MANILA — The Philippines‘ defense minister on Monday vowed to “strictly enforce” the country’s sovereignty, joining the chorus of security officials pledging to defend the nation following secessionist threats made by former president Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte on Jan. 30 called for the independence of his hometown island Mindanao in the southern Philippines as his alliance with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr disintegrated last week over disagreements around efforts to amend the constitution.
“The mandate of the Department of National Defense is to secure the sovereignty of the state and integrity of the national territory as enshrined in the constitution,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a statement.
“We will strictly enforce this mandate whether externally or internally,” he added.
Teodoro’s remarks echoed similar statements made by the national security adviser, who on Sunday, said the government will not hesitate to “use its authority and forces to quell and stop any and all attempts to dismember the Republic”.
Duterte made history by becoming the first Philippine president to hail from the resource-rich Mindanao island, which has been plagued by violence and conflict for decades as the government battled insurgents and extremists. The unrest has discouraged investments and left many villages in poverty.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Romeo Brawner, reminded troops while visiting military camps in Mindanao on Sunday that “we swore an oath that we will always follow the chain of command, be loyal to the constitution and our duly constituted authorities.”
“Let us continue to show that with a strong and united AFP, we will have a strong and united Philippines,” Brawner said.
— Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Michael Perry