DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 November) — Fugitive no more.
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari flew out of Jolo, Sulu on board a a private jet with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza shortly before noon Thursday, en route to Malacanang for a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on the next steps for peace.
Misuari’s change in status is a result of a court decision suspending “proceedings and enforcement of warrants of arrest” against him and allowing him “to attend peace talk sessions with the government.”
“In Manila with him. Just landed,” Dureza told MindaNews in a text message at 1:19 p.m.
Former Governor Abdusakur Tan told MindaNews Dureza and Misuari took off from Jolo airport at 11:27 a.m.
Warrants of arrest had been issued against Misuari and 59 others for 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 137 persons dead, 251 injured and 118,889 of the city’s 807,000 population displaced, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s October 2, 2013 report.
Duterte, a personal friend of Misuari, had repeatedly said he wants to talk to Misuari but Dureza had also repeatedly said that the Duterte administration will officially deal with Misuari only when the effects of the warrants of arrest he is facing are suspended.
Judge Ma. Rowena Modesto-San Pedro of the Pasig Regional Trial Court in Pasig City in an order dated 27 October, a copy of which Dureza got on November 2, granted the “motion to suspend proceedings and enforcement of warrants of arrest against Misuari” for a period of six months from October 27, “unless sooner lifted by the court.”
The motion was filed by Misuari on October 14. San Pedro said the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) not only supported Misuari’s motion but also adopted Misuari’s prayer “to allow him to attend peace talk sessions with the government.”
“None of the defense counsels, nor the City of Zamboanga, presented any opposition to the Motion,” San Pedro said.
Misuari signed the December 23, 1976 Tripoli Agreement under the Marcos administration and the September 2, 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) under the Ramos administration.
The 20-year old peace agreement, however, has yet to be fully implemented.
San Pedro also directed Misuari, the DOJ and the OPAPP to file a monthly report on “the progress of the peace talks and the whereabouts of Misuari.”
She said the Court “acknowledges that the mater of peace talks is exclusively within the realm of the Executive Department,” and that as manifested by the OPAPP, it is a “top priority of the current administration.”
The Court also ruled that in the event that peace talks are held outside of the Philippines, Misuari, the DOJ and the OPAPP must secure prior authorization from the court and Misuari “must report to the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in the country where the talks are being held and the DOJ and the OPAPP must ensure this.”
Duterte and Dureza thanked Misuari for helping secure the release of the Norwegian kidnap victim Kjartan Sekkingstad in September, as well as other kidnap victims.
Sulu Governor Abdsakur Tan II, told MindaNews, “siguro isang paraan ng administrasyon para makausap na ng personal si Misuari” (this is likely the administration’s way to get to personally talk with Misuari).
The governor’s father, a former congressman and governor, said: “Let’s respect the court decision. There are legal remedies if anyone has doubts. But what is primordial is we talk and reach real and just peace.”
Government signed another peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.
The Bangsamoro peace roadmap presented by Dureza and approved by Duterte, calls for a convergence of the GPH-MILF and GPH-MILF peace agreements.
Dureza met with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat on July 21, where both agreed in principle to increase the number of members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) from 15 to 21, 10 of whom will be nominated by government and 11 by the MILF, to make it “more inclusive.”
The BTC is tasked to draft the law that would pave the way for the establishment of a new autonomous political entity called the “Bangsamoro,” that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Misuari served as ARMM Governor from September 30, 1996 to late November 2001 when he was arrested off Sabah for alleged illegal entry.
Dureza had said the BTC membership should include also the MNLF so that the law that Congress will pass will incorporate the MILF’s CAB and the unimplemented provisions of the MNLF’s FPA.
The Executive Order creating the BTC has yet to be issued by the President Duterte is expected to sign the EO this week.
Of the 10 members nominated by government, it is certain that the MNLF faction under Muslimin Sema will be represented.
Whether or not Misuari will agree to his faction having a representative in the MILF-led BTC, is a question that Misuari can now answer. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)