The government will fight back should Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari make good his threat to go to war over federalism, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Thursday.
He dismissed Misuari’s threat as a form of “blackmail” against the current administration, saying he was only “expressing his disappointment” because one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promises was still not in place.
In other developments:
• Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said he did not believe that Misuari made a threat to go to war if the government failed to pursue federalism.
• Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said if the threat to go to war is true, Misuari had provided the single most important argument against federalism.
• Senator Panfilo Lacson stressed the importance of keeping Misuari close or by the side of the President, “or at least within close monitoring range of the military given the transition period of the BARMM.
• Senate President Vicente Sotto said he wondered if there was a law against threatening the government.”
In a press briefing, Panelo said the government will not take Misauri’s threat ”lightly”, adding “ if you force us against the wall, this is what we will do.”
He said Duterte also made a “counter-threat” to Misuari that they would “die together” if the federalism initiative failed.
“‘But we will celebrate if we succeed. And as a response to going to war, then we will die fighting each other,’” Panelo said.
But for now, Panelo said, the two sides “want peace” and would soon start the talks on the federalism initiative.
He said the President had proposed that the two parties create their respective five-member panels to tackle the proposed shift to federalism and reminded Misuari that the final federalism proposal was still up to Congress.
“If he goes to war, then he will be fighting the government. So if he is fighting the government and the head of the government is the President, they would be fighting each other,” Panelo said.
He said Misuari was actually “happy” with the President’s proposal for the federalism talks and expressed hope it could be attained within his term.
“He reminded the President that federalism was one of the promises he made to the electorate. And he is confident that within the three years remaining term of the President, federalism would fit in,” Panelo said.
“Knowing the chairman who has been fighting for a peaceful solution in Mindanao, and knowing the deep relationship between the two leaders, I am confident that there will be an agreement, a modus vivendi between the two sides and we will have peace in Mindanao.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta