Duterte sparks tensions: Mindanao’s independence desire leads to political crisis

As a result of conflicts with President Marcos, tensions are rising in the Philippines due to former President Duterte’s support for Mindanao’s independence. Independence would put Mindanao’s hard-won peace accords in jeopardy, the government warns.

As former President Rodrigo Duterte’s desire for Mindanao, his hometown, to become an independent nation reverberates throughout the island, tensions have risen in the Philippines. Disagreements over constitutional revisions with the incumbent president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., gave rise to the rift.

According to President Marcos, the 1987 constitution’s revision was made to facilitate foreign investment. However, Duterte said he was trying to change the constitution so he could hold onto power longer. Duterte publicly supported the division of the southern islands—Matangao in particular—from the country as the political coalition fell apart.

National Security Advisor Eduardo Ano sent out a strong warning, announcing that the government would resolutely use force to put down any effort at secession. Ano’s remarks openly addressed “recent calls to separate Mindanao,” although it did not mention Duterte by name. He made it clear that the national government would not think twice about using its power and might prevent any attempts to split the Republic.

Ano emphasised the possible negative effects of secessionist activities on the advancements made possible by the government’s peace agreement with previous separatist organisations. The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a historic peace pact in 2014, ending decades of violence and strife in Mindanao. In return for the MILF giving up its quest for independence, this agreement resulted in the creation of the Bangsamoro, a Muslim autonomous territory.

While Government Peace Process Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. urged Filipinos to “turn away from any call to destabilise” the country, Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim reassured the populace of his adherence to the peace deal. In Mindanao, the Philippines, the government has been fighting extremists and insurgents for a long time, which has hampered investment and left many areas impoverished.

Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces Romeo Brawner gave orders to soldiers to stick together and be obedient to the command structure and constitution to preserve stability. The possibility of secession casts doubt on the stability of the peace process and the general security of the Philippines as the country negotiates these uncharted seas.