By: Marites Badilla
“I TOLD our dear brother, the President, I was already determined to stay put in the mountains were it not for his call, were it not for his invitation. It’s just that I cannot reject his invitation because I respect him too much.”
This was Nur Misuari’s statement when he spoke before the press following the invitation of President Rodrigo R. Duterte on him to visit the President at Malacanan Palace.
Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), thanked Duterte for the temporary freedom he got.
Misuari confidently went to Malacanang and met Duterte after Government’s Main Peace Negotiator Jesus Dureza went to Jolo and assured Misuari that he got temporary liberty given by the court.
Misuari went to Malacanang with Dureza.
Actually, the MNLF leader has gained six-month freedom upon the order of the Pasig Regional Court Branch 158 to suspend the trial of Misuari and lifted the arrest warrant on him in line with the planned peace talks with the MNLF and its rival armed group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Misuari and several others are facing criminal charges in connection with the 2-day attacks of heavily-armed men in Zamboanga City in 2013.
The daring attack led to the killing of about 200 people.
The Aquino administration slapped criminal charges against Misuari and some of his men.
Since then, Misuari decided to stay in Jolo, MNLF’s community and stronghold.
Misuari told Duterte that his group is in total support to the peace initiative of the President.
Duterte expressed his happiness over Misuari’s decision to pursue peace in Mindanao through peace talks with the MNLF and MILF.
Duterte is extremely insistent that peace talks to attain peace in the whole Mindanao should be a product of comprehensive discussion of all rebel groups, excluding those who are categorized as terrorist like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Matute Group.
The government has declared an all-out military offensive against ASG whose strongholds are Basilan and Sulu.
According to Dureza, Duterte wants peace in whole Mindanao through peace talks.
The talks should come up with a new law that came out from the consolidated agreements of the previous administrations with the MNLF and MILF.
Duterte assured his friend Misuari that the latter has an important role to play in crafting the new agreement and law with the rebel Muslim groups.
Misuari was extremely mad at former President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III for rejecting the MNLF in the peace talks with the Moro rebel groups.
It can be remembered that the Aquino administration talked to MNF alone that resulted to a new law that would expand the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with MNLF as the only group that was expected to benefit from it.
Aside from MNLF and MILF, the present administration has an on-going peace talks with the group of Jose Ma. Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Misuari was then a young instructor at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman Quezon City when he went back to Mindanao in 1972, only to form the MILF along with other young Moros.
Misuari struck a deal with the Marcos’ administration in 1976 through the assistance of Libya.
The deal gave the MNLF the green light to form free state in Mindanao, but never allowed by the government to be implemented.
In 1977, a Hashim Salamat led a group of MNLF leaders and fighters that split from MILF due to major disputes about the 1976 Tripoli Agreement of MNLF with the Marcos administration.
In 1996, the MNLF forged an agreement under the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos, which resulted to the creation of ARMM.
Misuari became governor of ARMM, but he failed to improve the lives of the Moro people and failed to enrich the economic condition of the provinces under ARMM.
In fact, he was accused along with other people of multi-million graft charges.
The case was elevated to the Sandiganbayan by the Office of the Ombudsman.
The court has yet to start the trial on the said charges.