Without BBL plan B, secession seen
BAGUIO CITY—As the prospects for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) dim following the debacle in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, one of Mindanao’s most recognized leaders, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said government should prepare now an alternative plan to prevent war in Mindanao.
“So what’s your fallback position?” was Duterte’s question during a meeting with Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and other Cordillera leaders at the Baguio Country Club. Duterte was here to give a talk on good governance and federalism.
The mayor said a vacuum would emerge if no alternative mechanism is set in place for the proposed Bangasamoro region, which would expand and replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“And if violence escalates, there would be no other battleground but Mindanao,” he said.
ARMM, which was approved in a referendum in 2001 by Muslim-dominated provinces, was the outcome of peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that led to an agreement in 1996.
The Bangsamoro region that would be created by the BBL is the product of peace negotiations with the MNLF splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Some senators withdrew their support for the proposed BBL following the bloodbath in Mamasapano that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and 18 Moro rebels in a faulty plan to extricate commandos who attacked a hut being used by international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”
“Rising above the deafening cries for revenge and to think of ways to avoid an outbreak of hostilities is not cowardice or an act to dishonor those who sacrificed their lives to make our communities safe from the threats of terrorists. [It is] prudence and level-headedness,” said Duterte, who visited north Luzon provinces this week to discuss federalism.
He said the more radical alternative to BBL would be for Mindanao to secede from the Philippines.
“We can always dream of a Mindanao Republic,” he said. “You can enter but you need a passport.”
Federalism, however, offers government a better option for harnessing Mindanao, he said. “I am not an expert on this. I was only convinced of federalism two months ago,” he said.
But Duterte said he may pursue changes in the Constitution to convert the government into a federal system.
The present system, he said, is patterned after the unitary system “organized for us by the American colonial government in the 20th century where all government income is collected by the national government and local governments get shares through internal revenue allotments.”
Duterte said federalism requires government income to be divided, with local governments getting 75 percent and the national government the remaining 25 percent. Frank Cimatu, Inquirer Northern Luzon