Isko Moreno with Nur Misuari
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno holds a meeting with Moro National Liberal Front co-founder Nur Misuari on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.
Manila City Hall via Philstar.com screenshot

Misuari claims government asked him to help reorganize Philippine territories

Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - November 15, 2019 - 4:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Nur Misuari, founding chairman of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front, claimed that the Duterte administration has asked him to reorganize the country’s territory as part of ongoing peace efforts.

In a meeting with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on Friday, Misuari disclosed details of his previous discussions with President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The government has asked me to reconfigure the entire country, territorially. So I decided to subdivide into three natural divisions because... Luzon is separated by the sea, and so with Mindanao from the Visayas,” Misuari told Moreno during a courtesy call, as seen on Facebook Live.

“They said, we co-opt this into a political configuration. I said, okay we can adapt this to the proposed plan of the president to transform the unitary system (of government) into a federal one.”Misuari said that relations between the hypothetical federal states should still be maintained.

“[W]e should prevent them (hypothetical federal territories) from drifting apart. We must instead bring about the strengthening of the unity and solidarity of the country so that foreign powers cannot exploit us anymore,” Misuari said.


Citing the MNLF's turf advantage in Mindanao, Misuari also said he asked the president if his group can be tasked to fight a branch of international terror group ISIS in Mindanao.

“[Y]ou can can trust your problem with this and kami na ang bahala. Because our forces namin ngayon, 200-300K strong. We know every part of our land. Wala siyang mataguan dyan,” the MNLF chairman said.

(We can handle this. Because our forces stand at 200,000-300,000 strong. They have nowhere to hide.)

Shelved federalism agenda

Duterte in June acknowledged that a proposed shift to a federal form of government—one of his campaign promises—might not gain support. The president's announcement came months after state economic managers cited the move's adverse impact on the economy.

“If you do not want federalism, fine. But change the Constitution that would really change this nation,” Duterte said in the June 25 oath-taking of newly-elected local officials and Hugpong ng Pagbabago senators at Malacañan Palace.

However, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo days later said Malacañang has not given up on federalism and still had three years to push for the measure.

“Palagay ko ’di mawawala yan. May tatlong taon pa naman tayo (I don’t think it will disappear. We still have three years),” Panelo said in a June 30 radio interview.

Duterte's fourth State of the Nation Adress in July, however, made no mention of federalism or charter change.

Peace process

In response to reports of discontent among MNLF members, Duterte in February met with Misuari to boost peace efforts in Mindanao and discuss a possible shift to a federal form of government.

Misuari went into hiding after the 2013 siege of Zamboanga City by MNLF troops which resulted in nearly 200 fatalities and around 14,000 displaced.

Misuari, also a former governor of ARMM, has faced charges of rebellion in connection to the Zamboanga siege, along with charges of graft and malversation of public funds.

However, his arrest was granted a temporary suspension in 2016 upon Duterte's request to seek his help in Mindanao peace negotiations.

The MNLF chairman had been in talks with the president after the Bangsamoro Organic Law (Republic Act 11054) was signed in July 2018, replacing ARMM with the BARMM.

“[S]abi ko itong kay Nur, areglo tayo dito (I told Nur we have a truce). Sabi ni Nur (Nur said), he is willing to talk and he has waited this long for me to make a decisive decision when he comes back,” Duterte said in a February 26 speech during the 2019 General Assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Manila.

“Sabi ko (I said), ‘time for us to craft a new deal for the MNLF of Misuari.’”

Senate President Tito Sotto, however, said Congress would not be coerced by Nur Misuari’s threat of war to overhaul the 1987 Constitution and approve a proposed shift to a federal government.

“[D]oes he even know what kind of federalism he wants? Why are we going to jump into something because a citizen of the country says he wants this or that?” Sotto said in a March press conference.

“Hindi ganon kadali ‘yon eh. Pinaga-aralan ‘yon eh.”

(It’s not that simple. A change of that magnitude needs to be studied.)

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