Four of the five presidential candidates on Sunday vowed to continue talks with rebel groups to achieve peace in Mindanao and eventually address poverty in the region.
During the third leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Senator Grace Poe noted the need for peace talks in order to push development in southern Philippines.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who was first to speak, proposed the dismantling of private armies of politicians in southern Philippines.
"Mayroong private army na kaiba pa sa Armed Forces of the Philippines. Iyan nangggaling sa isang politiko dyan na maraming ninakaw sa gobyerno kaya kaya niya magpatakbo ng private army. At itong army na ito hindi na madisiplina dahil sinasabi nila nagtutulong naman daw sila sa gobyerno," she said.
She added that there is a need to adopt the Muslim's customary laws into the country's western-style of justice system.
"We have to adopt their customary traditional law into our western-style model of the justice system. For example, maganda yung ugali ng Tausug kaya ginawa nang municipal ordinance ng isang bayan, pagkatapos mayroon silang Shariah court na maganda rin ang mga base," she said.
"Kaya sa dalawang paraan na ito, maaring magkatagumpay na tayo sa wakas at mahinto ang gyera o terrorism sa Mindanao," she added.
Roxas said the Aquino administration pushed for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and later the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to achieve peace but the Congress failed to pass it.
"Pag ako po ay naging pangulo, isusulong ko po 'yan dahil peace without progress hindi mangyayari pero progress without peace ay hindi rin mangyayari," he said.
"Alam natin kung walang development, walang kapayapaan. Pero kung walang kapayapaan, wala ring progreso o development. Kaya dalawang kilos ito. Sa isang bahagi, yung ating gobyerno isinusulong ang usapin para sa kapayapaan sa lahat ng mga sektor lalunglalo na sa MILF, sa kabilang sektor naman, sa kabilang bahagi, yung development," he added.
He said the infrastructure development brought to Mindanao in the past five years is double the projects in the past 12 years.
Duterte, for his part, said the war in Mindanao is deeper than some people might think.
"You know this may sound funny to you but when Magellan landed in Leyte, Islam was already planted firmly in Mindanao...But you know the conquerors and the Americans and Spaniards kinuha nila ang Mindanao kaya noong pumunta yung sundalo ng mga Espanyol pati Amerikano, gyera talaga," he said.
He said there is a need to discuss and correct the historical injustices against the people of Mindanao.
"We have to talk and we have to correct the historical injustices. I tell you as a mayor of the city of Davao, there will be no peace, there can never be a federal government until we talk to the NPAs (New People's Army), which has been fighting us, estudyante pa ako, ngayon 70 years old na ako. It has to be development, but you have to make the peace," he said.
"Bago ka makagalaw, 'pag hindi mo nakausap ito in peace talks, everything will be in vain," he added.
Duterte said that only the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law will appease the Moro people.
"I would like to tell you, I am telling now the Republic of the Philippines, nothing will appease the Muslim, the Moro people if you do not give them the BBL," he said.
He said the Moro people are ready to compromise but there should be a talk.
"I said we have to talk, we cannot fight forever unless these injustices are corrected. Ang mga Moro naman are ready to compromise, hindi naman kasalanan ng Kristiyano they came in droves. Ang sabi kasi ng mga Amerikano, go to Mindanao because it is a land of promise simply because walang Morong magtrabaho sa kanila. That started the migration," he said.
Binay said he will push for lasting peace through talks, but believes the root cause of rebellion is poverty and that should be addressed as well.
"Sa aking palagay yung lasting peace makakamit kung mahaharap po natin ang problema ng kahirapan na naglipana po sa inyong lugar. Iyan po ang pinagmulan kung bakit po mayroong gustong umalis, ito ho ay gumagamit ng dahas para ibagsak ang pamahalaan. Pero ang puno't dulo po n'yan ay yung kahirapan," he said.
For her part, Poe said the peace talks should include all sectors.
"Kung ako ang magiging pangulo, ipagpapatuloy ko ang usaping pangkapayapaan pero dapat kasama ang lahat at hindi tayo dapat namimili nang iilang grupo," she said.
But for the terrorists who kill and injure people, the senator believes an all-out war should be declared against them.
"Sa Mindanao, ang kapayapaan ay mahalaga pero sa mga terorista na nanakit o pumapatay, hindi natin sila dapat pagbigyan. Kung ayaw nilang makipagbalikan, makipag-usapan sa gobyerno, all-out war sa mga nagbabanta sa atin pero dapat all-out development sa Mindanao," she said.
Poe said there is a need to hold bilateral talks with neighboring countries in connection with the fight against terrorism.
"Kailangan magkaroon tayo ng bilateral talks para talagang sugpuin ang terorista sapagkat nawawalan ng trabaho ang ating mga kababayan," she said.
She also noted the importance of infrastructure projects that would connect different towns and provinces.
"Importante rin na pangalagaan natin ang imprastruktura sapagkat kung konektado kayo sa isa't isa mas madaling mababantayan ang mga teritoryo natin sa Mindanao," she said.
The senator said Mindanao receives very little support from national government amid the fact that most agricultural products come from southern Philippines.
"Makikita mo talaga na kulang ang suporta sa Mindanao, hindi ko alam kung bakit. Pero sa tingin ko, bilang nanay, dapat ang patas na pagtrato sa lahat, malayo mang lugar sa Pilipinas o malapit," she said. —ALG, GMA News