Former President Rodrigo Duterte
Former President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night called for Mindanao to secede from the Philippines through a process based on a signature campaign that would be presented to the United Nations.
At a news conference in Davao City, Duterte said it was Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez who first pushed for the secession.
“It’s not a rebellion; it’s not sedition,” Duterte said.
“There’s a process, I think, before the UN wherein you would gather signatures from all sorts of Mindanao verified under oath in the presence of so many people [to] decide that we want a separate [state],” Duterte said.
“If you want to do it in Luzon and the Visayas, too, that’s up to you,” he added in Filipino.
Duterte has been critical of a signature campaign for a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution, and has accused President Marcos and his cousin, Speaker Martin Romualdez, of being behind the effort.
He added that the people’s initiative was meant to keep some people in power.
The former President said in its initial years as a separate and independent state, Mindanao would have to restrict the entry of people from Luzon and the Visayas.
“But you can come. People from Luzon, Visayas, we will not deny you,” he said.
In calling for secession, Duterte said nothing has happened to Mindanao even after so many presidents—including himself.
“So I really want a separate Mindanao,” he said. “I’m growing tired… Nothing has happened in the Philippines.”
Alvarez, meanwhile, blamed Romualdez for reviving talk of a separate Mindanao.
“Honestly, I want to thank Martin Romualdez for what he did, which ignited this,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said once Mindanao secedes, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may be banned from Mindanao—referring to a sore point for Duterte, who has been accused of crimes against humanity before the tribunal for his bloody war on drugs.
“We will be a different country without any ties to the ICC,” he added.
Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Mannix Dalipe opposed the idea, calling it a “selfish” move. He said although Mindanao is a progressive region, cannot be separated from the entire Philippines.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chair of the House committee on drugs, said he may be open to the proposal but “it should be studied carefully.”
A friend to the Duterte family and sister of the President, Senator Imee Marcos said she opposed the plan to separate Mindanao from the Philippines.
She acknowledged the region has lagged in terms of progress but said she’s praying it will not secede.
On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the proposal to separate needs more study, but admitted he opposes the idea.
“We have to work tirelessly on making this nation function as a working, effective state,” he said.
Senator Francis Escudero said separation was constitutionally impossible, while Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said he opposed the idea.
“With due respect to the former President, the last thing that we want is for the country to be divided,” he said. “Let us slow down on political squabbles since what is important is to focus on the welfare of the people.”
He said the political squabbling was not good for the economy and would not be good for the country.
“Let’s work together and move forward from this people’s initiative issue and let’s start helping where the people need [help] the most, their economic issues like hunger,” he added.