Fast-track federalism, Duterte urges Congress
President Duterte asked Congress to fast-track moves to put in place a federal system of government in the country, stressing that this was the key to bringing peace in conflict-ridden Mindanao.
Mr. Duterte said he wants the federal system put in place during his term, given the trust placed on him by people from Mindanao.
He also reiterated his promise that he would step down even before his term ends to pave the way for this new system, but it must also have a strong President.
He said he had told Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez to put in place the federal system in two to three years. Overhauling the system of government would require charter change.
“I told them, Bebot [Alvarez’ nickname], hurry it up. I told them if you finish it in two or three years, I will step down as President. You can have my word,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao local governance summit in Davao City.
The ball has to start rolling now, he added, because “the Moro people will not wait for another term of a President.”
“I am not an indispensable factor in this island. But what I’m saying … maybe not really golden but the most appropriate opportunity at this time of our generation, in our lives now, will be now,” he said.
He later said should he die before this is completed, it would be difficult to convince the people to back the idea.
He also assured the Moro people of Mindanao that his only desire was to give them their own territory.
He is not being controlled by any outside influence, he said.
“What you should understand from me, and believe me, what I want to happen is to give what is due to you, and that is semblance of your territory, your governance, and the happiness of the Moro people,” he said.
Mr. Duterte also said Mindanao has been suffering for decades because there seems to be no cohesive action on the part of the Moro people and the central government.
There have been several attempts to address the conflict in Mindanao, but these only proved to be divisive even among Moro groups, he added.
“I think the only acceptable arrangement as of today, this moment of our generation and of the lives of the Moro people is federalism. Other than that, there will be conflict,” he said.
The President also defended armed uprisings by Moro groups.
According to him, terrorism was not started by the people of Mindanao, but by the “colonialists” who “started the killing and the plunder of the land in Mindanao.”
“It’s just a reaction of a person who has been deprived of the most precious thing of Allah’s possessions and that is the land. What they refer to as Muslim rebellion or a Moro rampage is actually Moro nationalism, to put it correctly in the proper perspective,” he said.
He said the anger in the minds of the Moro was grounded in his nationalism, because his land was taken away from him.
“Just as you would call everybody here a Filipino nationalist who sticks to the interest of his own country,” he added.
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