Nur fails to attend Jeddah meet; no sovereign guarantee from Saudi

Misuari was supposed to have left with his delegation and the Philippine delegation headed by Undersecretary Nabil Tan at 12:20 a.m. November 9 on board Emirates Flight EK 335, but was not allowed to leave for failing to submit a “sovereign guarantee” from Saudi Arabia that he would return to the Philippines immediately after the November 10 to 12 meeting in Jeddah.

The court imposed six major conditions for Misuari and his spiritual adviser, Ustadz Abu Haris Usman, to comply with but in the latter part of the three-page ruling said the two can leave their place of detention in New Manila “only after the submission by either the prosecution or the accused of the sovereign guarantee from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which assures compliance with the Court order.”

“The Saudi government did not issue a sovereign guarantee,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews in a telephone interview.

Without the sovereign guarantee, he said, the Department of Foreign Affairs could not issue the passports to Misuari and Usman and the Saudi Arabian Embassy here could not also issue a visa to Misuari and Usman.

The court order allowed Misuari and Usman to travel to Jeddah 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.”

Dureza said the tripartite meeting, which he said is merely “preparatory,” will proceed as scheduled tomorrow, November 10, until the 12th, with the MNLF delegation now headed by lawyer Randolph Parcasio, Misuari’s executive secretary when he was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Tan, ARMM vice governor from 1993 to 1996 and member of the government peace panel that negotiated with Misuari during the same period, heads the 15-person delegation.

Tan has nine other members in his delegation and five advisers. The members are Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, ARMM Speaker Paisalin Tago, Atty. Leah Armamento of the Department of Justice, Col. Deam Carlos Quita of the Department of National Defense, Director Jim Sampulna of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Director Charlemagne Alejandrino of the Philippine National Police, Luvisminda Domingo of the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas  and Director Rogelio Peyuan of the TESDA. The advisers are former ARMM Governor Parouk Hussin, Sulu Rep. Jusoph Jikiri, Diosita Andot of the GRP-UNDP Act for Peace,  Phillipine Consul-General in Jeddah, Pendosina Lomondot, and Ambassador Antonio Villamor, the Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Dureza said the Philippine government will request that the formal opening of the Tripartite Meeting, which he said should be “as soon as possible,” be held in Manila to give Misuari a chance to attend the meeting. He said the next meetings can be done on a shifting venue as Indonesia and Libya had offered to host the meetings.

The tripartite meeting in Jeddah was a recommendation of the OIC fact-finding mission which visited Mindanao in May last year to look into the implementation of the now 11-year old “Final Peace Agreement” signed on September 2, 1996.

The OIC fact-finding 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 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.

“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. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)