No arrest when he arrives in Manila
WHETHER in Malacañang or Kuala Lumpur, President Rodrigo Duterte is raring to meet Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari, after the two talked for the first time by phone Tuesday night to discuss peace.
Duterte said he invited Misuari to visit the Palace to talk about the fugitive rebel leader’s participation in negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is seeking to carve a self-ruling Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.
Duterte is pursuing a conciliatory stance toward Misuari and the MNLF rebels, who were sidelined by the previous Aquino administration’s pursuit of a peace settlement with the rival MILF.
The President said he was willing to set aside a warrant of arrest against Misuari for rebellion as well as the deadly standoff between the military and pro-Misuari forces in Zamboanga City in August 2013.
The 77-year-old Misuari, who reached a final peace deal with the Ramos administration in 1996 and served as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 1996 to 2001, declared the Bangsamoro’s independence in July 2013.
Misuari and rogue MILF commander Umbra Kato took over Zamboanga City and used civilians as human shields during the siege that left at least 300 people dead and 120,000 families displaced.
On Wednesday, Duterte said: “I told him, ‘Nur, I have no intention of detaining you or placing you in the custody of the government. You can simply walk out there … ask any soldier and police to escort you. Wherever I will be, we’ll talk.’”
The President said he would ask the police and military not to arrest Misuari, who is in Sulu.
“I am the commander in chief of the police and the military. I would just say, don’t touch him (Misuari). If there is a warrant of arrest, all I have to do is not to implement it against him,” Duterte said in a speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after welcoming overseas Filipino workers repatriated from Saudi Arabia.
Misuari wants KL
There will be bigger problems if Misuari is arrested, the President argued.
“Because if you arrest Misuari, you [will have to]place him under the custody of the police in [Camp Crame]. If he dies there for whatever reason, we’re compromised. It will be hard for us. He’s the only known leader who has the influence and the structure. Nobody else,” Duterte explained.
“The most important thing here is the ongoing dialogue because peace in Mindanao will save us a lot of money,” he added.
Duterte said Misuari requested a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I can go to him. I can go to Jolo, [Sulu] if he wants. Or if he wants somebody there, they can bring him back to Davao City or in Manila. He can be my guest in Malacañang, in the People’s Palace, and we can talk there for a while,” Duterte said.
Misuari, among others, sought a federal state for the Tausugs and the restoration of the barter trade, the President said.
Congress is expected to revise the 1987 Constitution as a Constituent Assembly in January 2017 to pave the way for a shift to a federal form of government from a unitary one.
“Back in the day, everybody was busy making a living during the barter trade. So I said, we can bring that back in a federal system. Barter trade was there before any government was set up in Mindanao and therefore, logic would indicate that if you restore this historical livelihood, it might help promote peace in the island of Mindanao,” Duterte said.
The President was supposed to meet Misuari in Jolo on August 12, but the meeting did not push through.