FORMER LIBYAN firebrand Nur Misuari has threatened President Rodrigo Duterte if his demand for a shift to federalism fails.
Duterte revealed that Misuari, chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), would go to war if Manila fails to pursue the shift to federalism which the President is also advocating.
Misuari is accused of rebellion by authorities for the September 2013 deadly attack on Zamboanga City. “Sabi niya, O sige, pero ito ang gusto ko, federalism, sabi ni Misuari and I am making it public and you can ask the persons who were there. Sabi ni Misuari, if you do not give it to me, let me be very honest, I will go to war,” ABS-CBN quoted Duterte as saying during a PDP-Laban campaign sortie in Marikina City.
Duterte said he told Misuari: “Sabi ko, I understand that, Nur. So ganito na lang gawin natin. Let’s form a panel because we have to inform the people.” In a separate report by the Manila Times, it said Misuari told Duterte that his group wants a federal system because it was an undelivered promise of former President Corazon Aquino.
“I told him, day-to-day they will be briefed, how will they want the federal system? Will it be like the Bangsamoro Organic Law or a different type?” Duterte was quoted as telling Misuari.
Duterte, who admitted being a good friend of Misuari, did not say whether he felt threatened or not, but he has been protecting the former rebel chieftain from arrest by authorities and admitted interceding to the police and military so Misuari 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. While Misuari is enjoying his liberty, government leaders and residents of Zamboanga City 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.
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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