PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte does not want Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari pursued and detained anymore despite a standing warrant for his arrest.
Speaking to reporters in Davao City late Thursday night, Duterte said placing the MNLF chief under detention would mean a deterioration in the peace process in Mindanao.
“If something happens to Misuari while he’s under our control or detained by us, you can never have talks again … It will be a big problem,” Duterte said in a news conference.
“Misuari is getting old. I’m not saying he’s sick but with his fragile condition, he does not need to be pursued. I don’t want him detained,” he added.
The President flew to Jolo, Sulu on Friday to try to meet Misuari, but the face-to-face did not push through.
Duterte told reporters the meeting could take place next year.
The President said the 77-year-old Misuari, who has a warrant of arrest in connection with the Zamboanga siege in 2013, knows that “he’s supposed to stay there.”
Misuari has been charged with inciting rebellion and other crimes for his role in the Zamboanga siege that claimed nearly 200 lives and displaced thousands of families.
Aside from Misuari, Duterte also does not want anything bad to happen to Communist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Maria Sison.
Duterte made the comment on Sison a week after they exchanged tirades sparked by the government’s unreciprocated unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels.
Misuari and Sison, according to Duterte, lead “a good number of Filipinos” pursuing an ideology.
“They might not really be a big number but still, they command respect for what they believe in,” the President said.
“They’re fighting because they want a better chance for the people. That’s what they believe,” he added.
Bangsamoro talks on
As this developed, peace negotiators from the Philippine government and the MNLF’S rival, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), departed early Friday for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to re-launch talks for an expanded Muslim region in Mindanao.
In a news conference before their departure, presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the meeting would be crucial as the two parties are entering the implementation phase of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) sealed during the previous administration.
“We will do our best to achieve certain milestones,” Dureza said.
Dureza called for the passage of a new version of a basic law establishing the Bangsamoro political entity “as quickly as possible while our national government is working toward federalism,” as he appealed to Muslim leaders to unite.
“We are appealing to the Bangsamoro to come together and work [out]their differences and come up with their proposed enabling law,” he added.
Due to opposition from various sectors, Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the previous Congress.
Duterte has urged the 17th Congress to pass the BBL without provisions deemed unconstitutional, such as a separate police force for the Bangsamoro.
Also on the agenda is the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission—the body tasked to draft a new Bangsamoro law—to include representatives from Misuari’s MNLF, officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and other sectors.
The current setup has eight representatives from the MILF and seven government appointees.
The peace adviser has met with Moro leaders, including MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim and the MNLF’s Muslimin Sema. He is also expected to meet with Misuari.