FORMER REBEL leader Nur Misuari, who is accused of rebellion by authorities for the September 2013 deadly attack on Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, is being protected from arrest by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte, who admitted being a good friend of Misuari, the chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), interceded to the police and military on behalf of the Libyan firebrand so he would be free to move around without any fear of being arrested.
He also admitted that he intervened to allow Misuari to travel abroad to attend two conferences of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi and Morocco despite criminal charges against the MNLF leader.
“He came to see me to ask me to intercede in his behalf that he be given temporary pass to go out – kasi may kaso siya eh, ipi-preso siya dito – para maka-attend ng OIC,” Duterte said.
Misuari is also facing graft charges at the Sandigan Bayan over the alleged anomalous purchase of education materials when he was governor of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Misuari denied all criminal and graft accusations against him.
Duterte assured the public that Misuari would return after the conferences this month.
“So I told the military and the police, hayaan ninyo na at babalik ‘yan. He is not a fugitive, he is a revolutionary. And you know what? That guy will always come back. It would be an insult to his person if he is buried in another land. Babalik dito ‘yan, dito magpakamatay,” he said.
While Duterte is protecting Misuari, local government leaders and residents of Zamboanga are demanding justice for the deadly siege that left over 200,000 people without homes following weeks of street battles between security and MNLF forces that killed and wounded some 300 civilians.
It was the second time that MNLF forces raided Zamboanga. In November 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces also attacked Zamboanga and left dozens of civilians dead and wounded. Heavily-armed MNLF gunmen also took hostage over 100 civilians, including women and children, and used them as shield and pawn so they can escape to Basilan and Sulu provinces.
In 2016, Mayor Beng Climaco banned all MNLF rallies in Zamboanga City following attempts by Misuari’s group to hold a peace caravan. “I am giving you a categorical no, you must not disturb Zamboanga anymore. If you want to come up with your rally, make it in your area, Zamboanga will not welcome a rally by MNLF, not at this time because you still have to be accountable with the killings and devastations we are suffering from,” Climaco said.
“The destruction wrought by the 2013 siege continues to linger, as internally displaced persons – both Muslims, Christians and Lumads, most of whom are those who eluded the conflicts in Sulu and Basilan – have suffered the brunt of the MNLF attack in Zamboanga,” Climaco said.
In Sulu, security forces failed to arrest Misuari following a massive show of force by the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf rebels who attended the plenum called by the ageing leader in Indanan town to discuss the Islamic Inter-Parliamentary Union and summit by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in that year.
The plenum forced the military to declare a red alert status in Sulu for fear the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf may launch a surprise attacks on government targets.
Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.
Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.
Misuari’s loyal forces and former MNLF rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the peace accord, attacked a key military base in Sulu’s Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the autonomous region where Misuari wanted to be a perpetual governor.
Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by then President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004. He also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost miserably. (Mindanao Examiner)
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