DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 November) – “I would like you to just say a few words…using the podium of the President of the Republic of the Philippines,” the 71-year old Mindanawon President Rodrigo Duterte told the 77-year old founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Nur Misuari after delivering a five-minute speech to announce to the nation the “great news.”
“It is with great happiness that I announce to the nation that Chairman Nur Misuari, our brother who heads the MNLF, has finally decided to just accept my invitation for him to talk to us,” Duterte said in Malacanang’s Rizal Hall on Thursday afternoon. Duterte, whose grandmother was a Maranao, is the country’s 16th President, the first Mindanawon to lead the nation and the first with Moro blood.
“Now I am so happy to be free again, owing to the initiative of our President,” said Misuari, who was introduced by the emcee as “President of the Bangsamoro Republik” during the 17th MNLF Bangsamoro Grand Summit Gathering on October 21, 2012 at the Crocodile Park here. In the same event, Misuari declared Davao City as the “official capital of the Bangamoro Republik.”
Before he was presented to the Malacanang Press Corps on Thursday afternoon Misuari met for a few minutes with Duterte whom he described as “the man whom I respect and trust” and “this one single man who can provide solution to the problem of peace and order in our homeland.”
He kissed Duterte’s cheeks thrice to thank him for his freedom, before taking over the Presidential podium to deliver what turned out to be a 22-minute speech.
Duterte announced that Misuari’s pending warrant of arrest in 2013 has been “lifted now under my orders.”
It was the court that ordered Misuari’s temporary liberty.
Judge Rowena Modesto-San Pedro of the Regional Trial Court in Pasig City granted Misuari’s motion to “suspend proceedings and enforcement of warrants of arrest” against him allow him “to attend peace talk sessions with the government.”
The suspension is for for a period of six months from October 27, the date of the ruling. (see other story).
Duterte said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza “did the legwork.. to pave the way for Chairman Nur to come here… upon my invitation.”
Dureza flew to Jolo early Thursday morning to hand over to Misuari a copy of the court order. Misuari joined Dureza on board a private jet that brought them to Manila and from there to Malacanang to meet with Duterte, Misuari’s personal friend.
Duterte recalled that in Misuari’s last tour around Mindanao before the September 2013 Zamboanga City standoff between his MNLF forces and government forces, “I accepted you with open arms and I said that maybe someday we can finally talk about peace.”
Misuari last met with Duterte at a function room at the Royal Mandaya Hotel here from 11:35 p.m. on March 2, 2013 until 12:05 a.m. on March 3, Duterte greeting Misuari, whom he calls “Brother Nur,” a “happy birthday.” Misuari was born on March 3, 1939 in Kabigaan, Tapul, Sulu.
“Little did I know, Brother Nur, by the grace of Allah, I became the President of the Republic and in the twilight of our years, we would be able to talk about the problem of our country, the revolution that you have led all these years and finally, understanding on a common ground with government,” said Duterte, who has repeatedly vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangamoro people,
Bangsamoro peace roadmap
He assured Misuari that “we will come up with the modality and then of course, how to place us in our proper homeland, our Mindanao, and that we will talk about the Bangsamoro Authority.”
Duterte was apparently referring to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will be appointed by the President to govern the future Bangsamoro region once the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro law is ratified, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is deemed abolished. The BTA will serve during the transition period, until the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro.
“We are ready for that, Brother Nur,” the President vowed.
Duterte’s Bangsamoro peace roadmap is focusing on the convergence of the peace processes and the peace agreements signed by government with the MNLF — the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) – so that the law that would be passed would incorporate the provisions of the CAB and the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 FPA.
The Bangsamoro law is supposed to be drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) whose membership under this new administration has been increased from 15 to 21 (10 nominated by government and 11 nominate by the MILF) to make it “more inclusive.”
Under the roadmap, the MNLF factions are expected to be included in the new BTC. The MNLF Sema faction has agreed to participate in the BTC.
Converge in Congress
Misuari’s faction, however, apparently does not want to take part in the MILF-led BTC. In his speech, he belittled the MILF’s armed strength. “They only have a handful of people,” he said while maintaining the MNLF is “not a spent force.”
Dureza told MindaNews in a text message Thursday evening that the GPH-MILF and GPH-MNLF tracks “will somehow converge in Congress without converging in the process.”
He said the GPH-MILF track will pursue the BTC mode of drafting the proposed Bangsamoro law for submission to Congress while the GPH-MNLF-Misuari track will work for the “amendment/expansion/enhancement” of RA 9054, the law that amended RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the ARMM.
Congress will then consolidate the bills to come up with the final draft of the Bangsamoro law.
As these two tracks are moving, Congress will also convene as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution to push for the shift to a federal form of government. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)