PROSECUTORS from the Department of Justice initially opposed the non-enforcement of an arrest warrant against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari, but have agreed to it in deference to the President’s wish, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said.
Aguirre made the disclosure during the hearing on the Justice department’s proposed P15-billion budget for 2017 before the House appropriations committee.
“Many of the prosecutors handling this case were not in agreement initially. But after I talked to them and explained [how]we should view this development … as the alter ego of the President, we have to follow. And he (Duterte) wanted the faction of Nur Misuari, the MNLF, to be a part of the peace process,” Aguirre told lawmakers.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine National Police not to arrest Misuari, who is wanted for rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law in connection with the August 2013 Zamboanga City siege, where he and rogue commander Umbra Kato violently took over the city and used civilians as human shields.
The incident left at least 300 people dead and 120,000 families displaced.
“We know what happened in the Zamboanga siege; many were killed from both sides. But in the higher interest of the country to bring peace … we are following the declared policy of the President … we have to talk peace with everybody, including Nur Misuari,” Aguirre added.
The President on Tuesday talked to Misuari by phone and invited the fugitive rebel leader to be his guest in Malacañang. He also expressed willingness to meet Misuari whether in Manila, Sulu or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Misuari-led MNLF inked a final peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The peace pact paved the way for the election of Misuari as Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, a post he occupied from 1996 to 2001.
Poverty in the ARMM worsened under Misuari. Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Family Income and Expenditure Survey, poverty incidence in the region increased to 66 percent in 2000 from 57.3 in 1997.