DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/31 August) – “Nur, I have no intention of detaining you,” President Rodrigo Duterte said to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari, who is presently a fugitive from law.
Misuari has a pending warrant of arrest, along with 59 others, for rebellion and violation of RA 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity following the September 2013 stand-off in Zamboanga City between his followers and government troops that left 104 persons dead, 192 injured and110,000 of its 807,000 population displaced.
In a press conference following the arrival of repatriated Filipino workers from Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia at the NAIA terminal 2 in Pasay City on Wednesday morning, Duterte said he spoke with Misuari, his personal friend, through telephone Tuesday night, and cited his pending warrant of arrest. “I told him, ‘Nur, I have no intention of detaining you or placing you in the custody of the government. You can simply walk out there, ask any soldier and police to escort you. Kung saan ako, mag-usap tayo’” (Where I am, we will talk).”
“But he (Misuari) wants Kuala Lumpur in front of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Cooperation), Duterte said.
Misuari’s alleged choice of Malaysia surprised many peace process observers as his dislike for Malaysia is public knowledge. While still serving as Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), he was arrested in late 2001 off Sabah, for alleged illegal entry, following a rebellion he allegedly led in Zamboanga City and Sulu. He has since called for the reclamation of Sabah.
Misuari’s name was mentioned by Duterte when he was asked in the press conference if he would declare a state of emergency in Sulu following the death of 15 soldiers there in the ongoing war against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
“No,” he replied, adding what is happening in Sulu is “just a punitive police action by the security forces of the government.”
Misuari was ARMM Governor from September 30, 1996 until his arrest off Sabah in late November 2001. He was freed on bail in April 2008 and acquitted in December 2009 by a Makatri Trial Court as the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence to prove his guilt.
Be my guest
Asked if he was willing to meet with Misuari in Kuala Lumpur, Duterte replied: “Kasi I can go to him, I can go to Jolo if he wants. Or if he wants somebody there, they can bring him back to Davao City or in Manila. He can be my guest in Malacañang, in the People’s Palace, and we can talk there for a while.
He said Bahay Pagbabago, where he resides across the Pasig River, has two rooms and “the other room is available.”
A prosecutor for a decade before he was named OIC Vice Mayor and later elected Mayor of this city, Duterte said he “cannot be too stringent in the matters that would affect whether or not we succeed.”
The most important thing, he said, is “there is a dialogue going” and this has saved the country a lot of money which can be used for livelihood.
When a reporter asked if it was within his powers to have Misuari’s warrant of arrest lifted, Duterte replied: “Ako man ang hepe ng pulis pati military. Sabihin ko lang, ‘huwag ninyong galawin.’’ (I am the chief of the police and the military. I will just say ‘ do not touch him.”)
“Well, if there is a warrant of arrest, all I have to do is to (order the police and the military) ‘do not implement it against him because if you arrest Misuari, (if) you place him under the custody of the police diyan sa Crame and he dies for whatever reason, kompromiso na tayo (we will be compromised),” he said.
As is his usual, Duterte did not finish his sentence. “Then there’s not gonna be a… mahirapan na tayo mag… (we’ll have difficulties…). “
Duterte said Misuari is “the only known leader (in Sulu) who has the influence and the structure. Nobody else.”
As ARMM Governor, Misuari also tried but failed, like the four administrations of Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino, to stop the Abu Sayyaf.
Nur still a fugitive
Officially, not yet
On July 19, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told the Malacanang Press Corps that the Duterte administration will officially deal with Misuari only when the effects of the warrants of arrest he is facing are suspended.
But Dureza said their communication lines with Misuari are open and that in fact, the President talked with Misuari via speakerphone the night before, after he presented the peace roadmap.
Reports had spread then that Misuari’s supporters had gathered in Sulu following reports Duterte would visit Sulu to meet with Misuari. But Dureza said the President cannot do that while Misuari is still a fugitive.
“We cannot yet deal with him officially because technically, he is still a fugitive,” Dureza said.
Misuari’s lawyers, he added, are contemplating on having his cases reviewed by the Department of Justice and see if that review will lead to a suspension of the effects of the warrant.
“That is the route that will be taken,” said Dureza.
“We will wait until that procedure is complied with. Only when the warrant is no longer in the way (can this) proceed accordingly,” he said.
As Presidential Assistant for Mindanao in January 2002, Dureza fetched Misuari in Malaysia where he was detained from late November 2001 and brought him to the Philippines, in the bungalow intended for ousted President Joseph Estrada in Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna where he was detained while awaiting trial for allegedly leading a rebellion in Sulu and in Cabatangan, Zamboanga City, a few days before his arrest in Malaysia.
On October 21, 2012, at the 17th MNLF Bangsamoro Grand Summit Gathering at the Crocodile Park in Davao City, Misauri criticized the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed six days earlier between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a a product of a “tripartite conspiracy” , that reduced the Bangsamoro homeland to “five tiny provinces hardly the size of the Cotabato (Empire) of yore.”
Misuari referred to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak Najib as one of three “conspirators,” along with then President Benigno Simeon Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who “betrayed the Bangsamoro cause” with the signing of the FAB.
“We hope that the entire world will ask these three conspirators to account for these misdeeds or wrongdoing,” he said then.
He said the MILF leaders had become “pure and simple puppets and pawns” of the Philippines and Malaysian “colonial powers.”
Since his release from detention in 2008, Misuari had repeatedly called for a “final solution” to the claim over “Sabah and the rest of North Borneo.”
He also called on the audience to “join me to continue our efforts to reclaim Sabah and the rest of North Borneo” but there was no reaction from the crowd. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)