Lawmakers, ex-Muslim rebels reject Duterte call for secession | Inquirer News
House majority leader takes swipe at Pulong

Lawmakers, ex-Muslim rebels reject Duterte call for secession

05:42 AM February 02, 2024

Former President Rodrigo Duterte

Former president Rodrigo Duterte

Several leading lawmakers, former Muslim separatists, and a labor group have rejected former President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for Mindanao to secede from the Philippines, saying this would not solve any problem and would only lead to more conflict.

“With due respect to the former president, I think right now the last thing that we want is for our country to be chaotic and divided,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, a native of Mindanao’s Bukidnon province, said on Wednesday.


In his latest tirade against President Marcos during a news conference in Davao City on Tuesday night, Duterte said that the secession won’t be violent and would follow United Nations processes.


He said he would rather see an independent Mindanao since it had not developed “after so many presidents,” there was no hope for the country’s south because “there would be another lousy president.”

Road to conflict

After Duterte had earlier called Marcos an addict, the President said his predecessor used an opioid for years.

The conflict between the current and the former chief executives blew up following a series of events, including the scrapping of the confidential funds of Vice President Sara Duterte; the former president’s attacks against the House of Representatives led by Marcos’ cousin, Martin Romualdez; the reduction of the budget for the first district of Davao City under his son, Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte; and the ongoing House-supported campaign for signatures to a petition for a people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution.

‘Making up stories’

House leaders dismissed Duterte’s claims that the people’s initiative sought to shift from the presidential to a parliamentary system of government headed by Romualdez, followed by the President’s son, Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos.

Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe on Wednesday challenged Duterte to show proof that the House was trying to push the Charter changes he claimed or stop “making up stories.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, rejected allegations that the people’s initiative “will lead to some people to become prime minister and there would be a perpetuation of power.”


This claim “has no legal and constitutional basis,” Rodriguez said.

Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, who heads the Nationalist People’s Coalition bloc in the House, said shifting to a parliamentary form of government would require a revision of the Constitution, not just a mere amendment.

He cited a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that said a people’s initiative could not revise the Charter.

Zubiri said “this fighting” between various groups would not benefit the economy.

“It’s not going to be good for our country. It’s not going to be good for our children, our children’s children,” Zubiri told reporters.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, the minority leader from Mindanao, said he was against secession of any part of the country’s territory.

Shift to autonomy

Omar Yasser Sema, deputy speaker of the Interim Bangsamoro parliament and a second-generation member of the Moro National Liberation Front, said the former separatists have long shifted from secession to autonomy after they abandoned over four decades of rebellion that killed an estimated 120,000 people in Mindanao.

Sema acknowledges that the longing for “an equitable share of the country’s economy” is widely felt in the Bangsamoro and throughout Mindanao.

“[But] secession is not the solution to this current problem,” he told the Inquirer on Thursday. “It is not good to preoccupy ourselves with talks of secession right now, considering that we are facing external threats. China is threatening our cohesiveness as a nation.”

Pulong’s P51 billion

Dalipe also took a swipe at Representative Duterte, whose district received P51 billion in funding during his father’s presidency.

“Just because you got P51 billion and other districts have been left behind, and you’re thinking of yourself? Dalipe said. “Maybe seceding is OK for those who already got P51 billion, but what about those who did not?”

Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel believes that Duterte is pushing secession to escape possible prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in his bloody drug war.

“He just wants to use Mindanao as an escape bunker when the ICC pursues them,” Manuel said. “Instead of squarely facing the allegations and clearing their name, they won’t just run but sow discord in the country.”

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition chair Sonny Matula expressed “deep concerns and dismay” over Duterte’s secessionist calls.

“It’s like he has a criminal mindset in wanting to goad Filipinos to kill each other again in a civil war,” he said.

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The secession of Mindanao would result in the nation’s collapse, Nagkaisa said. “It threatens to destroy the progress we worked for as a country and endanger the democratic foundation and unity of the Republic.” —WITH REPORTS FROM RYAN D. ROSAURO AND JEROME ANING

TAGS: Mindanao, Rodrigo Duterte

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