Año: Any secession move to be met with force
MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser Eduardo Año warned that the government “will not hesitate to use its authority and forces to quell and stop all attempts to dismember the Republic” as the military chief also reminded troops that “there is only one Philippines,” following former President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for an independent Mindanao.
“Any attempt to secede any part of the Philippines will be met by the government with resolute force, as it remains steadfast in securing the sovereignty and integrity of the national territory,” Año said in a statement on Sunday.
In a press briefing last week, Duterte said local political forces would be regrouping to push for a “separate and independent Mindanao,” including his bailiwick of Davao City.
The 78-year-old former president also warned President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against supporting ongoing moves for Charter change (Cha-cha), in a speech on Jan. 28 which highlighted a deepening rift between the country’s two most influential political families.
Año, a former military chief whom Duterte tapped as his interior secretary before his appointment by Mr. Marcos last year to his current post, called on “all Filipinos to remain vigilant against attempts to sow discord and division and to work together toward a future of peace and prosperity for all.”
“In light of recent calls to separate Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines, we underscore the importance of national unity, security and stability,” he said, without directly referring to Duterte. “Any suggestion of secession not only runs counter to the Constitution but also threatens to undo the hard-won gains of peace and development, particularly in Mindanao.”
“The comprehensive peace process, which has brought an end to decades of armed conflict in Mindanao, must be vigorously safeguarded and built upon,” he added.
‘Only one Philippines’
Over the weekend, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. went around military camps in Mindanao, including Davao — Duterte’s home region. There, he told troops “to stay united and be wary of enemy efforts to infiltrate various sectors of society and challenge the AFP and the nation’s unity,” according to a statement by the AFP.
“Let us focus on our duty. We have only one Philippines, only one country. Let us be proud of our heritage, let’s be proud of who we are as a people. We are all Filipinos so let’s love our country,” Brawner was quoted as telling soldiers during his visit on Saturday to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Davao de Oro, and the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City.
On Sunday, he went to the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City and the 101st Infantry Brigade in Isabela City, Basilan, where he reminded troops of their oath of loyalty to the Constitution and also stressed that “the strength of the nation depends on the strength and unity of its armed forces.”
“Let us stay focused on our mandate, keep improving our capabilities, and harness our love for our country to become better servant leaders that our country can rely on for the stability and security of our nation. Let us continue to show that with a strong and united AFP, we will have a strong and united Philippines,” Brawner said.
At the House of Representatives, a lawmaker asked his colleagues to investigate and look into the possible expulsion of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s longtime ally, for proposing a separate Mindanao.
In a joint statement on Sunday, Camiguin Rep. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo and his son, Camiguin Gov. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, said the proposal and actions of Duterte and Alvarez were “seditious insofar as [they call] for the separation of Mindanao from the Philippine Republic in violation of the 1987 Constitution.”
The older Romualdo called on his colleagues to investigate and possibly initiate expulsion proceedings against Alvarez “for his role in advocating for Mindanao secession.”
His son, on the other hand, said that he served three terms in Congress, two of these during Duterte’s presidency, while he also served under five Speakers, including Alvarez.
“Of the five (Speakers), Alvarez was the most forceful and powerful. Of course, everyone knows how powerful former President Duterte was during his term. Both are from Mindanao. They should, thus, answer for their complaints about the state of Mindanao,” Governor Romualdo pointed out.
“If things are as bad as they say, why is it that way when you ruled the country for six years? What were you doing when you were at the helm?” he added.
‘Peace and unity’
Two more Mindanao governors also rejected calls for an independent Mindanao, echoing the stand taken last week by four provincial governors in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“In the spirit of peace and unity, we turn down any call or movement that aims to destabilize our government and eventually divide our nation,” Maguindanao del Sur Gov. Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu said. “We are for one and united Philippines.”
Her son, Sultan Kudarat Gov. Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu, said “Division would infringe [upon] the fundamental doctrines of our Constitution, disrupt the interconnectedness of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that has sustained our national economy and fracture the foundation of our national stability.”
His father, incumbent Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Datu Suharto Mangudadatu, expressed the same sentiment, saying that division would only affect “the full potential of our country’s economic strength.”