ANGELES CITY, Pampanga: Federalism advocate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said for the Philippines to achieve national stability, all private armed groups, including the communist and Muslim secessionist groups, must be disbanded.
“No other armed groups should be allowed to operate in the country except the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Duterte told a huge crowd of students, faculty members and businessmen gathered at Saint Cecilia’s Auditorium of Angeles University Foundation here.
He made the statement in response to a question raised by a student on dangers of federalism, which would create powerful and highly-autonomous states, especially in the Bangsamoro area.
“No armed group should be allowed, including the Cafgus [Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units]. They all should go,” Duterte said in answer to a hypothetical question on what he would do to assure stability and security in the country if he were President of the Philippines.
The mayor, who is supporting the peace process in southern Philippines involving the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), noted that even the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the New People’s Army (NPA) should be asked to decommission their firearms the moment they agree to join him in a “Unity Government,” which he envisions should he “by God’s will” become President of the Philippines.
Duterte, who has long reached out to the NPA, the MILF and the MNLF, said stability in the country could only be achieved if no other group, aside from the police and the AFP, is allowed to carry firearms.
Under the federal system of government that he is proposing to replace the unitary presidential form, there will be at least 14 federal states with their own state police, which will all be under the direct supervision of a National Police Force.
The federal government, the mayor said, will retain control over the Armed Forces and handle foreign relations and finance.
The creation of federal states, especially for the restive Bangsamoro who have been clamoring for self-governance, is the best option to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, which would be created with passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress.
In wake of a botched police operation to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, where 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were killed in a clash with the MILF and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on January 25, several congressmen and senators who earlier supported the measure have withdrawn their support.
With the BBL in danger of being rejected in Congress, Duterte said federalism is the best option to save the peace process in southern Philippines.
Fears were raised, however, that with the establishment of powerful and highly autonomous federal states, especially the Bangsamoro Federal States, groups like the MILF could strengthen their armed groups that could no longer be controlled by the federal government later.
“That is a risk which will be addressed with the decommissioning of the firearms and armaments of the MILF and other armed rebels groups should they agree to join government,” Duterte said.
“This [disarmament]must be implemented without fear or favor,” the Davao City mayor added.