By Genalyn Kabiling and Francis Wakefield
The government is prepared to craft a new peace deal with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) amid plans to resume talks with its chairman Nur Misuari, President Duterte announced Tuesday night.
The President said Misuari, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has also expressed willingness “to talk, not fight” with his government during their conversation in Malacañang Monday night.
“Itong kay Nur, areglo na tayo. Sabi ni Nur, he’s willing to talk. He’s waiting for me to make a decisive decision when he comes back,” the President said during the assembly of the League of the Municipalities in the Philippines at the Manila Hotel.
“Sabi ko it’s time to craft a new deal for the MNLF,” he added.
He said that Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año would be tasked to help craft the agreement with the MNLF.
“Kailangan pa natin ‘yan. And but they are revolutions driven with territorial intentions or objectives,” he said.
Duterte noted that the government’s talks with the MNLF would be held when Misuari returns from his trip abroad.
New MILF faction?
While President Duterte may have an easier time addressing Misuari’s sentiments, the task of appeasing another disgruntled key member of the MNLF may be more difficult.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that they are taking seriously the threat made by a Moro leader lawyer Firdausi Abbas that he would establish a new faction in protest of the MILF’s hold of majority of positions in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
Abbas protested what he called a “virtual dictatorship” by the MILF, even questioning their ability to govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“Of course, kasi delikado iyan, kasi hindi na matapos iyung trouble natin kung [Its dangerous because our trouble will not stop if] every faction there will create their own trouble to destabilize the existing order,” Lorenzana said.
“Tignan muna natin kung ano iyung gusto niya [Let’s see what he wants]. We have to engage him by the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) siguro kung ano ang… [what he].”
“Kilala ko iyan si Firdausi Abbas, eh [I know Firdausi Abbas] maybe we should to talk to him kung ano ang gusto niya [to know what he wants],” he added.
In an interview over ABS-CBN News, Abbas said he would “pursue the crusade along pacifist lines” once he quit the MNLF.
“Right now, we have no respect for people (which) I find contemptible and despicable,” said Abbas, who is recognized as sultan of Lanao.
Lorenzana also said that as far as he is concerned the MNLF is well represented in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
“They (MNLF) are included as they have seven members in the BTA,” Lorenzana said.
“What I overheard is that they are sulking because only seven of them are included. But they are still fortunate to have seven members in the BTA,” he added.
When asked to clarify his statement, Lorenzana said the BOL or Bangsamoro Organic Law is a Moro Islamic Liberation Front activity.
“This BOL is like more of an MILF activity. During the campaign period for the BOL, the most active is the MILF,” Lorenzana said.
“The MNLF had minimal participation, except in Sulu, in Jolo, in Sulu province by Jikiri. In other areas they seldom participated,” he added.
But Lorenzana is hopeful the rumblings would not result into more serious problems.
New Duterte-Misuari meeting
President Duterte met Misuari at the Palace Monday night and apologized for the delay in the implementation of the proposed federalism initiative in the country, the Palace announced Tuesday. Another meeting will be set between the President and Misuari soon.
The Sandiganbayan had earlier granted Misuari’s motion to travel to the United Arab Emirates and Morocco to attend the summits of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Council of Foreign Ministers as well as the 14th Session of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Cooperation Member States next month.
Duterte admitted he made some arrangements to allow the safe passage of Misuari, believing the MNLF leader would return to the country. He added that he considers Misuari as his brother.
“Now there is Misuari, he saw me last night. He was not allowed by the court to go out because he has pending charges when he was armed. So I had to make some arrangements. Sabi ko, this is a personal request of me, which I do not do at any time, at any other time,” he said.
“Sabi ko, papasukin – ah palabasin ninyo. Sabi ko, for the sake of – alam mo na because I still have to craft,” he said.
Misuari also assured the President that he would return home after his trip abroad.
“Whenever we see, we embrace each other because I consider him a brother. Tapos sabi niya, ‘papuntahin mo lang ako, babalik ako.’ Sabi ko, ‘Fine. You have done that several times, you can go.’ So nag-courtesy call siya tapos umalis siya,” Duterte said.
The upcoming talks between the President and Misuari come amid the “rumblings” in the MNLF about the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
The MNLF has reportedly expressed concern about the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, saying it was only given a few seats in the interim government.
The law creating the BARMM that replaced the old ARMM is part of the peace pact forged by the government with the MILF, which broke away from the MNLF several years ago.
The administration of then President Fidel V. Ramos forged a peace pact with the MNLF in 1996.
Meanwhile, Malacañang released Wednesday the appointment papers of the 76 members of the BTA, five days after President Duterte administered their oath in Malacañang.
It was earlier announced that MILF Chairman Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, known as Murad Ebrahim, was appointed Interim Chief Minister of the BTA.
The other BTA members, mostly nominees of the MILF, are: 1. Ghazali Jaafar; 2. Ali Solaiman; 3. Mohagher Iqbal; 4. Abdulraof Macacua; 5. Ibrahim Ali; 6. Haron Abas; 7.Mohammad Zainoden Bato; 8. Said Salendab; 9. Mohammad Yacob; 10. Malik Mantawil; 11. Ali Salik; 12. Abdulwahab Pak; 13.Said Shiek; 14. Ubaida Pacasem; 15.Hussein Muñoz; 16. Abdullah Gayak; 17. Eduard Guerra; 18. Aida Silongan; 19. Abdul Dataya Sr.; 20. Raissa Jajurie; 21. Tucao Mastura; 22. Mibpantao Midtimbang; 23. Al-Syed Sali; 24.Saffrullah Dipatuan; 25. Abdullah Ahang; 26.Maleiha Candao; 27.Narciso Ekey; 28. Bainon Karon; 29.Basit Sarip Abbas; 30. Suwaib Oranon; 31. Akmad Abas; 32. Abdullah Macapaar (Commander Bravo); 33. Faiz Alauddin; 34. Hadji Abdulazis Mohammad Esmael; 35. Marjanie Macasalong; 36. Lanang Ali Jr.; 37. Ali Pangalian Balindong; 38. Zesar Hajaj Alil; 39. Melanio Ulama; 40. Muslima Abubakar Asmawil; 41. Muslimin Jakilan; 42. Sahie Sappayani Udjah; 43. Adzfar Hailid Usman 44. Omar Yasser Semal; 45. Romeo Sema; 46. Punduma Batinting Sani; 47. Abdul Raji Sahrin; 48. Hatimil Hassan; 49. Zul Qarneyn Abas; 50. Musa Diamla; 51.Rasul Ismael; 52. Sitti Shahara Mastura; 53.Amilbahar Mawallil; 54. Eddie Mapag Alih; 55. Khadafeh Mangudadatu; 56. Jamel Macaraya; 57. Modayao Sacar; 58. Abraham Burahan; 59. Edrieza Nasser Rimbang; 60. Paisalin Tago; 61.Nabila Pangandaman; 62. Laisa Alamia; 63.Suharto Ambolodto; 64. Susana Anayatin; 65.Maisara Dandamun-Latiph; 66. Mussolini Lidasan; 67. Don Mustapha Loong; 68. Jose Iribani Lorena; 69. Abdulmuhmin Mujahid; 70. Romeo Saliga; 71. Alzad Sattar; 72. Nabil Tan; 73. Hamid Aminoddin Datu Barra; 74. Anna Tarhata Basman; and 75. Baintan Adil Ampatuan.
President Duterte has yet to name four more members of the BTA, which was earlier revealed to be composed of representatives from Moro and non-Moro groups, indigenous peoples, women, youth, settler communities, and traditional leaders. (With a report from Argyll B. Geducos)