Press Release
August 16, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) has called for a "comprehensive solution" to the persistent problems of insurgency, secessionism and terrorism in Muslim areas in Mindanao even as he threw his support behind the renewed campaign of the Arroyo administration and the military establishment to crush the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Pimentel said he accepted the explanation of Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro that the surge of government troops in Sulu and Basilan did not mean an all-out war against Muslim rebels but was intended to impress upon the people that the government is ready to do battle with anyone that would dare to challenge the sovereignty of the country.

He said that during the meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) in Malacañang Wednesday, he told President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other members of the Council that there will always be Muslims in Mindanao who will defy and take up arms against the government unless the government adopts a comprehensive solution in the form of the establishment of a federal system.

Under a federal system, Pimentel said the Muslim Filipinos will enjoy a high level of autonomy, preserve their cultural identity and live according to their Islamic faith and their own system of education, and justice, as well as customs and traditions.

"I told the President that Mrs. President, you know we can crush the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu today. We can kill all the renegades who are fighting the government," Pimentel said in a privilege speech Wednesday on the floor of the Senate.

"But even if we do that, unless we have a comprehensive solution, the problem of insurgency in the South, like the PHOENIX, will again rise from the ashes or the remains of those who have been crushed in the offensive that the government might take against the so-called rebels in Mindanao."

Pimentel said the recurring rebellion of the Muslims started when the Spaniards came and colonized the country and imposed Christianity. He said the government used force in crushing the Muslim rebellions led by Dimacaling of Lanao during the American Commonwealth era, Kamlon of Sulu in the 1950s, and Udtug Matalam of Cotabato in the 1960s.

He said the same approach was used by the government in fighting the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under Hashim Salamat and Ibrahim Murad from the 70s up to the present.

"And yet the problem of Muslim rebellion in the South has continued. Which goes to show that superficial solutions to the problem of Muslim rebellion will not work. Nobody can tell us that all the proposed solutions today have not been tried in the past. They have been tried in the past," the senator from Mindanao said.

What has happened, he said, was that all the superficial solutions to solve the Muslim rebellion never sufficed to address the longings and aspirations of the Muslim people.

Pimentel said the Muslim rebel leaders, ulamas, academicians, young people and leaders of non-government organizations he has talked to have all suggested that the only solution that will work is the one that will respect their culture and identity as a people, which is the adoption of a federal system.

"There is no other way. Because in their vocabulary, if their identity as Muslim people is not respected, then they are no longer a Muslim people. And therefore, they have no place in the scheme of things in this country."

Saying the proposal entails an amendment to the Constitution, Pimentel said the nation should be prepared for it, not necessarily to install a federal system now because that will take time.

"But at least we start talking about it, debating it and probably look for the best model. There is no one model that we can accept, but let us look for a model that meets the needs of our people so that once and for all, we can have peace and development not only for the Muslim regions in Mindanao but also for the entire country," he said.

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