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'Campaigns for Mindanao's independence already settled'

MANILA, Philippines — House lawmakers on Tuesday bucked the recent calls by former President Rodrigo Duterte to secede Mindanao from the country, saying that the lengthy peace processes undertaken by Mindanaoans through the years have “already settled” the matter of the region’s autonomy.

In a press briefing, Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong (Lanao del Sur, 1st District) and three other lawmakers cautioned against “using the word secession lightly” due to the legal implications of calling to separate Mindanao from the country, especially with its implied threat to national security.

This comes after Duterte and former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez sounded a rallying cry for the secession of Mindanao, saying that the region has been traditionally neglected in the national agenda of leaders. 

Duterte’s proclamation for Mindanao’s full independence came after he accused President Marcos of being a “drug addict.”

Saying that he is part of the “second generation” of Muslim minorities who witnessed the region’s decades-long campaign for autonomy, Adiong said: “If you ask us, that issue is already settled.”

“There is no clamor to pursue independence. We abandoned the call for independence and we settled for genuine autonomy. There is no other way forward but to embrace the national politic, not just for Philippine society but also for ourselves,” Adiong added.

The lawmaker said that when revolutionary movements in Mindanao were at their most active, there was “no progress,” prompting Mindanao leaders to pursue other ways of advocating for the region’s autonomy. 

“This is why … our elders decided that it’s not fair to inherit or pass on the problem to the next generation,” Adiong said.

“I am part of the second generation of Muslim minority who have seen the brunt of war. I know the smell of a decomposing body. I know the sound of a gun. Kami ang unang magsasabi tapos na yan (We will be the first to say that is finished) and we are moving forward,” the lawmaker added.

Rep. Francisco Paolo Ortega (La Union, 1st District) added that Duterte’s secession remarks appear to be merely “reactionary.”

“Matagal nang nandyan ang polirical actors na nagpupush. So bakit di nasama sa pagaaral