Gov’t ready to defend Republic if federalism fails: Palace

Malacanang on Thursday, March 21, said the government is ready to defend the Republic against the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) if the group insists war.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo relayed to Palace reporters that MNLF chairman told President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting that if federalism does not push through within his term, the separatist Islamic group will wage war against the government.

The Administration, however, is unfazed and is ready to defend the Republic if this happens, Secretary Panelo assured. “He [the President] said that he understood where the Chairman was coming from and he reminded him that federalism issue would be up to Congress,” Sec. Panelo said.

“In other words, what he’s saying is.. if he goes to war then he will be fighting the government. So, if he’s fighting the government and the head of the government is the President, they would be fighting with each other,” the President’s spokesperson stressed.

The Palace official, however, clarified and believed that the government and the MNLF group would not reach this stage.

“But knowing the Chairman who has been fighting for a peaceful solution in Mindanao, and knowing the deep friendly relationship between the two leaders, I am confident that there will be an agreement, a modus vivendi, between two sides,” Panelo said.

Also discussed during the meeting was the President’s proposal to create a panel of five which will represent MNLF in a ‘negotiation’ with government panel.“[H]e (Duterte) suggested that his (Misuari’s) group creates a panel of five members and the government side, same number, and they will meet and discuss,” Panelo relayed.

“Whatever the product of that discussion, they will have a one-on-one meeting, and then he said after which we will celebrate for its success,” he added.

Secretary Panelo added that the end goal of the panel discussion is for the government to know what kind of mechanism the MNLF wants in pushing for federalism.

In the meantime, the President’s spokesperson assured that the government is ready from any brewing rebellion, noting its past success of halting such kind.

“Well, the Muslim rebellion has been there for so many decades and we have confronted it. We have fought with them and the Republic remains as it is now. We have won over them,” he said. PCO