BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has pictured a grim scenario for peace in Mindanao if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) fails and the government does not shift to a federal form of governance.
In Marawi City, Duterte, who espouses Federalism and is a strong supporter of the BBL, said he would fire up Muslim sentiments to break away from the clutches of the Manila government if the twin solution to the Mindanao problem is ignored.
Duterte’s Marawi City visit is part of his Listening Tour, a series of speaking engagements and forums where he promotes a shift to Federal Parliamentary form of government from the current Unitary Presidential. The tour has visited key cities in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon since its launch early this year.
I will call on Nur Misuari and Ebrahim Murad to declare independence for Mindanao, Duterte told a predominantly Muslim crowd during the forum on federalism on May 6. Duterte also said that if there is no shift to a federal form of government, Mindanaoans should secede from government and form their own “Republic of Mindanao.”
Duterte’s planned call on Misuari and Murad to establish an independent Mindanao is pregnant with omens of doom. The two are symbols of the Mindanao Moro rebellion.
Misuari, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslims Mindanao (ARMM) heads the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF),which abandoned its fight for Mindanao secession after inking a peace pact with government in 1996.
Murad is chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which pursued the battle for independence after the MNLF, which signed this year a peace agreement that would create an autonomous Bangsamoro juridical entity to replace the ARMM. The BBL, the constitutional foundation of the new Bangsamoro government is pending approval in Congress but is afloat on stormy weather its approval uncertain after the killing by Moro rebels of 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in January in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in central Mindanao.
The MNLF and the MILF are the two largest Moro armed revolutionary s in Mindanao.
In sum, the secessionist war in Mindanao stretched to nearly four decades of violence that killed more than 200,000 and stalled the island’s economy.
Duterte earlier said that a new round of violence in Mindanao could erupt if the BBL is not passed by Congress or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The BBL is seen by both government and the Moro people as the answer to the quest for lasting peace in Mindanao.
Duterte said he strongly supports the peace process and hoped the BBL would sail through approval.
Duterte expressed his alarm that top Moro revolutionary leaders like Murad had warned of bloodshed if BBL is not passed, which is a grim scenario that he said is shared by President Benigno Aquino. Aquino is pushing Congress to pass the BBL before he bows out of office in 2016.
If you don’t pass the BBL, you might as well count body bags, count dead bodies, said Duterte in the forum, quoting Aquino’s statement as Congress skewered the BBL in wake of the Mamasapano massacre.
Duterte also lambasted government for mishandling the Mamasapano incident with its wrong decisions during critical hours.
The SAF commandos were on a mission to capture terrorists hiding in MILF territory when they were ambushed by fighters of the MILF, the renegade group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and an unknown armed group.
Malacañang made bad decisions during critical moments in the Mamasapano incidents, said Duterte.
Duterte said the Mamasapano incident has compromised the whole peace process. The peace pact between government and the MILF signed this year was reached after nearly two years of negotiation.
This will cause people to fight each other again, Duterte said.
He hinted that with the peace process shattered, government would again be fighting Moro rebels.
Why should the government wage war against its own people? This is not a government anymore, he said.
But Duterte, today’s most influential political leader in Mindanao who is being pushed to run for President in 2016, said Mindanao could also find lasting peace if the government adopts a federal form of governance.
Duterte told the crowd mostly from the tribe of Maranao, Marawi’s dominant Muslim group, that federalism is the only system of governance that could bring genuine peace among Christians, Muslims and the Lumads.
Federalism is our last chance, he said.
The next president should call for a constitutional convention. Let us not resort to war. Let us push for federalism in Mindanao, Duterte told the jam-packed crowd at the GMA Terminal Complex.
If (the Manila government) cannot give us federalism, then let’s part ways. Let us establish a Republic of Mindanao, said Duterte who added that under the present system national wealth is not equitably distributed to local governments.
Under a federal type of government, federal regions are given fiscal control on income from national wealth and taxes collected in their regions whose shares are directly held and no longer sent to Manila.
In previous forums, Duterte said benefits from the taxes most often do not trickle down to the people or are totally lost due to corruption.
Duterte cited the hydro-power plants in Lake Lanao and Maria Cristina Falls, major sources of Mindanao’s electricity, and Palawan’s Malampaya Gas Field, which earn billions of pesos for government but have not impacted on people’s economic life.
The money should go to where it rightfully belongs, he said.