President Rodrigo Duterte declared during his visit in Qatar that Filipino Muslims are not enemies of the state.
Duterte noted that the pockets of rebellion in Mindanao are the result of “imperialism.”
“Do not believe that the Muslim Filipinos are our enemies. The situation now is the result of imperialism. The great divide was the result of imperialism,” the President said on Saturday night.
“The Philippines could have been a perfect country, but there was a great divide, and that is religion,” he added.
At least 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic.
“I ran for office with clear programs for Mindanao. We don’t have any trouble with the rebellions now. The problem now is ISIS. The Philippines today is fundamentally peaceful,” Duterte pointed out.
The Abu Sayyaf Group, known for abducting foreign and local tourists for ransom, had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
“There are a lot of Muslims in my Cabinet. We are trying to work out something. I hope that Allah would be most gracious to us. The merciful would grant us peace. And we hope to succeed in our peace talks. We are ready to reconfigure the land. We are ready to concede what was lost of them. And the only thing that I ask from the Moro people is that remember that we did not know that we are all victims of imperialism,” the President said.
Duterte had been pushing for a shift to federalism, saying a change in government will enable Mindanao provinces to gain autonomy, craft policies and implement tax laws beneficial to them.
The President praised China for helping the Philippine economy, citing the two bridges that Beijing supposedly financed.
“The economy is doing well. Time will come that your children won’t need to leave the country anymore to work,” Duterte told Filipino workers in Qatar.