Thursday, November 14, 2019

Duterte, Misuari target foreign militants, peace in Southern Philippines

From the New Straits Times (Nov 14, 2019): Duterte, Misuari target foreign militants, peace in Southern Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman, Nur Misuari, meet next month. -NSTP/Filepix

INTENSIFYING campaign against local and foreign terrorists in Southern Philippines will be the main objective when President Rodrigo Duterte and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman, Nur Misuari, meet next month.

This comes after officials raised concerns about foreign militants making Mindanao their base of operations.

Duterte and Misuari mostly hope to finalize the peace talks between the government and the rebel group, said The Manila Times, quoting Malacañang announcement.

One of the move to achieve the objective is by creating a coordinating body between the two sides, said government spokesman, Salvador Panelo, after Duterte and Misuari met in Malacanang early this week.

"They agreed to meet again because there’s a suggestion that there should be a committee that will help in the peace process.

“So, there will be a meeting in Davao by December to finalize (the talks). The purpose of course is to have peace with the MNLF and to ensure the success of the government,” he added.

Senior officials including Panelo will be representing the government panel including Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, Carlito Galvez Jr., National Security Adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr and a Department of Foreign Affairs lawyer.

Meanwhile, the Politics portal quoted Justice Secretary, Menardo Guevarra who said that the government wanted the MNLF to help fight elements linked with terrorist group Islamic State (IS).

Guevarra also confirmed that both parties are holding a series of meetings that will lead to the creation of a committee that's going to play a role in peace efforts in Mindanao.

The Palace explained further that the committee would aid the country in achieving peace by "helping in combating the Abu Sayyaf Group and convincing MNLF relatives to return to the fold of the law".

MNLF forged a peace pact with the national government in 1996 that saw the establishment of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Misuari was governor then.

However, the ARMM was replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law anchored on the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter group from the MNLF that broke away several years before the 1996 peace deal.

Misuari are remembered by many for two sieges by MNLF in Zamboanga. In 2013, MNLF declared independence but failed in the attempt to raise the Bangsamoro Republik flag at City Hall.

The subsequent siege displaced over 100,000 people and affected the economies of Basilan and Sulu.

In Nov 2001, hundreds of MNLF members took over the Cabatangan Complex and held hostage dozens of civilians, including and also attacked a military base in Sulu province to stop the elections in the Muslim autonomous region after Misuari was ousted as governor.

According to Mindanao Examiner, more than 100 people were killed in the fighting and only ended when Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat permitted the attackers to leave Zamboanga in exchange for the hostages.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he was arrested then deported to the Philippines.

He was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election campaign in 2004.

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