Rodrigo Duterte holds historic meeting with rival Islamist rebels in the southern Philippines
Incoming Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has held a historic meeting with two rival Islamist rebel groups in the country’s south.
- Duterte’s meeting with Islamist rebels is the first in recent Philippines history
- The incendiary mayor won the election pledging to brutally crack down on criminals
- Analysts say bridging divides between Islamist rebels is one area Duterte could make a positive mark
Muslim rebels reportedly pledged their support for Mr Duterte’s planned shift to a federal system of government, saying this would redistribute wealth and effectively address kidnapping on Mindanao island.
Rebel leaders also agreed to work on bridging the divides among the Muslim people of Mindanao, Mr Duterte’s home town.
Mr Duterte’s meeting with the rival groups is seen as a first in the Philippines’ recent history
Mr Duterte is said to have an affinity with both communist and Muslim rebel leaders in Mindanao.
The incendiary lawyer won last month’s elections largely on a pledge to end or suppress what he said was rampant crime, warning that tens of thousands of criminals would be killed in his crackdown.
Across the nation, police have reported killing more than 20 alleged drug suspects during the past fortnight, egged on by Mr Duterte, who has urged them to begin his war on crime even before he takes office at the end of this month.
But analysts said that tackling the Islamist insurgency in the country’s south was one area where Mr Duterte could potentially make a positive mark.
Last week, the severed head of a Canadian hostage was found in the country’s southern Sulu province, the second execution of a Canadian national this year by Abu Sayyaf jihadists.
“Duterte is the only presidential candidate … who has a chance as president to be a circuit-breaker in terms of the insurgency in Muslim Mindanao,” said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies in Singapore.
“[Mr Duterte] comes from Mindanao and has pre-existing and good relations with many of the key insurgent leaders of the main insurgent group and among Mindanao politicians in general.
“President Aquino put in a huge amount of effort into trying to deliver a peace deal for Muslim Mindanao and came very close … but that process has failed,” Mr Cook added.
“Duterte is probably the only president that has a chance of reviving that process and trying to finally bring a political solution to the insurgency that has bedevilled Mindanao and the Philippines for decades.”