President Duterte Wants Nur Misuari to Come Out, Talk Peace

Zamboanga ciity, the Philippines, 11 Dzulqa’daah 1437/14 August 2016 (MINA) – The day before peace talks between the Philippines government and the country’s largest Moro rebel group began in Malaysia, President Rodrigo Duterte traveled to a troubled province deep in the country’s south in an effort to meet a fugitive opposed to the process.

During the visit, Duterte was expected to meet with the leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) — from which the country’s largest Moro group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), broke away due to disagreements over the peace process being discussed Saturday in Malaysia

However, Nur Misuari — who has been in hiding since his troops laid siege to a southern city in protest of a preliminary government-MILF deal — failed to materialize.

Addressing soldiers and reporters — among them an Anadolu Agency correspondent — during his visit to a military camp in Jolo, Sulu, on Friday, Duterte said Misuari needed to give his government a chance and find a way to talk peace.

“My job when I became President was really to seek peace, not war,” he underlined, in an effort to convince soldiers and Moro rebels to end bloodshed in the south that has left the region mired in poverty.

Duterte said he believes Misuari will play a large role in the government’s plan to end the rebellion, attempting to assure the Muslim leader that the government is ready for talks.

Misuari, who in 1996 led the MNLF in a peace deal with the government, remains in hiding after the 2013 siege in Zamboanga City that left 200 dead and more than 100,000 people displaced.

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His MNLF loyalists carried out the attack, as they feared that the government’s talks with former MNLF ally, the MILF, would sideline them.

On Friday, Duterte voiced fears that any peace process with the MNLF would suffer if Misuari — facing an arrest warrant for rebellion in connection with the siege — was detained because of the “fragile condition of his age”.

The 77-year-old is reported to have since been hiding in Jolo Island in Sulu where he is mingling with people loyal to him.

“If something happens to Misuari while we’re detaining him, that would be a big problem, as in big. So you lose the chance, even if it’s a small one, to have peace talks with anybody there. That is dangerous,” Duterte said.

He added that he plans to have unified talks with all the Moro groups, saying that holding separate talks will be expensive — one half of the talks will be with Misuari while the other half will be with the MILF.

“Talk to Nur”, he said he had asked Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and other members of the peace panel.

“I hope this is now the time [for peace] so that our troops can also go home. They will enjoy the peace of the land and go back to their families.”

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Among the other rebel groups based in Sulu are the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf — a violent militant group holding a Norwegian hostage in Jolo, while two Canadian captives had been beheaded after their government refused to hand over ransom.

Misuari is reported to have been instrumental in helping to secure the release of hostages held by the group, in particular four Indonesians released to the MNLF in May, following negotiations initiated by its leader.

At least four abductions targeting Indonesian crew have taken place this year in the seawaters where kidnap-for-ransom gangs operate between the Philippines’ Muslim south and eastern Malaysia.

Duterte made it clear Friday that the Abu Sayyaf is excluded from the talks.

“I really don’t know [who they are and what they stand for],” Duterte said.

He said that he has talked to Misuari, but the Muslim leader had said that he too could not convince the group to participate.

“We not only [have to fight them], we have to destroy [them],” Duterte said.


Hoping to talk to Misuari

Reiterating his call for peace, Duterte said “no other president” wanted to see peace as much as he did.

“I pose this question, how many have died because of the rebellion in Mindanao?” he asked.

“Let’s talk peace now and we can have a demarcation line but we cannot return everything to you. No migrant should leave, we are not taking anything from you, we were born here. We have not committed any wrong.”


“I reiterate my commitment to the Moro people, the Tausugs, I want this war to end,” he underlined.

On Saturday, talks between a ten-member “implementing” panel made up of five members of the Philippines government and the MILF kicked off in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The talks — the first formal meeting under Duterte’s administration between the Philippine government and the MILF — come on the back of Duterte winning the presidency on a platform of correcting historical injustices committed against the Moros in Mindanao island.

On March 27, 2014, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro after 17 years of negotiations.

The agreement would have been sealed by the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was supposed to have paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The law, however, stalled in Congress earlier this year, as it adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 polls won by Duterte.

Outside of the Malaysia meet, the government panel is also scheduled to talk to MNLF factions.

Duterte said Friday that he is now hoping to talk to Misuari by early 2017, after panels of both the government and the MNLF have finalized negotiations.

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)

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