‘No need to count bodybags if BBL fails to pass in Congress’ PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 30 May 2015 08:53

By MANNY PIÑOL

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte Thursday called on leaders of the Moro islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other Bangsamoro leaders not to resort to violence and killings should the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law which aims to establish the powerful autonomous government in the Muslim areas of Mindanao fail to pass Congress or the Supreme Court.

“The President (Benigno Aquino) has warned us that we should be prepared to count the body bags should the BBL fail to pass Congress,” Duterte told a huge gathering of Christian and Bangsamoro leaders who gathered at the Polytechnic College of Cotabato City during a quick visit to the city late yesterday afternoon.

“We do not have to kill each other if BBL fails. If BBL will not pass Congress, I will come back and we will discuss Federalism as an option to really achieve the dream of the Bangsamoro people for self-governance,” Duterte told the crowd which waited for him as early as 11 a.m. until he came at about 4 p.m.

Duterte, who publicly announced that he has blood ties with the Bangsamoro because his maternal grandmother was a Maranao and that some of his grandchildren have embraced Islam, said that while he hoped that the BBL would hurdle Congressional scrutiny and a Constitutional review by the Supreme Court, the country should be prepared with options to be offered to the Bangsamoro should the proposed law creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region fail to pass.

In an apparent rebuff of President Aquino’s statement which painted a grim scenario of an outbreak of violence with the rejection of the BBL by Congress, Duterte said there is still hope for a peaceful resolution of the decades-old conflict in the Southern Philippines and he offered the shift from the highly centralised unitary government which the country has now to a Federal Parliamentary system which would result in the creation of Federal States.

While he said he supported the BBL, there are issues he raised on some provisions of the proposed law which should be addressed to make it inclusive and reduce the danger that it could later strengthen a secessionist movement.

Duterte said he opposed the establishment of an autonomous police force and armed forces for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and that he believed that the sentiments of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNF) under Nur Misuari be considered.

“The idea of an autonomous police force and armed forces should be a cause of concern because while I believe that Al Haj Murad, (Mohaqher) Iqbal and the other MILF leaders will honour their commitments to peace, nobody knows what would happen generations from now when the autonomous region would have a leader who would have under his control the armed components to either ensure his uninterrupted stay in office or secede from the Philippines,” he said.

“Our peace panel members have also failed to consider that the Muslims of Central Mindanao and the Muslims of the islands are two entirely different nations and it is almost certain that these two groups would not go along well under just one Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” he said.

Duterte, in his Federalism advocacy, proposed a Federal State for the Bangamoro in the main island of Mindanao and another Federal state for the Muslim tribes in the islands, including Tausugs, Samas and Yakans.

He said if the Aquino administration, in its rush to have the BBL approved by Congress, has created complications by allowing the insertion of provisions making reference to the Tripoli Agreement, a treaty signed by the Philippine Government with the MNLF under Misuari in Libya in 1976 which identified 13 provinces to be under a proposed autonomous region.

While the BBL only included five provinces namely Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi, the Tripoli Agreement included the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sulltan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Palawan and Davao del Sur.

“So, which is which? Will the BBL the law amend the Tripoli Agreement or will the Tripoli Agreement, a treaty, amend the BBL?” he asked.

“If there is anybody who would like to have peace and end the conflict in Mindanao, it is I because I have both Christian and Bangsamoro blood in me. I have grandchildren who are both Christians and Muslims. You talk of body bags? Who do I shoot first, my Muslim grandchildren or my Christian grandchildren? Or do I shoot myself in the head?” he asked.

Duterte said instead of gearing up for a war between blood brothers, he said the country should prepare for a bigger problem posed by China’s annexation of the country’s territory.

“You want war? Well, gear up and let’s go to the Spratlys,” Duterte said earning a wild applause from the crowd composed of Christian and Muslim leaders of Maguindanao, Cotabato City and Lanao del Sur.

Duterte who arrived at about 4 p.m. from Davao City called on Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani, Jr. before proceeding to the Polytechnic University.