May 5, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte recently admitted that his concern for Mindanao prompted him to seek the presidency.
According to Duterte, the problem in Mindanao started when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in the island in 1521 and declared it under the crown of the Spanish King Philip II, who had funded his expedition.
He said the Spaniards had included Mindanao in its conquest even though it belonged to a different sultanate.
He also said the conquerors forced Christianity on the natives of Mindanao even though Islam had already taken root 70 years earlier.
“The problem is that they forced the natives, who they called called Moros, to accept Christianity using cannons and gunpowder,” he noted.
Duterte said even under the Americans, the Moro people refused to be controlled.
“Mindanao is a fertile land. It doesn’t get hit by typhoons. Whatever you plant there will grow. The Americans wanted to exploit the resources, but the problem was they couldn’t get any of the Moros to work for them,” he said.
“That’s why the Americans had to tell the people in Luzon to go south to Mindanao, which they called the ‘Land of Promise.’ No Moro would work for them,” he added.
Duterte said the rich natural resources of Mindanao were the reason why it has always been racked by violence and conflict.
He said several attempts had been made to develop the island and make peace with the Moro people, starting with the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development under then President Fidel Ramos.
Of late, the Aquino administration promised the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that it would pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would give its autonomy, but the government failed to live up to its promise.
Duterte said it was this problem that forced him to rethink his refusal to run for president.
“I looked at the candidates and I realized that none of them was talking about Mindanao,” he said.
The tough-talking mayor had initially filed a Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for mayor of Davao City last October 15.
He finally filed his COC for the presidency on November 27.
Duterte said MILF chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim had threatened to go to war if the BBL is not passed.
However, he said he was able to talk to the MILF leadership last February 27 and convinced them to wait for the outcome of the election.
“If I win, by God’s grace, then we will talk (again),” he noted.
Duterte added that if he wins, he will seek to correct the historical injustice that had been inflicted on the people of Mindanao. – MBA