Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nur open to attend BBL hearings; House no longer wants him

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 17): Nur open to attend BBL hearings; House no longer wants him

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is open to the invitation of the Senate for Chairman Nur Misuari to attend the hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but only with the participation of the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

However, the ad hoc committee on Bangsamoro has junked plans to invite MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari and the leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, pending consultations with National Security Council and other government agencies.

MalacaƱang claims it is hands off on the suspension for Misuari’s arrest warrant, saying that the warrant is subject to court proceedings, echoing the Palace line.

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman of the MNLF, stressed that the MNLF does not recognize the Philippine government after declaring independence in August 2013.

But Fontanilla maintained that Misuari is open to the proposal of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on two conditions.

“We are willing to talk on two conditions. We have declared independence, we don’t recognize the government jurisdiction and all talks will have to done with the participation of OIC,” Fontanilla told The Tribune.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government which will be holding hearings on the proposed BBL, has expressed interest in inviting Misuari to get his insights over the agreement.

The senator noted last year’s conflict that erupted in Zamboanga City was perpetrated by Misuari’s supporters in protest of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Marcos even expressed openness for the suspension of the warrant of arrest issued against Misuari in connection with the Zamboanga City siege that killed more than 200 MNLF fighters and troops and displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

“The proposal of Senator Marcos is the right move,” said Fontanilla.
The MNLF faction of Misuari has declared independence from the Philippine government and established Bangsamoro Republik.

Government lawyers said they see no reason to suspend outstanding arrest warrants against Nur Misuari and Umbra Kato to allow them to join public hearings on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Secretary Leila de Lima said that while the DoJ would study the proposal of the congressional panel tasked to scrutinize the proposed law and led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, she was uncertain if it will “legally defensible.”

“I don’t know if we already have a precedent on suspension of warrant of arrest. It’s not a simple issue,” she told reporters.

Misuari and Umbra Kato are facing  various cases.

De Lima said the decision would ultimately lie with the trial courts where criminal indictments against Misuari remain pending.

“Even if, let’s say, we move for the suspension of the warrants of arrest, we would not know if the courts will approve it,” she stressed.

The DoJ chief even suggested that the purpose of getting the side of the MNLF in the review of the draft BBL could be achieved even without the presence of Misuari and Kato.

“There could be other ways for the House committee to get the side of MNLF. Does Nur Misuari really have to appear? Would a representative who will articulate the position of MNLF not suffice?” she asked.

De Lima said she already discussed the matter with Rep. Rodriguez during a recent event at the Palace where she asked the lawmaker for a formal request from the House committee “so that we could act accordingly,” but clarified that  the DoJ has not given its commitment to the proposal.

Rodriguez has said the presence of Misuari and Kato in the congressional hearings would help the panel.

He said Misuari specifically could help make the BBL compatible with the 1996 peace accord brokered by the OIC.

Rodriguez also said that they would ask Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to issue safe conduct passes to the two rebel leaders for their travel to and from Manila.

He said they have already invited Misuari and Kato and details are being finalized for their attendance in the congressional hearing.Rodriguez said Congress would hold a series of public consultations in Mindanao and Sulu to get the pulse of the people in the affected areas.

According to  Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, a vice chairman of the ad hoc panel, the plan to invite Nur Misuari and Umbra Kato has been put on hold. The move to invite them was proposed by Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat also opposed the plan even as he noted that both Misuari and Kato were allegedly responsible for the series of violent incidents in Mindanao.

Before aborting its invitation to Misuari and Kato, Lobregat warned that he would stage a walkout should the ad hoc panel decide to vote on Oaminal motion.

Hataman-Salliman, who chairs the House special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, said they agreed to invite officials from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Bangsamoro Transition Commission, DND and among others for the Sept. 24 hearing.

Rodriguez said his panel will conduct marathon hearings in Congress and Mindanao provinces to consult all stakeholders for Congress to ratify the bill by Dec. 17, 2014 and set the plebiscite on March 30, 2015.

Rodriguez said he is eyeing to visit the provinces of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to conduct hearings in Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, and North Cotabato where 49 barangays were included for plebiscite.

The Palace cleared on Tuesday that suspension of the arrest warrant for Misuari and Umbra Kato  is subject to court proceeding following motions to suspend the warrant for the rebel leader to join the peace talks hounding the draft of the BBL.

In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said it is within the powers of the court to determine the life of an arrest warrant, which means the executive is hands off on the issue.

“That will require a suspension of the issuance or  a motion to hold the validity or the life of a warrant of arrest will have is a question subject to the court’s judgment. We are not to decide on whether it should be suspended or not,” Valte said.

Valte said the Palace cannot violate the warrant even if the execution of the warrant is within the scope of the executive branch, saying it’s solely the court’s decision on whether it’s suspension is plausible.

She added it is important to determine if there is really merit to getting input from Misuari, given that there are many others in the line that can give a clearer view and suggestions for the betterment of the BBL draft.

The MNLF faction under Misuari spearheaded the deadly Zamboanga City siege September last year, resulting to the loss of about 200 casualties, mostly in the ranks of armed militants. The Misuari-led faction has openly opposed the peace agreement between the national government and the MILF.


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