VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte takes back his call for the separation of Mindanao from PH

Former president Rodrigo Duterte says he does not want the Philippine republic dismembered, noting that his earlier call for the secession of Mindanao is just a joke and a tactic to scare and draw attention to the long-neglected southern Philippines.

Rodrigo Duterte 02/27/2024 Flip-flop

A month prior, Duterte raised the idea of Mindanao breaking away from the Philippines. A few days later, he said political forces in Mindanao were planning to regroup, with Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez leading the movement.

After repeatedly calling for Mindanao secession in the past month, former president Rodrigo Duterte now says he would not pursue the plan. He said it was just a “joke” and tactic to “scare” and draw attention to the plight of the southern island, which he said has been historically neglected.


In a press conference in Davao City on Feb. 27, Duterte said he would not pursue the separation of Mindanao if it would cause a “rupture” in the republic. He further said:

Magprangka ako sa inyo (I will be frank with you), this is for all and I would repeat it now and forever: I do not want my country dismembered. I do not want a part of my country taken away. I do not want my country to be disturbed physically, even the slightest. It goes for Luzon hanggang (until) Jolo. ‘Yung nagising ako sa mundong ito (I woke up in this world), Republic of the Philippines, for as long as I live, it will be the same Republic of the Philippines.”

Source: News5Everywhere, LIVE | Press conference ni dating pangulong Rodrigo Duterte #News5 (February 27, 2024), Feb. 27, 2024, watch from 53:18 to 54:14

He also downplayed the seriousness of his previous call for Mindanao secession as a mere “joke” (pang-atik) and tactic to “scare” (pang-hadlok) and draw the attention of “Manila” to the neglect of the southern island. Duterte eventually urged people to stop calling for separation.


Expressing his disappointment with the alleged bribery in the ongoing effort to change the Constitution, Duterte first raised the idea of Mindanao breaking away from the Philippines in a prayer rally on Jan. 28 in Davao City.

VERA Files Fact Check: After repeatedly calling for Mindanao secession in the past month, former president Rodrigo Duterte now says he would not pursue the plan.

Gano’n na lang ang tingin niyo sa mga Filipino? Pagka-gano’n maghiwa-hiwalay na tayo. Kayong taga-Luzon, pumunta na lang kayo sa Mindanao. Mag-declare na lang tayo ng independence, separate. Bakit? Binababoy niyo ang bayan natin,” he said.

(That is what you think about the Filipinos? If it’s like that, let’s just split up. Those of you in Luzon, go to Mindanao. Let us declare independence, to separate. Why? You’re disrespecting our country.)

In a media briefing on Jan. 30, Duterte once again brought up this plan and said that local political forces were already planning to regroup in Davao to establish a movement for Mindanao independence. He announced Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as its head.

“There’s a process in that, I think before the UN (United Nations), where you would gather signatures from all folks in Mindanao, magpirma (sign), verified, under oath, in the presence of so many people, decide that we want to separate,” he said.

The former president further explained this plan in an interview with former presidential adviser Salvador Panelo last Feb. 7. Duterte said that this movement aims to achieve secession through “peaceful” and “legal” means.

There are, however, no clear international laws or an established UN process on secession.

(Read VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Mindanao secession: Is it possible under Philippine, international laws and UN process?)

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Rody Duterte Facebook Page, PRAYER RALLY, Jan. 28, 2024

Sonshine Media, LIVE: Former President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to the media in Davao City | January 30, 2024, Jan. 30, 2024

DZRJ 810 AM – Radyo Bandido, 𝗞𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗮 𝗕𝗶𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗮 Hosted by Atty. Sal Panelo – February 07, 2024, Feb. 7, 2024

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)