At the closing ceremonies, however, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said he hopes detained MNLF chair Nur Misuari “will be able to join us in the next session in a dignified way to benefit from his contribution to this important process.”
Ihsanoglu added “in a dignified way,” to the original printed copy of his closing remarks.
Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan, head of the Philippine delegation, later told MindaNews that Ihsanoglu told him he hoped Misuari, if he gets to attend Tripartite Meeting, will not be in handcuffs.
Ihsanoglu reiterated the OIC’s call to the Philippine government to free Misuari.
“It is my duty to bring to your attention that the OIC’s (Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers) has twice appealed to the Government of the Philippines to expedite the legal process against him and to see to his early release to enable him to participate in the Tripartite Meeting and to continue his role in leading the Bangsamoro people,” he said.
Misuari and his fellow detainee and spiritual adviser, Ustadz Abu Haris Usman, were granted leave to travel to Jeddah, base of the OIC and Misuari’s base while on exile from the early 1970s to 1996, provided he complied with the conditions and that he and Usman can leave their place of detention in New Manila, Quezon City “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 on November 9.
Without the sovereign guarantee, Dureza 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.
Misuari’s lawyers said the requirement for a “sovereign guarantee’’ was an “impossible condition.” They blamed Misuari’s absence here on the Department of Foreign Affairs for allegedly not issuing his passport.
Misuari, however, made sure his presence was felt at the opening rites here Saturday afternoon, when he questioned the legality of the Philippine government’s plan to forge a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a 38-minute, 15-page speech delivered for him by the new MNLF spokesperson Al Tillah.
Referring to the MILF as a “splinter group” from the MNLF, Misuari quoted an American diplomat as saying “any peace agreement that might be entered into in Kuala Lumpur between the GRP and the MILF will be illegal!”
“Curiously enough, since 1992 or ‘93, the Malaysian government has been brokering this peace talks between the MILF and the GRP,” Misuari said, adding, “and some points of agreement have been allegedly reached between them” and that “MILF sources are even claiming that anytime before the end of this year, they will wrap up their final agreements and sign a formal peace deal.”
Malaysia has been brokering the talks between the GRP and MILF not in 1992 or 1993 but since March 2001, when the Arroyo administration resumed talks with the MILF. Under Arroyo’s predecessor, Joseph Estrada, the peace talks collapsed following Estrada’s declaration of an “all out war.”
In 1992, it was the MNLF under Misuari, which holds an observer status in the OIC, that the Philippine government under the Ramos administration negotiated peace with.
Exactly a full month before the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF, however, then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres met with MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar, for “exploratory talks.”
Torres would later say he met with Jaafar on August 2, 1996, thinking the GRP-MNLF agreement would be acceptable to the MILF.
A general ceasefire agreement was signed by the government and MILF in July 1997, still under the Ramos administration. The first round of formal peace talks opened in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat in the early part of the Estrada administration, without foreign participation.
Misuari warned that should the Arroyo administration sign a peace deal with the MILF, “then there will be a complete transformation of the political situation in the Bangsamoro homeland. The MNLF will be thrown back to square one and left with no other possible option but to return back to their original demand for self-determination, decolonization and independence of the Bangsamoro Homeland.”
Tillah said Misuari was right in pointing out that the government is working on a peace agreement with the MILF when it has yet to finish implementing the pact with the MNLF.
But Misuari’s speech displeased many, including Ihsanoglu, who, MindaNews sources said, expressed to a group that his remarks were “uncalled for.”
Misuari’s remarks also displeased some members of the MNLF delegation itself. The delegation comprises several factions.
A representative in the OIC’s Peace Committee for Southern Philippines who requested not to be named told reporters MNLF members not allied with Misuari approached them, particularly Malaysia, to offer their apologies for Misuari's remarks.
In August 2001, MNLF officials then known as the Executive Council or “Council of 15” signed an “Agreement on General Framework for Unity” with the MILF, to set up a “Bangsamoro Solidarity Conference.”
Since then, MNLF representatives had been attending OIC activities with MILF officials in their delegation. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)