HUNTED for years for the bloody Zamboanga City siege of 2013, Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari strolled into Malacañan Palace Thursday without fear of arrest and hugged President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Thursday, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza flew to Jolo, Sulu to give Misuari a copy of a resolution granting his motion to suspend proceedings against him and to stop the enforcement of warrants of arrest issued by a Pasig Court, changing his status from fugitive to a guest at the Palace.
“I came here just to see the President ... I came here only in answer to the invitation of the President. The man whom I respect and trust,” Misuari said.
“I am so happy to be free again, owing to the initiative of our President,” the Moro leader added, as he expressed his gratitude to Duterte.
Duterte meanwhile, said that Misuari “has finally decided to just accept my invitation for him to talk to us.”
“There is the pending warrant which is lifted now upon my orders so that we can talk and I would like to assure Nur, brother Nur, that there was never any intention to deprive you of your liberty,” the President said.
Duterte likewise promised the Moro leader of the necessary changes to achieve peace in Mindanao.
The President said the process would be done in two or three years, and see the establishment of a Bangsamoro Authority in Mindanao under a federal system of government.
Dureza described their first encounter as a meeting of long-lost brothers who haven’t met for years.
“They hugged each other like long-lost brothers,” Dureza said.
“They haven’t talked yet person-to-person. But knowing their past associations, I’m sure they would meet again,” he added.
In 2013, an arrest warrant was issued against Misuari and three others over a 20-day attack in Zamboanga City, which led to the deaths of over 200 people and the displacement of thousands of others.
The arrest warrants were issued after the Justice department filed rebellion charges against Misuari, MNLF commander Habier Malik, and 60 others.
Misuari, who founded the MNLF has been hiding in plain sight in Sulu, openly mingling with local folk, who have remained loyal to him and protected him from the government.
The Pasig Regional Trial Court, in an order dated Oct. 27, a copy of which Dureza got on November 2, granted Misuari’s motion for the suspension of his arrest warrants for a period of six months “unless sooner lifted by the court.”
Judge Maria Rowena Modesto-San Pedro also directed Dureza’s Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Justice department and Misuari’s lawyers to comply with five conditions for Misuari’s release, among which are seeking travel authorizations in the event that the peace talks are to be held outside the Philippines.
The court also ordered Misuari, OPAPP and DoJ to submit monthly reports on Misuari’s whereabouts and progress of the peace talks and the DoJ must file a motion to lift suspension of proceedings “as soon as it becomes apparent that the peace talks are about to be or already terminated.”
Misuari should also submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court following the termination of peace talks or at any time that the suspension of proceedings is lifted.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the cases filed against the MNLF leader would remain, and that the court proceedings are merely suspended.
Dureza said the government would invite Misuari to be part of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission mandated to work on a pilot federal state in Mindanao.
The President said he is hopeful that a long-lasting peace can finally be achieved in Mindanao, now that the government is in talks with the rebel groups—the New People’s Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the MNLF.
“So now we have a lull in the three fronts that we really have been fighting ever since. We’re talking with the Communists now, maybe establish a modus vivendi somewhere with the MILF and MNLF and let’s begin to talk about peace,” he added.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said his department had taken steps to have the proceedings against Misuari suspended.
Because of this, Aguirre said the Pasig City Regional Trial Court handling the cases has granted the plea of government prosecutors to temporarily suspend the hearings to allow the MNLF leader to participate in peace talks.
In granting the Justice department’s plea, the RTC considered the supporting manifestation of presidential adviser on the peace process.
“The suspension of proceedings and the enforcement of the warrants of arrest against accused Nur Misuari shall be for a period of six months from date of this resolution, unless sooner lifted by the Court,” the court order from Judge Ma. Rowena Modesto-San Pedro said.
The Armed Forces said it would abide by the court’s decision. With Rey E. Requejo, Florante S. Solmerin
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