PATIKUL, Sulu — President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Sulu Monday appealing for unity as Congress crafts the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) aimed at ending decades long Mindanao separatism.
In his speech during the handover ceremony of loose firearms and presentation of Abu Sayyaf members who went back to the folds of the law, the President said Sulu people are left behind ravaged by poverty and illiteracy.
“Sulu since time immemorial, it has suffered violence every now and then. Walang katahimikan ang tao sa Sulu,” he said noting the province’s violent past.
He stressed that Sulu was a beautiful place and there were plenty of opportunities for the people but the major stumbling block was security issue.
He said he understands the situation and does not harbor animosity against people fighting the government.
“So if there is a way that I can help you, help me make it through the night sa presidency ko magpasalamat talaga ako kasi wala akong ibang hangarin kung hindi bigyan ng kapayapaan ang Moro sa Mindanao,” the President said.
He asked the people of Sulu to scrutinize the BBL, which is still pending in Congress. At the same time, the President voiced out his doubts if people would accept BBL considering the differences of many Muslim groups in Mindanao.
He noted that money was not distributed equally in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) setup, which he said has become a source of misunderstandings.
Mindanao has many tribes and this must be considered in crafting BBL, the President added.
“I have to fathom it…That’s why I need to talk to you and I want to finish it at this year. I want to have a result of this by the end of the year,” he said.
President Duterte said he went to Sulu to see if Abu Sayyaf members turning themselves in were given the same treatment as the members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
In Davao, NPA surrenderees are given houses, jobs and training from TESDA, he said.
“For those interested, government is ready. Kaya nga, bahay — malaki man itong Sulu. Hindi ako mag-condo-condo. Gawa na ako konting mga bahay-bahay. And I can accommodate you. Just give me about two years,” he said of Abu Sayyaf members wanting to surrender.
The highlight of the President’s visit was the handover of 652 loose firearms. Seventy six Abu Sayyaf members who surrendered to government were presented to him.
The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) reported that to date, there is a total of 1,157 loose firearms recovered by the Joint Task Force Sulu under Wesmincom.
Monday’s event is part of the President’s campaign to recover loose firearms to make the country safe from gun violence. He believes easy access to guns fuels rebellion and insurgency.
The ongoing martial law in Mindanao made it easier for the military to recover undocumented weapons, according to Wesmincom.
The 76 Abu Sayyaf members who turned themselves in also surrendered 205 assorted firearms.
From January 1, 2017 to March 26, 2018, a total of 202 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered to Joint Task Force Sulu, 85 came from Basilan, 79 from Sulu and 36 from Tawi-Tawi and two from Zamboanga City.
Joining the President Monday during the handover rites were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., AFP Chief Leonardo Guerrero, Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Jolo Mayor Kerkar Tan and Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II. ###PND