What I want is to have transparent and sustainable talks. To form an agreement, we have to include all groups.) MILF, MNLF. Lahat ng mga grupo hindi lang Maguindanaoans, kundi Tausug, Maranao, Badjao kung ano pati. Pati mga IPs. Pati ang Christians." 

And then Poe talked beyond the BBL: "Habang nag-uusap tayo, kailangan sundan natin ito ng proyekto para sa Mindanao. Ako po ay isa sa gustong magtulak talaga ng Mindanao Rail. Noong 1992 pa ito pinag-uusapan. Siguro nasa lagpas P70 billion ito. Kaya na natin ito tugunan sa panahon na ito. Kailangan din natin ayusin problem ng kuryente sa Mindanao. Kailangan i-rehabilitate ang Angus at Polangui dam sapagkat ito po ay heavily silted na. Imbes na 900 MW, nagiging 600MW of power lamang ang nabibigay dito. Importanante magkaroon ng trabaho dito sa Mindanao. Kaya nga po sa aming budget, kasama ang infrastructure: 2,000 kilometers na kailangan ipasemento at ipaayos. Magbibigay ng temporary na trabaho pero pagkatapos noon mahihikayat ang turismo at ang mga mamumuhunan na pumunta dito dahil mas maayos na ang kalsada. Kasama sa usap ng kapayapaan ay development dito."

Milwida Guevarra of the Movement for Good Governance said: "I got lost. [I don't know] where she was going to."

Poe did not offer a stand on federalism either. She said she is willing to discuss it if she is elected president. – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com 

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