Federalism or war, Misuari tells Duterte

March 21, 2019
Rodrigo Duterte and Nur Misuari

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has bared that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari warned him of war should the government fail to pursue a shift to federalism.

Duterte met with Misuari in Malacañang on Tuesday, their second meeting in a month following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a measure creating a new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao with greater autonomy.

Misuari is a former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the entity superseded by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the result of a peace pact between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter group of the MNLF.

“Sabi niya, ‘O sige. Pero ito ang gusto ko, federalism.’ Sabi ni Misuari and I am making it public and you can ask the persons who were there,” Duterte said at a PDP-Laban campaign sortie in Marikina.

(He said, ‘Fine. But I want federalism.’ Misuari said this and I am making it public and you can ask the persons who were there.)

“Sabi ni Misuari kagabi (Misuari said last night), ‘If you do not give it to me, let me be very honest: I will go to war.”

Misuari is tagged in the siege of Zamboanga City in 2013 amid the MNLF’s exclusion from government’s then still ongoing peace negotiations with the MILF. The government signed its peace deal with the MILF in 2014.

The President said he told Misuari that he would form a panel because “you cannot negotiate secretly here.”

“Sabi ko, I understand that, Nur. So ganito na lang gawin natin. Let’s form a panel because we have to inform the people,” Duterte said.

He explained to Misuari the panel will tackle “what kind of federalism he wants.”

The new Bangsamoro region is expected to be led by the MILF during its 3-year transition period.

Not really a threat

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo  said the government is ready to put down any rebellion after Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari warned that he will “go to war” if the government fails to push through with federalism.

“The Muslim rebellion has been there for so many decades, and we have confronted it, we’ve fought with it, and the Republic remains as it is now,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo stressed that the Philippines was able to thwart MNLF’s uprising even in the 1970s and 1980s when the rebel group was at its peak.

Panelo also said the Palace is not considering Misuari’s declaration a “threat” but just an expression of “disappointment” over the non-passage of federalism.

“Sa akin sa tingin ko (I think) he was just expressing his sentiment, his disappointment that a campaign promise has not been fulfilled as of this time. Seryoso ‘yung disappointment niya (His disappointment was serious), whether the threat is serious or not is another thing,” he said.

Panelo added that the government is not taking Misuari’s remark lightly, saying that: “Any threat publicly expressed by anyone is always viewed upon as a serious concern by the government.”

Misuari’s MNLF faction opposes the proposed Bangsamoro law and wants the government to honor the 1996 peace agreement, which led to the creation of the defunct Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), of which he served as governor.