GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 December) — The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is counting on Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari’s vow to help the military go after the Abu Sayyaf Group, a long-time security headache for the government.
The 80-year old Misuari dangled the assistance to crush the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for bomb attacks and for beheading their captives, following his appointment as the Special Economic Envoy on Islamic Affairs to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“There is no place for them to go…We can assure the President that the MNLF will fully support the resolution of this problem. Try us on how effective we are,” the OPAPP quoted Misuari as saying.
The Abu Sayyaf was founded in 1991 by the late Islamic preacher Abdurajak Janjalani. Misuari himself had to deal with the Abu Sayyaf problem when he was Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from September 30, 1996 to late November 2001.
President Duterte named Misuari his special envoy to the OIC during the first meeting of the newly-established government-MNLF Peace Coordinating Committee in mid-December.
Misuari vowed to help in the government’s efforts to rid Mindanao of threats of terror groups, particularly in the island province of Sulu, considered an MNLF bailiwick where the Abu Sayyaf Group is actively operating.
In recent years, the government has been tapping Misuari to help secure the freedom of kidnap victims brought to Sulu, the statement noted.
Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., Presidential Peace Adviser and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff said the military and police and MNLF forces on the ground can establish “close coordination” efforts through the Peace Coordinating Committee to run after the terror groups.
“There will be security coordination with MNLF forces to persuade the Abu Sayyaf members to return to the mainstream society and to eradicate the problem of terrorism and kidnapping incidents, particularly in Sulu,” Galvez said.
The Abu Sayyaf had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and joined forces with the Maute Group in a futile attempt to establish a caliphate in Marawi City in 2017.
Misuari was charged with rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law after MNLF fighters loyal to him staged the 2013 Zamboanga standoff that left 137 persons dead, 251 injured and over 100,000 civilians displaced.
He was ousted as MNLF chair in 2001 due to his alleged incompetence as ARMM Governor. He was then replaced by the so-called MNLF Council of 15.
Misuari ruled the ARMM from September 30, 1996 until he left Sulu for Sabah, Malaysia in November 2001 after allegedly leading a rebellion. He was arrested there and was brought back to the Philippines by then Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, for detention.
He is still facing charges of rebellion and corruption, but the court gave him temporary liberty in October 2016 “to allow him to attend peace talks with the government.”
Duterte and Misuari had met several times since the former’s rise to power in June 2016.
Misuari signed the final peace agreement of the MNLF with the government on September 2, 1996 during the Ramos administration. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)