The Muslim Tribes of the country went all out for Mindanaoan presidential candidate Rody Duterte just as I projected before the elections.Even with the hundreds of millions poured into the Bangsamoro Area by the administration Liberal Party (LP), its candidate Manuel Roxas III did not win in any single province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Muslims of the South identify with Duterte because of the fact that he carries a quarter blood of the Maranao tribe in him.

But more than that, it was only Duterte who dared to talk about the Bangsamoro problem, including the historical inequities which gave the Muslim tribes of the Southern Philippines the feeling that they do not belong.

He was the only candidate who related the story of the oppression of the Muslim tribes which started in 1521 with the coming of the Spaniards and the only one brave enough to shout “Allahu Akbar!” during his rallies but adequately assuaging the fears of Christians by explaining that the chant did not mean violence but love of God.

In the many Federalism forums he held all over the country, Duterte exerted extra efforts to project a different image of the Muslims of the South who have long been feared as trouble-makers, killers, kidnappers and terrorists.

Détente’s efforts yielded positive results as the country now sees a different image of the Muslims and more than that, he was able to rally behind him about 5-million voters who were not swayed by money or intimidated by their political leaders who supported Roxas.

Now, there is a discernible sense of pride among the Muslims of the South and a buoyed hope that the conflict which has claimed thousands of lives and spawned an atmosphere of distrust between them and the Christians would soon come to an end.

But just how would Duterte end the problems in the South?

First, it must be understood that there are two issues in the so-called Mindanao Problem and these are political and security.

The political problem, represented by the struggles of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is expected to be addressed with the commitment by Duterte to fully implement the peace agreements signed by the government with the Moro rebel groups.

While this may look complicated because of the presence of two documents – the 1996 Final Peace Agreement signed between government under President Fidel V. Ramos and the MNLF and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on the Bangsamoro between government under President Benigno S. Aquino, Duterte has placed on the table a Federal Philippines which proposes the establishment of two States for the Bangsamoro – one for those in mainland Mindanao who are identified with the MILF and those in the Western Mindanao islands under the MNLF.

Actually, when Duterte repeatedly pronounced during the campaign that he will pursue the implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), I explained to those who expressed alarm that the context of that statement should be reconciled with his advocacy for a Federal Philippines.

The BBL, minus the mistrust between Christians and Muslims, is actually a perfect model for a Federal State in the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

In fact, I believe that the BBL should be the template of the Federal States to be established in the country, especially in the sharing of resources between the states and the central government.

So, when do we expect the changes to happen?

If we follow the Duterte timetable, 2019 would be the time when the nation decides on the changes in the Constitution and 2022 would be the election of new leaders under a Federal Republic of the Philippines.

And for peace to reign?

Hopefully, it starts as soon as Duterte assumes office on June 30.

By throwing their support to Duterte, the Muslim Tribes of the Southern Philippines know that they have a President who is sincere in addressing the issues that they have long raised and fought for.

They have struggled and waited for almost half a century. Three more years would not be a very long wait for them.

There is still another issue though – security – and this involves the threats presented by the new group called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF), the terror group Abu Sayyaf and the kidnap-for-ransom groups in the South who have been victimising foreigners.

On April 26, Duterte was asked what he would do with the kidnapping of foreigners by the Abu Sayyaf in the South.

His response was terse and clear: “I categorize that (kidnapping) as criminality and I will deal with criminality.”

Indeed, how could this government be so helpless in addressing the terror activities of these ragtag groups who are puny compared to the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines?

This should serve as a fair warning to terror groups in the South because unlike the outgoing President who acted like a puppy with his tail between his legs when the Abu Sayyaf threatened to decapitate him, Duterte is a different kind of dog.

Duterte is the Alpha Dog, one who is sure of his directions and confident in his decision-making.

Peace at last, Alhamdullilah!

Peace at last, thank God! | Emmanuel Piñol

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