Tolentino agrees to new talks with Misuari; slams threat of war

By Ben Rosario

MANDAUE CITY, Cebu – Former presidential political adviser and Hugpong ng Pagbabago senatorial candidate Francis Tolentino Thursday slammed the threat of war made by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari but urged government to open talks with Misuari’s faction of the MNLF.

Tolentino said he expects the Senate to revive the move for a shift to federalism through the revision of the 1987 Constitution as sought by Duterte, Misuari and other Muslim leaders in the country.

Francis Tolentino (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

He stressed the need to negotiate with Misuari notwithstanding the fact that the other MNLF faction and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have already supported government for the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and welcomed government’s bid for peace in Muslim Mindanao.

“That will close the loop. That will shorten the gap, we need to bring in all stakeholders on the (negotiating) table,” he said.

The former presidential adviser explained that the peace process may be a long and tedious one but government should be supported for pursuing it.

However, Tolentino lamented Misuari’s threat to go to war against the government if the federal government is not put in place.

President Duterte confirmed Misuari’s threat which was aired by the MNLF chief during their meeting in Malacanang on Tuesday, upon the latter’s return from a trip to the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

It was Duterte who helped Misuari go abroad although he is facing serious criminal cases for his role in the bloody Zamboanga City siege in 2013.

“Medyo mali nga,” Tolentino said in reaction to what appeared to be a Misuari blackmail. (That’s quite wrong)

But he aired the belief that there remains no call to arms coming from the MNLF.
Nevertheless, Tolentino appeared optimistic about the chances Congress will pass a new Constitution that would embody a shift of government system to federalism.

“That (Charter change bid) will be revived. I believe they are preparing for a 65-seat Senate,” he noted, referring to the proposed construction of a Senate building.

Asked if the revised Constitution approved by the House of Representatives should be supported for a relaunch in the 18th Congress, Tolentino said the proposed measure may need “some refinements.”

“It is the call of the executive branch whether to reaffirm the product coming from the Concom (consultative committee) or let the future House leadership to refine its version,” he said.