Arroyo Allies Threaten to Dismember Republic

Pro-Arroyo local officials continue to threaten they would secede from the republic if the embattled president is removed from office.

By Cheryll D. Fiel

DAVAO CITY – First, it was the Ilocos Republic in northern Philippines. Then, this was followed by the Cebu Republic in central Visayas. Now, pro-Arroyo local executives in Mindanao, southern Philippines are threatening to bolt the Philippine republic and establish their own island or provincial republics if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is forced to resign.

Meeting at the Marco Polo Hotel in this city last week, about 500 provincial governors, city and town mayors from all over Mindanao – the country’s second largest island – approved at least four resolutions supporting the embattled president’s stay in office and threatening to secede from the republic if she is ousted.

Although the activity was announced by organizers led by North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol as a venue for political leaders to tackle various proposals for a post-Arroyo presidency, the summit instead turned out to be a show of support for Macapagal-Arroyo. Calls for her resignation or ouster have rung out across the country following accusations she cheated in the May 2004 presidential race, among others.

The pro-Arroyo officials passed at least four resolutions.

Southern alliance

Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Dimapuro drafted the resolution calling for the creation of Southern Alliance for Elected Mindanao Leaders that will condemn, foremost, all calls for the president to resign.

Based on a proposal by Mayor Norbie Edding of Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, another resolution called for constitutional reforms preferably through a constituent assembly. Governor Piñol noted the proposal as the preferable option over what he called “the tedious and long process” of constitutional convention.

Also passed was a resolution calling for Mindanao leaders not to recognize anyone or any group who will replace President Arroyo once she is ousted through “extra-constitutional means.”

Received with standing ovation was a related proposal by Misamis Oriental Gov. Loreto Leo Ocampos that “all governors of Mindanao will declare their respective provinces independent republics.” This would also mean that they will not be submitting their revenues to the central government if this happens.

The resolutions were later announced in a press conference by Piñol as “embodying the sentiments of the entire Mindanaoans.”

‘One Mindanao’

At the moment, however, proposals for an independent Mindanao vary. Former Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez’s “One People Mindanao” (OPM) or Mindanao Republic differs with the federalist system being pushed by a group led by Rey Magno Teves.

The constitutional reforms proposal espoused by former President Fidel Ramos is also gaining support from politicians here.

But it appears that at the core of all these proposals lies the “Anti-Imperial Manila” rallying call.

OPM has a five-point agenda, including: the so-called “Mindanao mindset, a Mindanao Identity, quest for a lasting peace, a master economic development plan and independence based on the United Nations charter.”

Alvarez said that the OPM would pursue a “peaceful and non-violent quest for Mindanao independence in accordance with the UN Charter.”

Meanwhile, the group Lihuk Mindanaw or Citizen’s Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP) proposed changes for Mindanao under a Federalist Republic of the Philippines with a Parliamentary Form.

Teves, who chairs the CMFP, said in a report during the summit that this can be done by amending the 1987 Constitution through a constitutional convention (Con-Con).

Teves said they propose an election of delegates to the Con-Con supposedly timed along the postponed 2005 Barangay (village) Elections.

Interestingly, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Miguel Zubiri registered at the summit he did not expect there would be resolutions to be passed in the summit. Zubiri was one of the six governors absent during the general assembly of the League of Provinces of the Philipines in Malacañang, held a week before the summit.

Talks on a separate Mindanao Republic or various provincial republics in the island have been the subject of controversy in this city.

It was first heard from Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles, House majority floorleader and a known Arroyo ally, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

‘Political blackmail’

Reacting to the proposals, anti-Arroyo militant groups here said these were being issued to deflect the people’s attention from the central issues hounding Macapagal-Arroyo. Omar Bantayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement) secretary general, called the proposal for a Mindanao republic as “a big political blackmail.”

In a rally outside the Marco Polo Hotel where the summit was held, militant groups took turns lambasting the summit as nothing but a “Moro-Moro” and a gathering of “political warlords and dynasties” in Mindanao batting for political survival and now threatening to divide Mindanao among themselves to secure their territorial rule.

Meanwhile, Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front – Southern Mindanao, said the separatist were mere ploys of President Macapagal-Arroyo “to douse the people’s outrage and clamor for genuine changes.” Del Mundo said the current problems besetting our country “cannot be solved by a mere geo-political separation of regions or a shift in the political system. Bulatlat

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