Editorial: Where is the promised ‘united’ Philippines?

Cebu rally ‘biggest’ for UniTeam so far.
Cebu rally ‘biggest’ for UniTeam so far.Amper Campaña/SunStar File

How can people be united, if our leaders can't? 

Not so long ago, Filipinos were promised ‘unity’ as the main campaign message of the Marcos-Duterte tandem. But less than two years later, it seems like the political ambitions of these clans ruined almost everything gained in the past. 

Political analysts must be enjoying their time now. But we all know who isn’t enjoying all this brouhaha – the ordinary Filipino people. 

A lot has been said against each camp for the past weeks. Here’s a rundown - staging two rival rallies; a call for resignation; a clash on the controversial “People’s Initiative” campaign; the former president claiming the incumbent is a drug addict; the call to separate Mindanao from the Philippines; and a lot more. 

Let’s focus on the recent one - the call of former president Rodrigo Duterte to an independent Mindanao. 

Last January 30, Duterte shared that local political forces would regroup to start a movement for a “separate and independent Mindanao.” He however promised that the move  “won’t be a bloody one” but would follow the processes established by the United Nations.

“It is not rebellion, not a bloody one, but we will follow the process provided by the UN to gather signatures, verify these under oath and with the presence of other (witnesses), signify that the people want to separate (from the country)... Mindanao would rather be independent since nothing has happened in the Philippines after so many presidents,” he said in the vernacular. 

This call was immediately rejected by the administration allies asserting the secession could be destabilizing and will not do the country’s economy any good. 

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año underscored on Sunday that any attempt to secede from any part of the Philippines will be met by the government with resolute force. 

"The National Government will not hesitate to use its authority and forces to quell and stop any and all attempts to dismember the Republic,” Año, also the chief of the National Security Council (NSC), said in a statement.

The suggestion also did not sit well with other Mindanao leaders like Maguindanao del Sur Governor Bai Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu, Sultan Kudarat Governor Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm) chief minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim.

“We affirm that secession is not the answer to Mindanao’s concern. It denies our people the rights embodied by the constitution, including the destruction of our territorial integrity compromising our efforts to build a stronger nation,” Mangudadatu said.

Ebrahim, for his part, said separating Mindanao would only disrupt the gains of the Mindanao peace processes. He said Barmm is better with an autonomy setup instead of the original demand for independence.

“We, therefore, urge everyone to help protect the gains of the peace processes. Let us continue to support the current administration and allow peace and civility to reign over the affairs of our land,” he said.

While issues on Mindanao’s progress and peace raised by the former president are valid, the secession of Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines was never the answer. 

It may be a cliche but our nation's strength lies in the unity of people, especially our leaders. 

To the Marcos-Duterte tandem, keep your promises of unity and progress. But with the mid-elections just around the corner, it will be no surprise if the rising rivalry continues. 


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