February 1, 2024
DAVAO – DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — In a late-night tirade against President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for supposedly initiating the latest moves to amend the Constitution, former President Rodrigo Duterte said local political forces would be regrouping here to start a movement for a “separate and independent Mindanao.”
In a press conference he called on Tuesday evening, Duterte said the breakaway “won’t be a bloody one” but would follow the processes established by the United Nations.
It was the latest show of rancor directed at his successor, revealing how the rift had widened between the Duterte and Marcos families which once formed the much-vaunted “Uniteam” of the 2022 presidential elections.
The 78-year-old Duterte also confirmed reports that he was keeping an arsenal of 500 firearms — being “a gun collector” — but that all of them were licensed by the Philippine National Police.
Ousted speaker to lead
According to Duterte, the new movement would be headed by Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, a longtime ally whose stint as speaker was cut short in 2018 when Duterte’s daughter, now Vice President Sara Duterte, engineered his ouster.
Duterte said he picked Alvarez to lead because he had written a paper on the merits of separating the South from the republic. “It is not rebellion, not a bloody one, but we will follow the process provided by the UN to gather signatures, verify these under oath and with the presence of other (witnesses), signify that the people want to separate (from the country).”
Mindanao would rather be “independent since nothing has happened in the Philippines after so many presidents,” he said in the vernacular. “Whatever we do [under the present setup] there will be another lousy president.”
Referring to the investigation being conducted by the International Criminal Court on his brutal war on drugs during his presidency, Duterte said: “If there will be a separate Mindanao Republic, it could no longer enter Mindanao because Alvarez here will hide me.”
At the same press conference, Alvarez said Mindanao may follow the track taken by Singapore in the 1960s when it separated from Malaysia and became an independent state.
“Singapore is a small country, as big as Siargao of Surigao del Norte. It has no resources of its own,” Alvarez said. “Mindanao has a lot of natural resources; we have bigger potential.”
Alvarez was one of the prime movers for the creation of a constitutional commission during the Duterte administration, but the movement fizzled out after Duterte was advised by experts that it was not the right time to make the shift into a federal system, with armed groups still active in different parts of the country.
As to the current moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, Duterte warned President Marcos: “Stop this nonsense… Or you’ll go out of Malacañang just like your father. Don’t count on the military; it’s not yours.”
Firearms as gifts
The president, he added, should just be thankful and content for the chance to serve at Malacañang and make the most of his term as “it should be your chance to redeem your name.”
As to his vast gun collection, Duterte said: “I never keep a firearm in the house that was not licensed by Camp Crame.”
“I am a gun collector and people know that; so sometimes when they visit me, they would bring firearms as a gift; and I made sure that they get licensed immediately,” he said.
Without naming names, he said someone was “investigating” his collection because he got a call from the PNP’s Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) telling him that it was being checked.
“How can they take that against me when guns are collectors’ items and it is allowed by law?” he asked. “I told the [FEO], all those guns had licenses, they’re there (in Camp Crame), show these to them.”
“Why are there so many guns? Because I served as mayor for years, and people knew I loved guns, so those who knew me would give me guns as a gift,” he said.