RIGHT THING: ‘It’s about time the historical injustices committed to minority corrected’ –
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday urged Congress to pass a bill granting self-rule to the country’s minority, warning that its collapse would see separatist rebels abandon a peace process and declare war again.
The MILF, signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 to end nearly 50 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million.
Central to resolving that is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would create a new autonomous area in the Mindanao region offering more political and economic power.
Duterte is a staunch supporter of the plan.
“I am urging everybody to understand, it’s about time the historical injustices committed to them corrected,” Duterte said during the launch of a bank for Filipino overseas workers.
“If nothing happens to the BBL, there will be war in Mindanao.” He said he could not control rebel groups if they take up arms again and seek an independent state in the south.
The parts of Mindanao are already fraught with security problems and a collapse of the peace process with the MILF would be one of the biggest setbacks of Duterte’s presidency.
Martial law is in place in Mindanao until the end of the year to allow the military to tackle rebel groups loyal to IS, some of which held parts of southern Marawi City through five months of war with the government last year. The MILF is bitterly opposed to IS extremists and has been collaborating with government troops to fight the radicals.
He said he wanted the BBL passed before Congress focuses its attention on changing the constitution to create a federal system, one of his key election platforms.
Public satisfaction with the performance of Duterte’s government rose in December to the highest level on record since one of the country’s top pollsters started conducting opinion surveys in 1980s.
His administration obtained an “excellent” net satisfaction rating of +70, a rise of 12 points from September’s “very good” level based on a December 8-16 poll, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said on Thursday.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the latest survey showed Duterte’s popularity had not diminished, despite drawing international criticism for his bloody war on drugs and human rights record.
“It is related to his actions, because he implemented what he promised, starting with his anti-drugs campaign, and then the Build, Build, Build infrastructure projects, anti-corruption efforts, and now the charter change to shift to federalism,” he said.
Seventy-nine per cent of adult Filipinos said they were satisfied against 9 per cent dissatisfied, resulting in a net satisfaction rating of +70, SWS said in a statement.
Twelve per cent were neither satisfied or dissatisfied.
The figures mirrored the same trend in Duterte’s trust rating, which bounced back to “excellent” in December in the SWS survey, from “very high” three months before.
The Duterte administration’s rating exceeded the previous record of +66 achieved by the administration of former president Benigno Aquino in June 2013.
It got “very good” scores in five of 18 “performance subjects” rated, such as fighting terrorism, helping the poor, infrastructure development, foreign relations and providing jobs, SWS said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, “This excellent public confidence will continue to motivate the president and his team to continue working hard to lay down the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous nation.”
The administration got “good” scores in 11 subjects, including defending territorial rights and protecting human rights, but scored low in fighting inflation and solving the traffic problem, the SWS said.