Peace talks with MNLF set

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As he called for the contribution of each Filipino to attain authentic independence for the country, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed openness to expand the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to cover all groups who have a valid stake in maintaining lasting peace in Mindanao.

The BOL paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as part of the government’s peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mr. Duterte, however, said he hopes to achieve the same arrangement with the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The option was apparently in lieu of the Federalism shift that Mr. Duterte admitted lately may be hard to achieve under his term, which ends in 2022.

“If you want to expand BOL, expand it. And if Misuari is willing, (all the) same. I’ll give it to him just for us to achieve peace. It’s for all of you,” the President said in a short speech before troops at the 6th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Lanao del Sur where he led the Independence Day rites.

“We are all brothers and I won’t allow you to be taken advantage of, or you to take advantage of the Christians. Let us be fair. Let us observe what is right according to the teachings of Allah,” he added.

Peaceful solution only

The President bared several months back that Misuari has misgivings over the BOL and demanded a proposed shift to a Federal form of government to “assert the MNLF’s independence.”

While Malacañang viewed as a serious concern Misuari’s threat, it still maintained confidence that the Moro separatist group and the government would reach a peaceful solution to the conflict in Mindanao.

The Chief Executive also expressed hope that he and the MNLF leadership “can find space, the time, and the issues that would be more acceptable to everybody – to both the Lumads, the Christians, and the Moros.”

Prior to the midterm polls, Mr. Duterte said he is “in a hurry to strike a deal” with Misuari.

To appease the MNLF founding chairman, the President has instructed Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Secretary Eduardo Año and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez to form a panel to spearhead negotiations with the MNLF in crafting a new peace pact.

The Chief Executive said the government panel would discuss with Misuari the kind of Federal system he wanted, “whether similar with the Bangsamoro Organic Law or a different type.”

Tree of liberty

Earlier, Mr. Duterte urged all Filipinos not to forget the sacrifices of the country’s heroes and their dream of a “truly independent Philippines” would one day be realized.

In his Independence Day message, Mr. Duterte reminded the public of how the forefathers of Filipinos suffered and offered their lives so that the current generation – and those to come – will enjoy freedom.

“The freedom we achieved back then was not without cost. The tree of liberty blossomed on these lands because it was nourished by the sweat and blood of our patriots, heroes and martyrs,” the Chief Executive said.

“Let us commit ourselves to ensure that their sacrifices have not been in vain and that their dream of a truly independent Philippines – whose people live freely in a secure, stable and prosperous society – will be achieved within our lifetimes,” he added.

The President also described the day the Philippines was proclaimed finally free from more than 300 years of Spanish rule as “the most significant event in our country’s history.”

“Not only did we put an end to more than three centuries of subservience but we also resolved to determine the course of our own destiny as a nation,” he said.

“The tree of liberty blossomed on these lands because it was nourished by the sweat and blood of our patriots, heroes, and martyrs,” he added.

The United States government also offered solidarity as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “throughout these long years, the United States and the Philippines have maintained close bonds of friendship and cooperation, capped by an alliance that has helped maintain peace and prosperity in the region for almost 70 years.”

“As we recognize the enduring US-Philippines relationship, we wish prosperity and health for all Filipinos, whether at home or abroad, and a truly happy National Day,” he added.

Shared values

Mr. Duterte’s campaign battle cry of “Tapang at Malasakit” (Courage and Compassion) was echoed by both Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Similar values, Locsin said, have brought about stability and economic progress to the country in the past three years.

“These are the values of daily life the President has writ large in his governance to serve our countrymen, whatever their station in life may be and wherever they may be in the world,” Locsin said.

“These are also the values that sustain the resolve of the government to beat corruption, criminality, illegal drugs and other social ills. They are manifest in the political stability and economic progress that we doubtless enjoy today,” he added.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then Davao City Mayor Duterte voiced out his battle cry of “Tapang at Malasakit” to bring about much-needed change in the country.

With Mario J. Mallari and Hananeel Bordey

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