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Could Rodrigo Duterte address Moslem’s problems in Southern Philippines?

Foto: Philippines presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte answers questions from the media following his meeting with some politicians who shifted political support to his camp Friday, April 29, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. Duterte is facing another controversy after allegedly failing to declare his P211 million Pesos (U.S.$4.5 million) 2014 bank deposits as required by law. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Kung manalo ako na presidente, swerte ang mga Muslim, swerte ang Mindanao. If I become president, Muslims and Mindanao are lucky. (Rodrigo Duterte)

KIBLAT.NET – Rodrigo Duterte, Davao City Mayor for over two decades, has been sworn in as the 16th president of the Philippines in front of 600 guests and millions more watching on television and online.

Duterte won May’s election after a campaign dominated by his pledge to end crime within six months, promising to do so by unleashing security forces with shoot-to-kill orders, and definitely to befriend and make progress of Muslim Philippines.

New Hope?
Prior to winning the battle, Duterte was called as the president candidate closing to the Moslem community in the Philippines. A leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) addressed him as “The Next President” when Duterte visited the Moro group’s camp in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Reportedly by CNN Philippines, Duterte was given a warm welcome with some MILF members even wearing his campaign shirts. He is the first presidential candidate to visit an MILF camp. He’s also the only candidate from Mindanao.

He went there to discuss with them the ongoing struggle for peace in Mindanao and detail his plans to fix the problem if he’s elected president.

This move could further boost his standing in the south where people continue to suffer due to conflict.

In mid-June, Duterte also met with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in a meeting “brother to brother” discussion to end decades of conflict.

Abul Khayr Alonto, MNLF chairman, said the proposed federal system of government was one of the topics during Duterte’s meeting with the leaders. Referring to federalism, he said, “It is acceptable to all parties concerned and to all the stakeholders in Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro and the national cultural communities.”

These meetings should be a path to end roots causing conflicts happen. He is the only candidate from the south and many Moslems had voted for him. Elected a Duterte as a President will be an evidence: is Duterte the new hope for Philippines Moslems?

President-elect’s Challenges
Regarding the problem in the South, Duterte has challenges at least in three matters. First, Duterte should ensure the law supremacy of the Bangsamoro as a result between the MILF and the Philippines’ government.

After signing a historic peace agreement with MILF in Manila, the government has an obligation of the creation of a new self-governing political entity called Bangsamoro, which replaces the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under a law to be approved by the Philippine Congress.

But the hitherto smooth progress has stalled after Aquino’s legal team changed the draft law. MILF viewed the content contravene the earlier agreement and would place unacceptable limits on their autonomy.

“We cannot accept this proposed law as it is,” Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief negotiator, told Reuters. He said about 70 percent of the nearly 100-page draft “Bangsamoro” law was either deleted or revised by Aquino’s lawyers. A copy of the revised legislation showed entire sections of articles on territory, resources, and government structure had been deleted or revised.

How does response the neighbor as the negotiator? Malaysia is optimistic that the process of tabling the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) can be continued by Duterte. Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Mecican, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Rodrigo Duterte’s win in the presidential election could open a new chapter in Malaysia-Philippines bilateral ties and continue the process of tabling the BBL for passing by Congress.

Second, ensuring the peace remains in the southern Philippines by preventing human rights violations against Muslims. Escalation of conflicts can raise when Duterte fails to manage Bangsamoro’s claim. For this matter, Duterte is demanded to avoid violence. He should face it by humanity approaching, including with Abu Sayyaf’s group. Moreover, the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf group have opened the line for the government to have a dialogue with them.

Third, resolving the poverty matter above all in the south. The destitution is the gigantic problem in Philippines. According to statistics, Philippines’ latest poverty line for 2014 marks a per capita income of 10,534 pesos a year.

That’s why the proposed of BBL involving the effort to solve the poverty in the Southern Philippines. Abigail Valte, Deputy Presidential Spokesman at Benigno Aquino III era, said the root causes of poverty must be addressed. She said the government launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro to ensure that the needs of people in Mindanao were being addressed, not just in terms of funding.

Duterte plighted to bring sweeping changes to boost infrastructure, improve investment frameworks and maintain the country’s robust economic growth. Incoming Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the domestic economy could grow 6.5 percent this year, below the 6.8-7.8 percent target.” But an improved security situation may spur investments and boost growth to 7-8 percent before Duterte’s term ends.”

Rodrigo Duterte is demanded to fulfill his promises. The Moslems is awaiting like the vows that have brought him as president by attracting the Bangsamoro’s attention. If not, justice may still be a dream for Southern Philippines- Philippines Moslems.


*Muhammad Pizaro, is an international politics observer. He graduated from the State Islamic University of Jakarta.

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