Zambo mayor supports Duterte’s peace efforts but Nur “has to be accountable”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 November) –  The city government of Zamboanga has expressed “strong support to the bold and fresh initiatives” of President Rodrigo Duterte to win peace but maintains that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari “has to be accountable for his alleged crimes.”

In a statement, Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco said she has told the President several times that Misuari has to be accountable for his alleged crimes” committed against the city in September 2013.

HEAVY SMOKE. Heavy smoke rises beyond the Santa Barbara Mosque not far from the Zamboanga City Hall Thursday (12 September 2013) afternoon as government soldiers continue to meet pockets of resistance from Moro National Liberation Front rebels who attacked parts of the city starting Monday. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascariñas
HEAVY SMOKE. Heavy smoke rises beyond the Santa Barbara Mosque not far from the Zamboanga City Hall on 12 September 2013 afternoon as government soldiers continue to meet pockets of resistance from Moro National Liberation Front rebels who attacked parts of the city on September 9.  MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascariñas

“Zamboanga City shall continue to pursue our cases in court against him and the MNLF members responsible for the siege. We trust justice will eventually be served. For the moment, we express strong support to the bold and fresh initiatives of President Duterte to seek sustainable peace with justice in the land,” Climaco explained.

Misuari has been a fugitive since September 2013. Warrants of arrest were issued against him 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 stand-off in Zamboanga City between his followers and government troops from September 9 to 28.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDCC) in its October 2, 2013 report counted a total of 137 persons dead (18 military, five police, nine civilians and 105 MNLF),  251 persons injured and 118,889 of the city’s 807,000 population displaced.

The city’s economy also suffered over a billion peso losses and thousands of workers were rendered jobless when establishments in the downtown area closed down during the period.

Climaco said she received a call from Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza Thursday morning “informing me that he just landed at the Zamboanga City International Airport for refuelling enroute to Jolo, Sulu, to fetch MNLF Chair Nur Misuari to meet in Manila with President Duterte to discuss the government’s peace road map.”

ARMOR COVER. Soldiers used the cover behind a Simba tank as they cross a street filled with rebel snipers in Evangelista Street, Barangay Santa Catalina in Zamboanga City on Thursday, Sept. 12. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo
Soldiers use the cover behind a Simba tank as they cross a street filled with rebel snipers along Evangelista Street, Barangay Santa Catalina in Zamboanga City on Sept. 12, 2013. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

“According to Sec. Dureza, Misuari is a key player in the comprehensive and inclusive road peace that the Duterte administration is now pursuing. Sec. Jess took the effort to explain that Misuari’s release is temporary and subject to several conditions imposed by the court, hearing the cases against him as the aftermath of the Zamboanga incident three years ago. The cases have not been dismissed but the hearings are temporarily suspended including the pending warrants of arrest against him,” Climaco said. (see other story)

Claretian priest Angel Calvo, who described the 2013 Zamboanga situation as “worse than the (1974) burning of Jolo” told MindaNews: “Personally I feel this is a good move to proceed with the inclusive peace in this land.”

Next steps

Irene Santiago, chair of the Peace Implementing Panel of the government that is dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and MNLF, told MindaNews they will “discuss what steps need to be taken for the convergence of the interests of the MNLF, MILF and the larger Moro society on how to attain the best solution to their common quest for self-governance.”

Santiago said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which will draft the law that will pave the way for the creation of the “Bangsamoro,” a new autonomous political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) “needs to be reconstituted soon.”

The BTC is also tasked to propose amendments to the Constitution.

“In the meantime, conversations will be held with different publics in Mindanao certainly, but also in the rest of the country, about how to ensure that the Bangsamoro quest is claimed by everyone as a national enterprise, and not just a concern of Mindanao,” Santiago added.

But Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., former President of the Notre Dame University who served as majority floor leader of the Consultative Assembly of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development that was set up in accordance with the 1996 FPA, said that in suspending the court proceedings and the effects of the warrants of arrest, albeit temporary, “the prime obstacle to the talk between Nur and President Digong has been removed.”

He said he hopes and prays that the dialogue “can bring closure to the 1996 FPA.”

Transitional law by June 30, 2017

Mercado also served as a member of the Independent Fact-Finding Team during the  peace talks between the government and the MILF in the late 1990s until the talks collapsed during the Estrada administration’s “all-out war” in 2000.  He continued to be active in the peace process as NDU president, Kusog Mindanaw convenor and later as consultant of the Institute of Autonomy and Governance.

He is proposing that an “appropriate body” with equal and proportional representation of all stakeholders – MNLF, MILF, IP (Indigenous Peoples), Traditional Leaders and Settlers and Government be established to “craft a Transitional Law that would implant all peace agreements including IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act).”

The Transitional Law Drafting Commission, he said, can have 33 members – five each per stakeholder-group cited above and three rotating chairs – Misuari, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman.

He said the body can be given the chance to complete the draft of the Transitional Law until the first quarter of 2017 for submission to the President on or before March 31, 2017.

“President Digong submits the the draft TL to Congress on or before April 30th, 2017. He certifies the draft TL as URGENT Bill with the hope for its Passage (House and Senate) with super majority on or before June 30th, 2017.”

The Bangsamoro peace roadmap approved by the President in July is targeting July 2017 as the submission of the draft Bangsamoro law by the BTC. The BTC, whose membership is to be increased from 15 to 21 – 10 nominated by government and 11 by the MILF,  has yet to be reconstituted as the Executive Order has yet to be issued by the President.

Mercado said the expanded BTC has “no future” because “this is no roadmap. Perhaps a map but no road! To proceed with it would simply be an exercise in futility and a deja vu! Cuidado (watch out) if you go this way.”

He said the passage of a Transitional Law before June 30, 2017 is possible. “Everything is possible with the super majority in Congress and super popularity of President Digong… the President’s super political will.”

Congress goes on a Christmas break from December 17, 2016 to January 15, 2017, will resume sessions from January 16 to March 17, go on recess again from March 18 to May 1, 2017; resume sessions from May 2 to June 2 and will go on sine die adjournment from June 3 to July 23, 2017.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews