Duterte calls for unity as decommissioning of MILF combatants begins

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2019   •   823

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte witnesses the simulation of the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants and weapons at the Old Provincial Capitol Compound in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 7, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte called for unity and urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to “set aside differences and avoid further armed conflict” with the government as the decommissioning of the group’s combatants and weapons began on Saturday (Sept. 7).

Moro fighters handed over their weapons in a ceremony in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao as part of a peace treaty forged with the government aimed at ending the decades-long separatist insurgency in Mindanao.

“Let us celebrate this milestone, confident that we have started building a better and brighter future for our nation where every Filipino — regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or ideological leanings — will have a chance to live in peace, prosperity, harmony with one another,” Duterte said during the decommissioning of some MILF fighters.

During the launch of the second phase of the decommissioning, thousands of weapons were turned over to the government.

But Duterte told the former MILF combatants not to be disheartened because they will soon benefit from Mindanao’s natural wealth as the Muslims will start self-rule under the government-MILF peace pact.

“Do not be sad na ang armas binigay niyo sa gobyerno kasi kayo gobyerno na. kung kailangan niyo ng armas, bigyan ko kayo ng mas bago,” he said.

Liguasan Marsh, believed to be containing large deposits of oil and natural gas, could now be exploited by the Muslim population as a result of a more peaceful environment, he added.

“If you want a mechanized…to improve the mechanized farming, may capital naman kayo. Huwag kayong magbili ng armas.”

The chief executive expressed hope that former rebels would take the opportunity to improve their lives and create a better future for their families and loved ones.

Duterte also assured them of government assistance as they reintegrate into society as civilians.

He likewise called on all concerned stakeholders to continue working with his administration to ensure that the gains of many years of peace-building efforts will never go to waste.

“Let me also take this opportunity to assure the officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the MILF, and the people of Mindanao that this administration will always listen to your grievances. Let us set aside our differences and avoid further armed conflict,” Duterte said.

Part of Saturday’s event was the ceremonial awarding of socio-economic assistance to the decommissioned MILF fighters.

The President, assisted by Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interim Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, led the awarding of cash assistance.

Under the peace treaty, around 30 percent of the total MILF force are expected to be decommissioned by 2020.

Duterte: I asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for help on COVID-19 vaccines but no talks on WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday disclosed that he asked help from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines but insisted that they did not discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea.

During his talk to the people on Monday night, Duterte recalled how he called Xi when the Philippines had yet to get any supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me just also say na itong history na… for public consumption na ito. Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping, sinabi ko kasi noong kasagsagan ng walang dumating talaga, walang makapkap si Secretary (Carlito) Galvez (Jr.), tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help until now Philippines is at a loss on how to get vaccines,’” he said.

“Sabi niya, ‘it’s okay we will help you.’ Ganoon lang. Hindi naman sinabi na kalimutan mo yung Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita… Sinabi niya lang as simple as that,” he added.

The Philippines first received 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that were donated by the Chinese government on February 28. The national government used this supply to roll out its vaccination program on March 1.

In total, the Philippines has received 1 million donated Sinovac vaccine doses from China, including the 400,000 doses that were delivered in March.

Duterte stood by his earlier statement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China for all its help but emphasized that there would be no compromise on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“It’s never, never wrong to say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin,” he said.

“But it does not mean na tanggapin ko ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na yung claim diyan sa West Philippine sea, okay na yun dahil sa bakuna… It was never like that, the world does not operate like that,” he added.

He said there would be no compromise on the issue and that China knows it.

“Maski bahain tayo dito ng vaccine, gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko ‘hindi ito kabayaran’. Iba ito. This is a Philippine national interest, this is not a health issue that nagpasalamat ako,” he said.

Correction:
An earlier version of this article misstated that “they did discuss issues.” 

Why did Duterte tap out of challenge to debate with Carpio?

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he is not afraid of facing retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a debate on issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte last week dared Carpio to square off on the loss of a Philippine territory during the Aquino administration, but later tapped out and instead delegated the task to his spokesperson, lawyer Harry Roque.

“What was in my mind when I challenged Carpio into a debate? Ang problema lang kasi dito nakalimutan ko na si Carpio hindi ang presidente – ako,” Duterte said in his weekly Talk to the People on Monday night.

Duterte said he had to back out of the challenge because anything he might say there could be construed as a “policy statement.”

“I might bind future actions of government pagdating dito sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“Pero dodoon ako sa kahon, it’s not because I am afraid of debates,” he added, saying that he had faced many debates with political rivals for the presidency in 2016.

“Hindi ako takot sa’yo, ang problema, hindi ko nga alam na hindi ka president,” he further said, addressing Carpio.

Duterte has blamed the previous administration over the loss of the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea following a standoff in 2012.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said that China “deceitfully breached” its agreement with the Philippines to withdraw the ships of both sides to end the standoff.

The Philippines then pursued an arbitral case against China in 2014. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines and nullified China’s vast claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he tried pursuing the arbitral ruling but nothing happened.

China has been ignoring the diplomatic protest that the Philippine government has repeatedly filed over the incursion of Chinese vessels in the contested waters.

Duterte won’t debate with Carpio; taps spox Roque for face-off on WPS issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will not face retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio in a debate on the issues about the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the chief executive made the decision after several Cabinet members and two senators advised him not to square off with Carpio as this might compromise national policies and confidential information.

Roque, a lawyer, said the president has delegated to him the task of debating with Carpio on the issue.

“Ang sabi po ni Presidente, kung papayag si Antonio Carpio, tuloy ang debate dahil importante naman na marinig ang mga ideya para ang mga taong bayan ay makagawa ng konklusyon,” Roque said in an announcement over state-run PTV.

“Ang sabi po ni President, itinatalaga niya po ang inyong abang lingkod na makipag-debate kay retired justice Antonio Carpio,” he added.

 Roque said he has accepted Duterte’s directive.

“Sabihin lang po ng Philippine Bar Association kung saan at kailan ang debate at sisipot po tayo roon,” he said.

Duterte on Wednesday dared Carpio to go on a debate on the West Philippine Sea issue. He said he would ask Carpio on who ordered the Philippine Navy to retreat from the area during the 2012 standoff; what the administration of then President Benigno Aquino did about it; and if they enforced the ruling when they filed and won the case.

Carpio accepted Duterte’s dare but he denied involvement in the issue of China’s occupation of some areas in the contested waters.

“Totoo po hinamon po ni Presidente si justice Carpio sa isang debate pero ang pagdedebate po ay dalawang bagay, di ba po? Sino ba ang responsable sa pagkawala ng Scarborough Shoal?” Roque said.

“Ang subject matter po ng debate ay sino at anong administrasyon ang naging dahilan kung kailan nawala sa Pilipinas ang possession sa Scarborough Shoal,” he further stated.

Roque also said that he would also ask Carpio during the debate on who was responsible and under what administration did the Philippines lost possession of the Mischief Reef.

“Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, it would be a pleasure to debate against you. I’ll see you at the designated time and place,” he said, addressing Carpio.

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