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Duterte warns of civil war

TRIBES  in Kalinga province converge in Tabuk City to form lines of gongs which they rang to support peace  with Moro rebels in Mindanao. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

TRIBES in Kalinga province converge in Tabuk City to form lines of gongs which they rang to support peace with Moro rebels in Mindanao. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

DAGUPAN CITY—Peace or civil war.

Rodrigo Duterte, Davao City mayor and now leader of a movement to establish a federal form of government, said the choice should be clear by now for officials involved in the peace process in Mindanao.

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“Everybody wants to junk [the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)]. Everybody does not want to talk [with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF] because of what happened [in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province],” said Duterte, shortly after speaking at a forum on federalism in   Lyceum Northwestern University here.

Duterte was referring to mounting calls to junk BBL in Congress and indefinitely suspend the peace process between the government and MILF after 44 members of the Special Action Force and 18 Moro rebels were killed in a gunfight in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

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“I’m advising you, if I may give advice to the Filipino people, rise above your anger because in the absence of an agreement, what will take its place will be civil war,” he said.

He warned that if war erupts again, it will no longer be like the one in the 1970s when Moro rebel groups were equipped with antiquated guns.

“Today, the MILF and the BIFF possess sophisticated weaponry which could match the firepower of the AFP,” he said.

“The people involved in the televised investigation of the Mamasapano incident may not really care, but we who live in Mindanao and who have experienced the horrors of the conflict are getting scared,” Duterte said.

“Remember that if there is a breakdown in the peace negotiations, we in Mindanao will be the first ones to suffer and it is sad that nobody in Manila seems to realize this,” he said.

He said he came to Pangasinan province “making all sorts of noises” not because he wanted to run for president in 2016 but because he wanted to save Mindanao from being fractured.

“They say that I’m using federalism for the staging of my candidacy. I am not running for president because I do not have money,” Duterte said.

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But Duterte, when asked by a student in the forum, said: “If only to save this republic, I could run for president. I could make this sacrifice if only to save this country from being fractured.”

Asked to clarify his statement, Duterte told reporters later that it was not his ambition to become president and wanted to only share his vision for the country.

“Anybody of us could be the solution [to the country’s problems] but I have no money. That is why I am taking myself out of the equation because I have no money. You need P10 to P15 billion [to wage a presidential campaign]. You can ask for money but at what price would you get it? Even money has a price,” he said.

He said he was visiting provinces in Northern Luzon only because of his desire to have the form of government changed to federalism which, he noted, “the country can’t have unless the president embraces it.”

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