DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 October) – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari next week to “begin the talks.”
“Misuari is getting out of Jolo next week, and we’ll begin the talks,” Duterte said on Friday, the second day of the three-day Banana Congress 2016 at the SMX Convention Center Davao.
Misuari has a pending warrant for his arrest along with 59 others on charges of rebellion and violation of Republic Act 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 and 110,000 of its 807,000 population displaced.
It is not clear if the effects of the warrant have been suspended. On October 4, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews that they are “still awaiting outcomes on the legal status of Misuari which the Justice Department is now addressing.”
In July, supporters of Misuari were reported to be massing up in Sulu for Duterte’s supposed visit 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,” he said.
Misuari’s lawyers, he added, were contemplating on having his cases reviewed and see if that review will lead to a suspension of the effects of the warrant. “That is the route that will be taken. 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. That was in July.
Misuari signed the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 but the agreement, the MNLF said, was unilaterally implemented by the Philippine Government. He signed a Final Peace Agreement with the government on September 2, 1996. Exactly a week later, he was elected Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and served the post until he was arrested off Sabah, Malaysia in late November 2001 for alleged illegal entry. He was fetched from his Malaysian detention in early January 2002 by then Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Dureza, and was detained for seven years.
Duterte reiterated that he wants to put an end to the decades-long armed conflicts between the Moros and the government troops that he said stemmed from the historical injustices caused by the American and Spanish colonizers.
“Iyong Islam naman was already thriving here in Mindanao. As a matter of fact, Islam was 100 percent dito sa Mindanao because Mindanao was really part—you go to the archives of Malaysia and itong sa Indonesia, there’s a part there about the Philippines and how the missionaries came here,” he said.
Duterte said several Moros were killed in the past for resisting the colonizers and cited the 1906 Bud Dajo massacre of 1906 in Sulu.
“Ayaw nila, ayaw nila iyong Spaniard pumunta dito, mayroon ng mga relihiyon pati iyong mga cannon (They did not want the Spaniards to come down here and spread their religion. They had the canons), so they were bludgeoned. Eh, wala naman tayong mga—lolo natin, wala namang mga kanyon iyon o pati mga (Our forefathers did not have the cannot and the gunpowder gunpowder), so that was the first time that they experienced explosions and everything. So it was a bloody one,” he said.
Duterte said he does not know yet how the leaders of different MNLF factions – Misuari, Muslimin Sema, and Abul Khayr Alonto, who is chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) – would resolve the “internal dynamics” but all of them are “willing to talk again.”
During the National Biennial Summit on Women and Community Policing at the Apo View Hotel Davao last September 30, the president said ordered the police and the military not to arrest Misuari.
“That’s my order to the police and the military. Why? I am not a war-type president. My job is to seek peace for my land. So you have to talk to everybody,” he said.
Duterte added that government has opened its doors to negotiating with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim and his first vice chair Ghadzali Jaafar, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison to achieve a long-lasting peace in Mindanao.
“So, I am glad that the pulitiko, the politicians in the Islamic Liberation Front, puwede nang mag-usap. Murad is a moderate, Jaafar is a moderate. The Central Committee, I suppose who are moderates,” he said.
At the the Davao Peace Fair at the SM Ecoland last September 22, government peace implementing panel chair Irene Santiago said the group of Muslimin Sema, who is chair of one of the factions of the MNLF will get two to three seats in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission as among the 10 government appointees.
She said that the challenge lies in convincing Misuari who is reluctant in joining the commission, this being an “MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) structure.”
She said the convergence of the different Moro factions was pointed out by President Duterte who said the Moro people must work together for peace in Mindanao.
Santiago added they are thinking of “creative ways” on how to go about with the convergence.
In a meeting on August 13, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, the GPH and MILF implementing peace panels agreed to increase from 15 to 21 the BTC membership. At least 10 seats have been allocated for the GPH from seven and 11 for the MILF from eight.
But Duterte has repeatedly said he will not talk to the Abu Sayyaf.
“No way that I will talk to them, sila rin ayaw din talaga nila (they don’t want to talk, either). Ang akin lang sana, kung hindi tayo pwede mag-usap sabi ko sa Moro (For me, if we cannot talk, I told the Moro), at least we minimize the slaughter. Kung maari lang (If only it’s possible),” Duterte said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews with reports)