In MILF meeting, Cotabato sortie Duterte offers solution to Mindanao problem

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CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday welcomed presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte with an expression of admiration and a hard question pertaining to the so-called Mindanao problem.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairperson for political affairs, said he personally admires Duterte’s brand of leadership, describing him as “magiting” or brave.

Among the five presidential aspirants, no one has visited the camp so far except Duterte.

“We are inspired by his courage as we are impressed by what he did to Davao, a city that is progressive — where business is good and where people are given the opportunity to better their lives,” said Jaafar. “God-willing, if he will win, he will also transform the Philippines just like how he transformed Davao.”

On the sidelines before the meeting, Jaafar told journalists that the Central Committee of the MILF will not endorse any candidate, not even Duterte.

“Members of the MILF, their families and the members of the communities will be given their independence to choose whoever they want to choose,” said Jaafar.

Duterte also stressed that his visit was not to campaign.

“I am here not to campaign,” he said. “I know that you are apolitical. I also know that you will give independence to your people and you will respect their decision.”

The reason for his visit, he said, was to present his proposal to resolve the conflict in Mindanao and the issues confronting the Moro people.

This was also his message to thousands of Moro who waited for Duterte at the public plaza of Cotabato City — not minding the scorching sun.

After the meeting that lasted a little over an hour, Duterte addressed his Muslim supporters, his impromptu speech interrupted by thunderous applause.

“Kapag ako naging pangulo, ang isang paa ng Moro ay nasa Malacanang,” he said.

“Mga kapatid ko na Moro, andito ako kasi may isusumbong ako sa inyo,” he said. “Sa tagal na na panahon, binabali-wala nila tayo. Kinakawawa nila ang Mindanao. Ilang taon na naghihintay ang Moro people ng kapayapaan at sa karapatan nila sa lupa nila sa Mindanao.”

During his meeting with Jaafar, he said he was worried of setback of the failure of the BBL to be passed into law.

“I know you are very frustrated and I know you are hurt. This could have created a problem had it not been for the moderation of the Central Committee,” Duterte told Jaafar and the other members of the Central Committee of the MILF even as he pointed out that the Aquino administration “only dribbled BBL.”

He said he only wanted “peace for everybody and the failure to pass the BBL is a sensitive issue.”

But if he becomes president, he will not only pursue a system that will make the aspirations of the Moro people into a reality, but also “make everybody happy.”

This can be done through federalism.

Bur Jaafar, on the other hand, wanted to hear more, asking Davao City mayor of the specifics.

“How will you exactly come up with a peaceful solution to the problems of Mindanao?” Jaafar said.

Duterte’s reply: “We will create a commission that will eventually come to a consensus.”

“I have been proposing federalism. But your territory will not be touched. It will be our collective position,” Duterte said.

The mayor stressed that his administration will also create territories for the Tausugs, the Sama, Iranons, the Maranaos, and even the indigenous peoples.

“Other groups, the other tribes who are hungry for better life will be given their share and their chance,” Duterte said. “Through federalism, we will correct the injustice committed against the Moro people, against Mindanao.”

And his promise: “That we will be fair, and that there is equality.”

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