Duterte eyes new peace deal with Nur Misuari

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Duterte eyes new peace deal with Nur Misuari
Duterte and Nur Misuari met at Malacañang last Monday, a day before the MNLF founding chairman left the country to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in the United Arab Emirates and another summit in Morocco.
Robinson Ninal Jr / Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is looking at striking a new peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) following the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

Duterte and Nur Misuari met at Malacañang last Monday, a day before the MNLF founding chairman left the country to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in the United Arab Emirates and another summit in Morocco.

“I told Nur we are on good terms. Nur said he is willing to talk and he has waited this long for me to make a decision when he comes back,” Duterte said in a speech during the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

Duterte stressed Misuari is willing to talk peace.

“Maybe it’s age. He only wants to talk. He does not want to fight,” Duterte said.

He said he has directed Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to draft the peace agreement.

“We still need that (peace agreement with MNLF). And they are revolutions driven with territorial intentions or objectives. Once you have ironed that, and we are able to talk to them, you must understand Philippine history and the core of what ails this country,” he said.

Lorenzana and Año were present during the meeting of the President and Misuari.

“And I told them (Lorenzana and Año), time for us to craft a new deal for the MNLF of Misuari,” the President said in his speech.

The MNLF forged a peace agreement with the government under then president Fidel Ramos in 1996.

The agreement also allowed the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with Misuari as its first governor.

Misuari has faced a series of legal battles, including charges of rebellion in the Zamboanga siege in 2013 and charges of graft and malversation of public funds.

The Sandiganbayan allowed Misuari to post bail to attend the OIC summit in Abu Dhabi and the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member states in Morocco.

Duterte admitted he exerted influence to enable Misuari to leave the country despite the corruption charges filed against him. 

“He was not allowed by the court to go out because he has pending charges when he was armed. So I had to make some arrangements. I told them, this is a personal request of mine, which I do not do at any time, at any other time,” he said.

Duterte, a lawyer by profession, did not actually say how he was able to convince the courts to allow Misuari to leave the country for official business.

The Sandiganbayan took notice of Misuari’s role in the government’s efforts to achieve peace in Mindanao.

Lorenzana revealed Misuari will likely be designated as an emissary to the United Arab Emirates.

“The talks between the President and Misuari only centered on small issues, like his (Misuari’s) trip to Morocco,” Lorenzana said.

Misuari’s trip to Morocco could be connected with the ongoing government efforts to secure the safe release of three Filipino hostages currently being held in Libya by rebel forces.

It was gathered that leaders of the Libyan rebel forces currently holding the three Filipino hostages were former allies of the MNLF during the Mindanao war in the 1970s.

Late last year, a Filipino team was already in Morocco to pick up the Filipino hostages in Tripoli, reportedly with the help of MNLF elders.

The release, however, did not push through due to renewed fighting between the rebel forces and Libyan troops.

“It is highly probable that he (Misuari) will be designated as government emissary in UAE. There are lots of events and issues out there,” Lorenzana said.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said talks will continue between the President and Misuari once he returns from his mission abroad.

According to Esperon, the OIC had also indicated that it would want to deal with the MNLF regarding the final peace agreement signed in 1996.

Esperon said he has yet to “look into the sentiments of the OIC” but he is sure that they are happy over the latest developments, which went through the proper democratic processes.

The MNLF under Misuari had been complaining about the supposed inequitable distribution of positions at the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim governing body of the newly created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The BARMM had replaced the ARMM following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) during a plebiscite on Jan. 21 held under the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF broke away from the MNLF several years before the 1996 peace agreement.

The Muslim rebel group tried to talk peace with the Ramos administration up to the term of former president Joseph Estrada but failed.

It was during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that the MILF initially succeeded in forging a peace deal, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, but the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional in 2008.  – With Jaime Laude

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