No record of Nur departure from Phl, says BI

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) yesterday denied reports that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari has already left the country, saying it had no record of his departure.

BI spokesperson Ma. Angelica Pedro said that Misuari, who allegedly ordered the armed MNLF fighters to attack in Zamboanga City last month, is still in the country.

“Mr. Misuari is still in the country. We are coordinating with other agencies regarding that information. We will issue a statement as soon as we hear from them,” said Pedro.

Pedro declined to provide more information as to the whereabouts of Misuari because this could jeopardize their coordination with other agencies.

Asked if it was possible that the 74-year-old MNLF leader might have slipped out of the country undetected via the so-called Southern Backdoor in Mindanao, she said, “I am sorry but I won’t be able to answer that now because I don’t want to prejudice the ongoing coordination efforts of the bureau.”

There were speculations that Misuari used the traditional maritime route, landing in the coast of Bolongan in Southern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

His wife and two children are reportedly already in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, an MNLF peace panel member said yesterday that Misuari would attend the final closure of the tripartite review of the 1996 peace agreement with the government in Jakarta, Indonesia, next month.

Absalum Cerveza, MNLF national spokesman and member of MNLF panel, told The STAR that he has already informed Indonesian embassy officials that Misuari will head the MNLF panel in the final closure of the tripartite review being facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Cerveza met with Indonesian officials last Friday to discuss the details of the final tripartite meeting with government the peace panel headed by Secretary Teresita Deles.

The closure of the review was an offshoot of a request of the Philippine government to the OIC to conclude the review as all the issues raised by Misuari has already been resolve.

“I talked to chairman Misuari four days ago, he said he will attend the meeting in Indonesia,” he said.

Cerveza, however, has no idea on the actual location of Misuari, adding that he is always on the move.

He also declined to comment on reports that Misuari has already left the country to join his wife and children in the Middle East.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

Cerveza also refused to comment on how Misuari could travel to Indonesia without the risk of being arrested because of the existing arrest warrant issued by the Zamboanga City regional trial court.

Sources said Misuari slipped out of the country before the court issued the arrest warrant and he is now in Southern Sulawesi.

More than 400 followers of Misuari stormed Zamboanga City last Sept. 9 in an attempt to seize the city hall and raise the flag of an “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”

Some 190 MNLF rebels were killed after more than three weeks of fighting, while 292 other suspects were either captured or have surrendered.

Twenty-three soldiers and policemen were killed and 180 were wounded, while 12 civilians were killed.

At least 120,000 villagers fled their homes as the rebels burned houses to derail the military operations to get the MNLF fighters.

MILF-gov’t peace talks

Although the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels failed to approve the annex on power-sharing during their “overtime” talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said yesterday that they have achieved substantial progress.

“Not yet,” Ferrer said in a text message to The STAR from Malaysia when asked if the two panels have finally approved the annex on power sharing.

The two panels also issued a joint statement stating that working through long days and late nights amid arduous discussions, they reached substantial progress on annexes on power-sharing and normalization issues.

The parties expressed hope of completing the annex on power sharing that outlines the powers of the central government, the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government and the concurrent powers to be shared by both.

The annexes on power sharing and normalization would be part of the comprehensive agreement which the government and the MILF peace panels intend to sign within the year. –  With Raymund Catindig, Artemio Dumlao, Ric Sapnu, Teddy Molina, Czeriza Valencia, Alexis Romero


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