Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte bringing in a difference

28.05.2016 - Tony Henderson

Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte bringing in a difference
Rodrigo Duterte in 2013 (Image by Wikipedia)
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte or, Duterte Harry to some, is early into his run-up to real power and the China Matters blog – chinamatters@prlee.org gives some highly detailed context to what’s coming next and why it’s most interesting, given local and Philippine’s history particularly in light of the nation’s relation to the USA.  For the complete original go to:
China Matters: Mindanao, Duterte, and the Real History of the Philippines
Presenza has extracted the final most pertinent-to-today paragraphs and leave the reader to browse the historical context.

Duterte is not native to Mindanao.  His family comes from a central Philippine island group, the Visayan Islands.  Christians from Visayan Islands and other regions were settled in Mindanao by the U.S. and Philippine governments as part of a strategy to demographically submerge the Moro, distribute prime land and resources to settlers and corporations, and economically and politically marginalize the Moro and criminalize their resistance in a manner that will be familiar to observers of tactics in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Palestine.

It appears to have been successful to the point that Moros are perhaps 17% of the population of Mindanao today, down from 90%  in 1900.
 A 2015 news article/puff piece provides a useful perspective on Dutarte and his attention to the Mindanao/security issue beyond the usual “murderous buffoon” framing.  I’m quoting it at great length because I don’t think you’ll see a lot of this perspective in the Western press:
As the leader of a city which had its painful share of violence and terrorism believed perpetrated by Islamic extremists where 45 people were killed in three bombing incidents in 1993 and 2003, Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte still remains hopeful that a negotiated settlement would end the conflict in the Southern Philippines which has dragged on for generations.
“If there is anybody who wishes that this bloody problem would end soon, it is I because I am both Moro and Christian,” Duterte said.
“I feel the fear of the Christians and share the dreams of the Moro people who feel that they have been dispossessed of their land and identity,” the City Mayor said.
Duterte admits publicly for the first time that his maternal grandmother had a Moro lineage.
“There is a part of me which is Moro,” he said.
Duterte’s ties with the Muslims of the South were made even stronger because his eldest son, Paolo who is now Vice Mayor of the City, embraced Islam when he married a Muslim Tausug girl.
“I have grandchildren who are either Muslim or Christian. Would I want to see a situation in the future where even my own grandchildren would be dragged into this conflict?,” he asked.
Following the bombings, the national government approved the city’s recommendation to organize Task Force Davao, a military composite group which established check points all over the city to control the entry of bombs and guns.
When Duterte ordered that the City will no longer allow the entry of powerful firearms usually brought in by bodyguards of politicians mostly Muslims from the Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces, everybody followed.

“This city is open to everybody regardless of tribe or religion for as long as you abide by the law,” Duterte once declared when the issue of the presence in the city of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was raised.

MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari has a wife who lives in Davao City.
Top ranking officials of the MILF are also believed to have homes in Davao City where their children live while studying in colleges and universities in the city.
Davao has thus become a model “peace city” today where members of warring groups – the Moro rebels, the New People’s Army (NPA), policemen and soldiers – live and abide by the strict rules of the city under the leadership of Rody Duterte.
It was also chosen as one of the Safest Cities in the World to Live In.
Muslim businessmen, mostly Maranaos, swear that they are never harassed in Davao City while selling their wares, unlike elsewhere in the country where they are the favorite prey of corrupt policemen who mulct them of their little earnings.
But Duterte’s dream of peace transcends the boundaries of his city.
“For as long as the misunderstanding between government and the Moro groups continue, we will always be unstable,” he said.
Duterte is aware that the problem is not simple.
He says the Moro people are largely misunderstood because they embrace a religion which is not known to many Filipinos in other parts of the country.
Feeling that they do not belong to the mainly Christian Filipino society and that they were never given much importance by the Central Government in its national policy formulation and decision making, the Muslims of the South have always struggled for independence and self determination.
“The danger here is that unless these legitimate issues are addressed, there is the grim scenario of the younger Moros gravitating towards radical Islamic organizations,” Duterte said.
“I will be the last person who will agree to the dismemberment of this nation,” he once declared.
Duterte maintains that while he understands the resentment of the Bangsamoro to being called Filipinos based on the belief that it is a Spanish imposed name, he believes that Christians and Muslims in this country belong to one race.
“We can call ourselves by any other name but the fact that we are brothers will always remain,” he said.
He said that while the Philippine peace negotiators have the noble intention of forging peace with the MILF in the Southern Philippines, they failed to consider some cultural realities involving the Moro tribes of the South.
“The Moros of the islands are distinct culturally from the Maguindanaos, Maranaos and Iranuns of mainland Mindanao. Offering a generic solution to their peculiar problems and concerns may not work at all,” Duterte explained.
The Tausugs will never be comfortable being under the leadership of the Maguindanaos or Maranaos, a situation which is also true inversely, Duterte explained adding that this could be the reason behind the failure of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was first headed by Misuari.
Duterte also said that while he hopes that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will pass Congress, his lawyer’s instincts tell him that the measure will be questioned before the Supreme Court because of some Constitutional infirmities.
It will be difficult to reconcile a parliamentary autonomous government with a Presidential central government, he said.
Duterte, a San Beda law graduate, said there must be a back up plan should the BBL fail to pass the Constitutionality test.
“We cannot afford to fail here,” adding that Federalism and a two Federal States set up for the South could prove to be the best solutions.
A Federal Parliamentary form of government in the Philippines would not only serve the interests of the neglected regions of the country but also accommodate the desires of the Bangsamoro of the South.
A Federal State for the Maguindanaos, Maranaos, Iranuns and other Moro tribes of the main island and another Federal State for the Tausugs, Sama, Yakan and other island tribes could address the cultural issues.
Concluding note
However, many people are quite cynical of the whole political roadshow in the Philippines – one of the main reasons why this “outsider” won the elections. The state of the current peace process is very tenuous as there are so many players and so many vested interests that it is difficult to sift through all the noise and propaganda. This is common knowledge on the ground, if not on the national level.

He is bringing in a “difference” but maybe not entirely in the sense of these quotes above that allude to peace and federalism. This federalism proposition has existed even before he entered politics.

Federalism need not be a back-up plan to the current peace process but pursued in and of itself as a possibly better form of government than the current centralized National Government, leading to a complete structural overhaul of government and an additional solution to the armed conflicts.

The president-elect is not the first to offer peace or federalism; he is however the first president-elect to express his close relationship with rebel groups and to publicly state his preference for federalism. His success may hinge on his promises of less poverty, less economic inequality, more equal opportunity, etc. If federalism in the Philippines happens, perhaps “his” peace will last.

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