BY ROGER M. BALANZA
While the country’s Muslims are jubilating and eagerly awaiting the creation of a new Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao, the Philippine southern island’s Christian political leaders are hatching up a plan yo prod Manila to adopt a federal form of government in Mindanao.
This developed as Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte met in a closed-door meeting with five influential Mindanao political leaders to discuss federalism, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and other issues involving Mindanao.
The five political leaders who gathered in a Davao City hotel are Romeo Jalosjos of Dapitan City, Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, former Cagayan de Oro City mayor Vicente Emano, former DOTC secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, and Rueben Canoy of the Radio Mindanao Network.
The group, who called themselves “Council of Leaders,” refused to give details to media after emerging from the two-hour meeting.
However, Canoy said the group discussed various issues concerning the country especially about Mindanao.
He said the group agreed to throw their support to the BBL, now pending approval by Congress.
The BBL would create a new autonomous Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The creation of the new Bangsamoro homeland stemmed from the signing in March this year by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s biggest Moro group, of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Canoy also said the group expressed desire for a federal system of government in Mindanao.
With Congress now deliberating on the BBL, we feel it is also time for the government to discuss the possibility of federalism in Mindanao, Canoy told media.
For his part, Duterte said the federal system of government is the only solution to the Mindanao insurgency problem.
The group along with other Mindanao leaders are going to Cebu next month to discuss the plan to push federalism in Mindanao.
Canoy said the group will embark on a massive education campaign next month to gain support for federalism from Mindanaoans.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte assured the national government that a group of Mindanao political leaders pushing for a federal system of government is not planning to sever ties from the central government nor to dismember the country.
He may have been one of the Council of Leaders in Mindanao that is now moving for a federal form of government, but Duterte said he would never head a federal government if ever it pushes through.
Duterte said that out of delicadeza, he would not accept an offer to lead the federal government of Mindanao. He said this is to dismiss insinuations that his support for a federal form of government was only because of his “political ambitions” for a higher position.
“Ingon nila na ako ang pinaka-projected nga opisyal sa Mindanao. I told them I don’t want the position. I don’t want to be turned into the big man here. It might be misconstrued as me having an ambition for something else.”
But the other members of the Council of Leaders namely — Romeo Jalosjos of Dapitan City, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri, former Cagayan de Oro City mayor Vicente Emano, former DOTC secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, and Rueben Canoy of the Radio Mindanao Network, are however one in saying that Duterte is their council head and spokesman.
In fact, during the close door meeting last week, Duterte presided over their meeting. When asked who initiated the meeting, Canoy said it just happened without any plan. Canoy admitted though that it just so happened that he was in constant contact with the other Mindanaoan leaders and so they decided to meet in Davao City last September 11
Canoy said that the Council of Leaders is just the core group and that they will soon be creating more groups in other areas like the Visayas. Duterte revealed that come October 5, they will go to Cebu City to meet with other local leaders there who are also espousing for federalism. BOTConsultancy