Court grants Misuari permission to attend Jeddah meeting

Misuari is heading the MNLF delegation while the Philippine government delegation will be headed by Undersecretary Nabil Tan of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Tan, then vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was a member of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the MNLF from 1993 to 1996.

MindaNews obtained a copy of the three-page decision containing six major conditions for the grant of travel furlough to Misuari and his spiritual adviser and co-accused, Ustadz Abu Haris Usman.

Misuari and Usman are allowed to travel provided they “commit themselves” that they will not be flight risks but would return to the Philippines “upon the conclusion of the conference or soon thereafter;” that they will “not engage while abroad, particularly in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in any form of political or other activity or otherwise commit or perform any act or participate in any action that will be inimical to the Philippine government.”

The two are also supposed to commit to “obey all lawful rules and regulations for their travel/sojourn abroad;” to “recognize at all times the absolute authority and jurisdiction of his Honorable Court over their persons;” to immediately return to their place of confinement and report to the court, upon their return to the country; and to “abide with other terms and conditions that the court may impose.”

The court also ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to issue Misuari and Usman passports.

MindaNews asked the MNLF’s new spokesperson, Al Tillah,  for Misuari’s comments on the conditions imposed by the court but Tillah told MindaNews at noon that they were still meeting and  will issue a “formal statement tomorrow, after conferring with the MNLF chairman.”

As of 3 p.m., Tillah said they were still in a meeting.

The tripartite meeting in Jeddah was a recommendation of the OIC fact-finding mission which visited Mindanao in May last year.

The OIC delegation, headed by Ambassador Sayed El-Masry, Adviser to the Secretary-General, was in the Philippines from May 17 to 22, 2006 to look into the implementation  of the 1996 peace agreement it brokered. The delegation, accompanied by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, was in Mindanao from May 18 to 21.

The OIC had earlier brokered the peace talks that led to the signing of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the MNLF which was granted observer status in the OIC in 1977. Until his arrest in 2001 for alleged rebellion, Misuari and former ARMM governor Parouk Hussin, had been representing the MNLF in the OIC conferences.

In the Joint Communique issued on May 22, 2006, the Philippine government and the OIC agreed that there is “a need to review the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement as it enters its 10th anniversary with the tripartite participation of the GRP, OIC and the MNLF and that a high level tripartite meeting in Jeddah be set as soon as practicable for such purpose.”

Ambassador El-Masry told civil society representatives in Davao City late evening of May 19 that they hope to have the tripartite meeting in July 2006, hopefully with MNLF chair Nur Misuari in attendance.

“The parties must sit together,” El-Masry said, adding, “for peace to really be permanent, it has to be just. One of the parties thinks the agreement has not been implemented. The purpose of proposing a meeting in Jeddah is for this, (for the parties) to sit together with open hearts and minds and only after that can we reach an assessment of the situation,” El-Masry said, adding that until now, there is  “wide gap” between the reports of the parties on the implementation of the peace pact. “We are trying to narrow the gap.”

El-Masry also reiterated the OIC’s earlier appeal to the Philippine government to free Misuari, who had been detained on alleged rebellion since January 2002.

Misuari signed the peace agreement with the government in Tripoli, Libya on December 23, 1976 and in Manila on September 2, 1996.

“We honestly think that his participation in the peace process is a catalyst to the peace process and that his contribution will make the process move forward,” said Masry, who had earlier served as independent expert on human rights at the United Nations for eight year.

The schedule of the tripartite meeting had been scheduled several times.

Misuari’s petition for bail has been submitted for decision. He has been detained in the Philippines since January 2002, first at the bungalow originally intended for deposed president Joseph Estrada, then to the St. Luke’s hospital in January last year and from St. Luke’s to a house in New Manila, Quezon City.

Misuari was arrested in one of the islands in Sabah, Malaysia in late November 2001, a few days after his alleged rebellion in Sulu and Cabatangan, Zamboanga City. (MindaNews)