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MINDANAO SECESSION BID GRIPS PHL, BACKED, NIXED; PNP warns of chaos; DND, DoJ vow to protect sovereignty

By ALFRED GABOT and CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

 Editor in Chief and Managing Editor

 

MANILA/DAVAO CITY – A threat by former President Rodrigo Duterte to lead a secession of Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines has gripped the country  as leaders and citizens were starkly divided on the proposed independence of the nation’s second biggest island.

While many have come out in the open for the Mindanao independence, a dream of many Filipinos for decades due to alleged neglect by the central government in Manila, the government immediately branded the plan as “treason” even as the Philippine National Police warned of possible chaos if the plan is pursued.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, at the same time, have issued warnings against moves that threaten the “territorial integrity” of the Philippines.

Duterte revived the campaign for Mindanao independence following his tirade against President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who he had claimed as a “drug addict” and the plot was immediately supported by leaders like Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez who started gathering signatures for the plan.

“The mandate of the Department of National Defense is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of our national territory as enshrined in the Constitution,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said, adding “we will strictly enforce this mandate whether externally or internally.”

In a separate statement, the Department of Justice headed by Secretary Crispin Remulla said it is “vehemently opposed” to calls for secession “of Mindanao or other parts of the country,” pointing out that secession is contrary to the principles of a democratic society as stated in the Constitution and called on Filipinos “to reject secessionist ideologies.”

PNP Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said the PNP is monitoring the movement, adding that he is confident that the national police will oppose moves to separate Mindanao from the Republic of the Philippines.

“These are all defined through our Constitution, yung territory natin, sovereignty natin. It’s not good na after all the sacrifices of our heroes and other kababayans and now that we are enjoying peace (that this comes up,” Acorda said.

Duterte threatened to separate Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines as he and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. disagreed on efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Meanwhile, during the first public hearing of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments’ hearing on RBH 6, framers of the 1987 Constitution as well as proponents of charter change gave their pieces about the latest attempt to amend the Constitution.

For Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., one of the framers of the Constitution, amending the charter would not solve the country’s problem with foreign direct investments.

“Our problems are not due to the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution. They cannot be solved by removing its restrictive economic provisions and completely leaving to Congress the future under the clause ‘unless otherwise provided by law,’” Davide told the subcommittee. 

He noted that on the contrary, amending the economic provision of the charter “would create more serious and disturbing problems and consequences.”
Former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod, also one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, echoed the same sentiments, stressing that the passage of RBH 6 would pave the way for the abuse by corrupt officials.

Meanwhile, retired Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna said he is in favor of removing all restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, stressing that restrictions and economic policies should not be in the Constitution.

Azcuna, also one of the framers, suggested that the two chambers reconcile to discuss how to proceed with the RHB 6.

“The ideal way is to have resolutions of both Houses worded the same way that’s why it’s called resolution of both Houses. It should not differ and it should be approved the same way with the same wording. That’s why a joint hearing is not necessary but you should caucus together,” he said

Alvarez, who backed Duterte, claimed that their secession strategy would not result in violence.

“What about secession if it’s not bloody? Let us take the case of Singapore, when Lee Kuan Yew and the other leaders in Singapore decided to secede from Malaysia in 1963-1964-1965 without any bloodshed,” he said.

Alvarez said “had Lee Kuan Yew and the other leaders not mustered enough courage to separate from Malaysia, maybe until now, Singapore would still be a part of a third-world country.”

Earlier, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) led by Secretary Benjamin Benhur Abalos Jr.  warned against secessionist moves, saying these would “disrupt decades of painstaking effort to build a stronger union among all our peoples and ethnicities.”
National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, for his part, said  that attempts to break up the Philippines would be met with “resolute force” from the government.
Año warned that any attempt to secede would be met with force, citing the government’s responsibility to uphold the territorial integrity of the Philippines.
“The National Government will not hesitate to use its authority and forces to quell and stop any and all attempts to dismember the Republic,” said Año,  a former Armed Forces chief of staff and interior secretary under Duterte.

Año — also a co-vice-chairperson of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict — added that the government remained “steadfast” in securing the sovereignty and integrity of the nation’s territory.

The former Armed Forces chief stressed that talk about secession could reverse “hard-won” victories in terms of peace in the volatile Mindanao region.

Last week, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) called Duterte’s push “anathema to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.”

“Let us turn away from any call or movement that aims to destabilize our beloved nation, especially to separate Mindanao from the rest of the country,” said Galvez.