While on temporary liberty from rebellion charges, Nur faces arrest for graft

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 06 Sept) — Charged with rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law in 2013 but granted temporary liberty since October last year to participate in the peace process, Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is now facing arrest on charges of corruption while serving as Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2000.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division in a resolution on August 31 found “probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest” against Misuari and four others on charges of graft and malversation through falsification of documents in the purchase of P137.5 million worth of textbooks and educational materials in 2000.

Misuari was ARMM Governor from September 30, 1996 until he left Sulu for Sabah in late November 2001, after allegedly waging a rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga. He was arrested upon arrival off Sabah for alleged illegal entry, was returned to the country in January 2002 where he was detained in the bungalow intended for ousted President Joseph Estrada, later at St. Luke’s Hospital and much later in a government-rented white house in New Manila (near the hospital), freed on bail on April 25, 2008 and later acquitted.

MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari delivers a lecture on Bangsamoro and Federalism at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Misuari’s temporary liberty has been extended until November 16 to allow him to participate in the peace process. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

According to the 18-page August 31 resolution penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez and released  on Tuesday, warrants of arrest are to be issued against Misuari in four criminal cases 1017, 1018, 1020 and 1021   while the Sandiganbayan directed the prosecution to present within five days from receipt of the resolution, “additional evidence to establish accused Misuari and (Sittie Aisa) Usman’s participation” in two other criminal cases, 1019 and 1022.

According to the Sandiganbayan’s Resolution, the Ombudsman created a Panel of Investigators on November 6, 2013 to conduct a further fact-finding investigation into the alleged ghost purchases of textbooks and projects. The Panel of Investigators filed the complaint on September 5, 2014 and the resolution finding probable cause to charge the accused in the present cases was approved by the Ombudsman on August 15, 2016. The informations charging the accused with graft and malversation through falsification were filed on May 22, 1017.

Aside from Misuari, also charged were, among others, former Department of Education regional director Leovigilda Cinches, supply officer Sittie Aisa Usman, accountant Alladin Usi, chief accountant Pangalian Maniri, and state auditor Nader Macagaan.

Extended temporary liberty

In May this year, the regional trial court in Pasig which granted a six-month provisional liberty to Misuari in late October last year, granted him an extension of another six months or until November 16, 2017.

In a three-page resolution dated May 16, Judge Maria Rowena Modesto San-Pedro of the Regional Trial Court Branch 158 in Pasig City granted  Misuari’s “Motion for Extension of Period of Suspension of Proceedings and Implementation of Warrant of Arrest.”

Within this six month period, the court directed the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies to “suspend as well, the enforcement of the Warrants of Arrest issued against the accused Misuari.”

The court gave Misuari temporary liberty in October last year “to allow him to attend peace talk sessions with the government.”  The court granted a six-month period of suspension of proceedings and enforcement of warrants of arrests from October 27 to April 27,  “unless sooner lifted by the court.”

Warrants of arrest were issued against Misuari and 59 others in 2013 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.

1976, 1996 peace pacts

Misuari signed the December 23, 1976 Tripoli Agreement under the Marcos administration and the September 2, 1996 Final Peace Agreement under the Ramos administration.

His faction did not participate in the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission that was tasked to draft a Bangsamoro Basic Law that would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014.

The commission has three representatives from the other MNLF factions.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza set up a separate peace implementing panel for the MNLF-Misuari faction in November last year.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte listens to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari during the meeting with the MNLF and the GPH-MNLF Peace Implementing Panels at the President’s Hall in Malacañan Palace on July 18, 2017. Simeon Celi Jr./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

On July 19 this year, two days after the BTC submitted its draft Bangsamoro law to President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang, MNLF Peace Implementing Panel chair Randolph Parcasio, concurrent spokesperson of Misuari, said they will no longer submit their proposed amendatory law to enhance the ARMM but will instead push for federalism.

“In line with conversations between President Rodrigo Duterte and MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in the previous five meetings which among others touched on federalism, the MNLF will no longer submit a draft New Autonomy Law to avoid complications. The MNLF-GPH Process will have to contribute directly to the fast tracking of federalism,” Parcasio told MindaNews.

Parcasio issued the statement after Misuari led a delegation that paid a courtesy call on President Duterte in Malacanang on July 18, a day after BTC’s submission of the BBL.

MindaNews sought Parcasio for Misuari’s statement on the Sandiganbayn resolution but Parcasio has not replied as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)