Duterte to step down by 2020 if federal system is set up; says no to transition position for him

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 February) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday vowed to step down “if there can be a working federal set-up by the year 2020.”

“I do not want any transition position. I do not have any plans of perpetuating myself in power. It ain’t in my system,” he told newly-appointed officials who took their oath of office in Malacanang, among them the 19 members of the 25-member Consultative Committee (ConCom).

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte administers the oath of office for the newly-appointed officials during a ceremony at the Malacañan Palace on February 13, 2018. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The ConCom is tasked to “study, conduct consultations, and review the provisions fo the 1987 Constitution including but not limited to the provisions on the structure and powers of the government, local governance and economic policies” and is expected to complete its work “on or before the lapse of six months from the date it is convened.”

Addressing specifically the ConCom members, Duterte cited the “wise experience that you have had to steer something that will guide us for the future.”

He said he is “in a hurry to go down” and that “if you guys want to have a system where you have a President like the French experience, even a parliament, a Prime minister and a President, if we can have that in 2020, I will commit to you now: you do not have to remind me. If there can be a working federal setup by the year 2020, I am going to step down. I do not want any transition position. I do not have any plans of perpetuating myself in power. It ain’t in my system.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the members of the Consultative Meeting at the Malacañan Palace after the oath taking ceremonies on February 13, 2018. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

He said he has instructed the military  time and again as good as any other time that if I overstay even for 24 hours here in Malacañan, you can arrest me and shoot me.”

“It is your duty to see to it if I go before this time to see to it that the rules of succession in our Constitution be followed. I could not be more clear on this and I would rather abbreviate my term rather than extend it,” said Duterte, who is turning 73 on March 28.

“The sole, singular reason why really I want a federal setup or at least a change in the reconfiguration, it’s because we want to avoid a fissure in Mindanao,” Duterte said, repeating previous warnings “there will be trouble” if the situation is not addressed.

“I’m not saying it will be a war, I’m not saying it will be a battlefield but there will be trouble,” he said.

Much later in his speech, Duterte, again addressing the ConCom members, said, “I am not ready to inject anything there. I do not want you to have second thoughts about this (na) baka hindi (ko) gusto” (that maybe I may not like this).

“I’ll leave it up to you kung ano yung gusto ninyo para sa bayan natin” (to determine what is best for the country), Duterte said, adding he knows “you would not do anything harmful to the country.”

He spoke of the need to “develop our country for the next generation.’

“What I’m saying is that we are trying to avoid a fissure in Mindanao because we need peace to move forward,” the President said.

The Duterte administration inherited four peace agreements on the Bangsamoro when it took over on June 30, 2016: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MNLF claims government has not completely implemented the peace agreement while the MILF is awaiting the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which will pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for a photo with the officials and members of the Consultative Committee following their oath-taking ceremony at the Malacañan Palace on February 13, 2018. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The Duterte administration is also fighting several armed groups in Mindanao — the IS-inspired Abu Sayyaf, Maute, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other allies; and the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Duterte in November last year called off the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) which represents the NPA and CPP in the peace negotiations.

In December, Duterte issued a proclamation declaring the NPA and CPP as terrorist organizations. But he has yet to disband his peace panel.

Last Sunday, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go told MindaNews that the President will still name six other members of the ConCom but the 19 members already appointed would take their oath on February 13.

Among the 19 ConCom members, seven are Mindanawons. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)