By Presidential News Desk
Patikul, Sulu – President Duterte on Monday appealed for unity as Congress deliberates on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) aimed at ending the decades-long Mindanao separatism.
Addressing troops and supporters during the handover ceremony of loose firearms and the presentation of Abu Sayyaf surrenderers, Duterte said the people of Sulu have been 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.
While acknowledging that Sulu is a beautiful place with plenty of opportunities for its people, it suffers from a security issue.
The President 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 (during my presidency and I will really be thankful because I have no other wish than to give peace to the Moros in Mindanao),” Duterte said.
He asked the people of Sulu to scrutinize the BBL, which is still pending in Congress.
He also expressed doubts if the BBL would be widely accepted considering the differences of many Muslim groups in Mindanao.
Mindanao has many tribes and this must be considered in crafting the BBL, he added.
He noted that money was not distributed equally in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) setup, which has become a source of misunderstanding.
“I have to fathom it.That’s why I need to talk to you and I want to finish it this year. I want to have a result of this by the end of the year,” he said.
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 the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
“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 and presentation of 76 Abu Sayyaf surrenderers.
The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) reported that to date, a total of 1,157 loose firearms were recovered by the Joint Task Force Sulu.
The 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 extended martial law in Mindanao made it easier for the military to recover undocumented weapons, the army command said.
The 76 Abu Sayyaf members also surrendered 205 assorted firearms.
From January 1, 2017 to March 26, 2018, a total of 202 Abu Sayyaf members have surrendered to the Joint Task Force Sulu, 85 came from Basilan, 79 from Sulu,36 from Tawi-Tawi. Two are from Zamboanga City.
Joining the Duterte during the handover rites were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., AFP Chief of Staff Leonardo Guerrero, Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command chief, Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Jolo Mayor Kerkar Tan and Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II.