Philippines’ Duterte tells Muslims he will correct ‘historical injustice’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, wearing a military uniform, gestures as he delivers a speech during the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger regiment in San Miguel town, Bulacan province, north of Manila, Philippines on November 24, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 November 2017
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Philippines’ Duterte tells Muslims he will correct ‘historical injustice’

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to correct “historical injustice” in a speech to Filipino Muslim rebels on Monday as his government seeks to reignite a stalled peace process in the nation’s troubled south.
He made the remarks at a mammoth gathering hosted by the country’s main Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but which has also brought together Christians, rival Muslim factions and tribal groups from the southern region of Mindanao.
Since the 1970s, Muslims have been seeking autonomy or independence in the southern areas of the mainly Catholic Philippines that they regard as their ancestral homeland.
The conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and left large areas of Mindanao in poverty.
Duterte, who boasts of having Muslim ancestry, warned that the region could see worse violence if the issue is not resolved.
“What is at stake here is the preservation of the Filipino republic and to correct historical injustice,” he said.
Duterte said that during the decades when the Philippines was under Spanish and then American colonial rule, the Christian majority had taken control of vast parts of Mindanao, leaving native Muslims and other tribes marginalized.
He also warned that the violence could be exacerbated if Islamic State followers flee to the Philippines after losing their bases in the Middle East.
Duterte’s warning came just a month after the foreign and local Daesh supporters who ravaged Mindanao’s main Muslim city Marawi were defeated in October, ending a five-month conflict which left about 1,100 people dead.
The 10,000-strong MILF signed a peace deal in 2014 that would give the nation’s Muslim minority self-rule over parts of Mindanao, but the proposed law to implement the pact has not managed to get through Congress.
The immediate objective of Monday’s rally was to build support for the proposed law.
Duterte said he would work for the law’s passage, even calling Congress to a special session where Muslim leaders could explain their plans to the legislators.
Such an agreement must be “inclusive” and acceptable to all groups in Mindanao, he added.
Speaking at the event, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim recalled that many of those attending had fought in the Muslim guerrilla wars in decades past.
But he said they are now pushing for the autonomy law, stating “it presents us the rare opportunity to be part of the noble endeavor of peace-making.”
Hundreds of thousands of people attended the gathering at the main MILF base where a festive mood prevailed despite the history of conflict.
The MILF previously said half a million had registered to attend.
Unarmed MILF fighters accompanied by armed government soldiers and policemen secured the event, which was attended by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo — the archbishop of Cotabato and Mindanao’s highest Catholic Church official — as well as members of the MILF’s main rival, the Moro National Liberation Front.
“The importance here is that there is coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Lumads (tribal people),” said Carlos Sol, director of the government’s coordinating committee overseeing the peace accord.


Colombia president-elect vows to unite nation, alter peace deal

Updated 7 min 51 sec ago
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Colombia president-elect vows to unite nation, alter peace deal

  • Ivan Duque has vowed to make “structural changes” to the 2016 agreement, which led to the group’s disarmament and conversion into a political party
  • Duque has railed against the Colombian left, voicing fears that it would drag the country into the same economic quagmire in which neighboring Venezuela is mired

BOGOTA: Colombia’s President-elect Ivan Duque, who swept aside leftist Gustavo Petro in Sunday’s election, pledged to unite his South American nation after a divisive campaign but insisted he would change a landmark peace accord with leftist rebels.
Duque’s decisive victory in Sunday’s poll, with 54 percent of votes to Petro’s 42 percent, is likely to reassure investors in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy who were alarmed by the leftist candidate’s promise to overturn Colombia’s orthodox economic model.
Yet, in the first presidential election since the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Duque worried Colombians with a promise to overhaul the accord that ended a five-decade conflict which killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions. He has promised to impose tougher punishments on rebels for war crimes.
Surrounded by friends and family, Duque thanked voters for handing him the biggest electoral victory in Colombia’s history based on number of votes received. He struck a conciliatory tone, calling for the nation of more than 50 million people to unite behind him after a polarizing campaign.
“With humility and honor, I tell the Colombian people that I will give all my energies to unite our country. No more divisions,” Duque told a crowd of cheering supporters in Bogota.
“I will not govern with hatred.”
Duque, 41, the business friendly protégé of hard-line former President Alvaro Uribe, has promised to toughen the peace deal while keeping Colombia’s business friendly economic policies intact.
By contrast, former guerrilla Petro had pledged to take on political elites, redistribute land to the poor and gradually eliminate the need for oil and coal in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy. His positions prompted critics to compare him to Venezuela’s former socialist President Hugo Chavez.
Although Petro won a majority in only eight of 32 provinces, and the capital Bogota, the fact that a leftist advanced to the presidential runoff is historic in Colombia, where traditionally conservative politicians have held sway. Petro won 8 million votes versus 10.3 million for Duque.
Petro, 58, had called on supporters to take to the streets if he felt there was widespread manipulation of the tally, but he accepted the outcome of Sunday’s election.
“We accept Duque’s triumph. He is the president of the Republic of Colombia... Today we are the opposition to his government,” Petro, he will return to the Senate, told cheering supporters in Bogota.

FRACTURED LEFT
Duque will face significant challenges when he takes office in August. The economy remains weak; drug trafficking gangs have moved into areas once controlled by the FARC and more than half a million Venezuelan migrants have crossed into Colombia, looking for food and work.
His plans to change the peace deal will face considerable opposition in Congress and from Colombia’s Constitutional Court.
On Sunday, he said he would make necessary “corrections” to the accord so victims’ rights receive greater priority and justice and reparations are respected.
“Peace is something all Colombians yearn for, and peace means that we turn the page on the fractures that have divided us into friends and enemies of peace,” he said, as confetti rained down and supporters danced and honked horns.
“Today, we’re all friends to build that peace and it must be a peace that above all allows the guerrilla base its demobilization, its disarmament and its effective reinsertion.”
FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, congratulated Duque on Twitter, calling for reconciliation and saying he respected Colombians’ decision.
Duque has also promised to bolster the $324 billion economy, keep investors happy by cutting business taxes, support the oil and coal sectors — top exports — and help manufacturing.
“It is a result that’s very in line with what the market had been expecting and it guarantees that Colombia’s reputation — political and economic stability — is still valid,” Felipe Campos, head economist at Alianza brokerage, said.
Duque is the candidate for the Democratic Center Party, a movement started in 2013 by Uribe, seen as the power behind the throne.
A one-term senator, Duque worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington until 2014, when Uribe asked him to return to Colombia and take a seat in Congress. Duque’s running mate, Marta Lucia Ramirez, will be Colombia’s first female vice president.
“Our hope has arrived,” said 52-year-old publicist Carlos Cortes, a Duque supporter. “Now, with more respect for private enterprise, more jobs will be generated and we’ll move forward as a country.”
For decades, Colombia’s fractured left has failed to come close to winning the presidency or exercising control in Congress, overshadowed by right-wing contenders who have promised strong security policies.
Yet the 2016 deal with the FARC clearly shifted priorities for many voters in the Andean country of nearly 50 million people.
Despite Petro’s loss, voter interest in tackling inequality, corruption and inadequate social services looks set to create opportunities for the left in future, possibly as soon as 2022.