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Duterte to Nur: We both die if federalism fails

If federalism fails, both of us will die.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday said this was the warning of President Duterte to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari, who threatened to go to war if federalism failed to prosper during the remaining three years of the Duterte administration.

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“The President’s response is also a threat … That is a counterthreat,” Panelo told reporters.

He sought to play down Misuari’s threat during his meeting with the President on Tuesday.

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Saying he was present at the meeting, Panelo quoted the President as telling Misuari he understood his sentiment and that “the federalism issue would be up to Congress.”

In accordance with Charter

Duterte himself said on Thursday said that the federalism sought by Misuari would have to be done in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

“Maybe, somehow, we can craft a setup within the federal structures, but it has to go into a process and I am sure Chairman Misuari knows that—that everything must be in accordance with the Constitution,” Duterte told reporters.

“We’ll just have to craft something that is allowed by the Constitution and the law,” the President said.

Panelo reiterated what Duterte said on Tuesday that the government and the MNLF would create a five-member panel each to “meet and discuss” the federalism bid.

“And then [the President] said, ‘After which, we will celebrate for its success; and if it fails, we will die together,’” Panelo said.

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He said Duterte meant that he and Misuari “would be fighting each other.”

Panelo said he did not think Misuari’s threat was a real one.

Misuari, he said, was stating what the MNLF would do if the federalism bid failed.

He said Misuari remained  “relevant” and had a “potent [armed] force.”

“Any rebel group that has arms would be capable. Whether or not it will succeed is another question. We are capable of thwarting any attempt,” he said.

Inciting to sedition

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said people should not be worried about Misuari’s threat, and should instead check if the statement might be considered inciting to sedition or inciting to rebellion.

“I don’t think we should put a lot of weight to it,” Sotto said at a news forum in the Senate on Thursday.

According to Sotto, federalism is a complex matter and the Philippines should not just change the form of government on the say-so of one person.

Making threats

If Misuari wants to push federalism, he should discuss it with government officials instead of making threats, Sotto said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Misuari’s threat “provided the single most important argument against federalism.”

“No one should be allowed to threaten the very existence of the Republic if [their] demand is not granted by the government,” Drilon said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it was important to keep Misuari close or by the President’s side so that the Armed Forces of the Philippines could keep an eye on him, especially since the new Bangsamoro region is rising.

Lacson also said the fact that Duterte made Misuari’s statement public meant the President was still campaigning for federalism.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, however, doubts that Misuari actually made the threat.

“That’s just Duterte’s contrivance. As always, he will lie to push what he wants,” Trillanes said.

Conrado Generoso, former spokesperson for the consultative committee that Duterte formed to draft a federal constitution, on Thursday said political unrest might go beyond Mindanao if the existing political system would frustrate efforts geared toward federalism and real political and socioeconomic reforms. —WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Congress, die, Drilon, duterte, federalism, Lacson, MNLF, Nur Misuari, Panelo, Sotto, Trillanes, War
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