Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
CAVITE, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will be "taking over" as "project manager" for Mindanao development projects, particularly those in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said on Saturday, March 11.
In a speech during the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) alumni homecoming in Camp General Mariano Castañeda on Saturday, the interior secretary said Duterte announced at a recent Cabinet meeting that he "wanted to be the project manager, even in ARMM."
"Lahat ng (All) management projects, development projects, dapat ako na (I should take over). I will supervise all the projects that will be implemented here in Mindanao, especially in the ARMM kasi ayaw niya na may (because he doesn't want a) part of our population that will lag behind in terms of development," said Sueno in his speech as the guest of honor and speaker during the homecoming.
Asked to clarify his statements in a chance interview, Sueno confirmed that the President "[is] taking over."
"Sabi niya, basta sabi niya siya na ang magmamanage. Siya ang project manager ng development funds doon at development projects sa Mindanao," Sueno told reporters.
(He said he will be the one managing. He will be the project manager of the development funds there and development projects in Mindanao.)
Duterte was mayor of Davao City, among the biggest and most development cities in the Mindanao group of islands. Sueno himself was a longtime local chief executive in Mindanao, serving as Koronadal municipal mayor in the 80s before being appointed and then elected governor of South Cotabato, which is also in Mindanao.
Asked how Duterte's latest decision would be formalized, Sueno said there would be no need for an executive order. "Arrangement na lang namin 'yun (It will be our arrangement)," he said.
Under the law, local government units enjoy autonomy, even from the executive branch which Duterte heads. For instance, local government units cannot be compelled – only encouraged – to follow executive orders as issued by the President.
Warning on martial law
Earlier this week, Duterte warned that he would be "forced" to declare martial law in Mindanao if local government leaders fail to help him with the security situation in the country's southernmost areas. "You've had experience with martial law and it could be a brutal war," said the President.
Sueno reiterated Duterte's warning on Saturday. "Sabi niya ([Duterte] said), he knows if all the local executives will cooperate in the maintenance of peace and order, many things can happen," said Sueno, who as interior and local government chief, assists the President supervising local governments.
"If you will not cooperate with me, if you do nothing, then tomorrow I will declare martial law here in Mindanao. But you know, martial law, that's difficult. You are the mayors [but] you will not be mayos anymore. The military and police will take orders from me. They will be the mayors there and you will lose your jobs. The military and police can enter your houses, can arrest your any time. Do you like that? I don't like that [so] you have to work, you have to do what you are mandated to do," said Sueno, paraphrasing Duterte.
Several agencies tasked with maintaining public peace and order – the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Bureau of Fire Protection – are all under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Sueno clarified that while Duterte was serious about his threat, no deadline was given to local chief executives in Mindanao.
Both the Palace and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a Duterte ally, downplayed the President's most recent statements.
It wasn't the first time Duterte threatened to declare martial law in the country. He later withdrew that threat. – Rappler.com