President Rodrigo Duterte has tapped Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari as the country’s special economic envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a 57-man inter-government organization that serves as the collective voice of the Muslim communities in the world.
Misuari’s appointment was announced when Duterte presided over the first meeting of the newly-established government-MNLF Peace Coordinating Committee at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) said in a statement.
“In order to accelerate the implementation of the peace agreements and to develop further the support of the Islamic countries, President Duterte announced the appointment of Misuari as Special Economic Envoy on Islamic Affairs to the OIC,” the OPAPP said.
Duterte and Misuari have met several times this year to improve the partnership between the national government and the MNLF in achieving sustainable peace in Mindanao.
During a meeting at Malacañan on Nov. 11, Duterte and Misuari both agreed to create a peace coordinating committee between the two parties which will serve as a platform to strengthen the peace process in the besieged region.
Duterte, as quoted by the OPAPP, believed in Misuari’s competence to bolster the Philippines’ relations with other Islamic nations.
“Brother Nur has occupied several positions in the past. Considered it as an honor for me to delegate you as a special envoy of the government so that you can foster further lasting relationships with the leaders of the Islamic countries,” the President told Misuari during the meeting in Davao City on Friday.
“Most of the leaders of the OIC are friends of Nur. It’s good that Allah has given you a longer life to see these things because I do not think that there is other Moro personality that could command the respect and trust of the OIC but only you. You are the only one who can bring the case to the OIC and get the results,” he added.
Misuari, in turn, thanked the President for his new appointment.
Following his appointment, The MNLF leader is poised to attend the annual meeting of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member-states in Burkina Faso in Western Africa from Jan. 21 to 23 next year, the OPAPP announced.
“This developed as the leadership of the OIC is set to visit the Philippines in February 2020,” it said.
“The involvement of the influential OIC will play a crucial role in pushing forward the implementation of the peace agreements between the government and the Moro fronts. For years, the OIC has been actively involved in the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum to harmonize all the Moro fronts in the Philippines and integrate all the development plans to foster long-lasting and enduring peace in Mindanao,” it added.
Full implementation of the tripartite review process sought
The President has repeatedly promised that all the Bangsamoro people will receive “fair” treatment from him, as he wants to ensure that “no one will be left behind in the peace process.”
He has also pledged to implement all the signed peace agreement with the Moro fronts under his watch.
During the first meeting of the government-MNLF peace coordinating panel, the two parties agreed to pursue the implementation of the remaining commitments contained in the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
“At least before I step down, I want to see an enduring peace in Mindanao,” the President told the members of the peace coordinating committee.
Apart from Misuari, the meeting was attended by members of the MNLF peace coordinating panel, including lawyers Joel Obar, Yaser Lumbos, Mohammad Ali Guro, Alongan Dimacaling, and Dr. Udtog Kawit. Lawyer Ma. Victoria P. Lim-Florido was represented by lawyer Arthur Lim.
Also present at the meeting were government peace coordinating committee chair, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and coordinating committee members Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano, Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Undersecretary Arthur Tabaquero, Bangsamoro Transition Authority member Nabil Tan, and retired Brigadier General Buenaventura Pascual.
Other Philippine officials who joined the conference were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, and Prosecutor Rassendell Rex Gingoyon.
Former executive secretaries Eduardo Ermita and Ruben Torres, who played a major role during the crafting of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement were also at the meeting to serve as advisers to the government’s coordinating committee. The team was also joined by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go.
The TRP, which was jointly carried out by the PIC, the Philippine Government, and MNLF, was concluded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in January 2016.
The results of the TRP of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement showed that two commitments have yet to be implemented.
These are the establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund and the and the creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee, the OPAPP said.
Federal gov’t still eyed
The OPAPP noted that both parties have also agreed to realize their vision of the government’s shift to a federal set-up.
“Both President Duterte and Misuari have vowed to work closely to change the current structure of the government into federal,” it said.
Duterte assured Misuari and the MNLF leaders that he is not abandoning his promise to push for a federal state.
He also asked for Misuari’s help to convince Congress to pass a measure that will change the current unitary form to a federal type of government.
“Help me also convince the Moro members of Congress to work on it fast vis-à-vis the effort on the federal set up,” the President said as he sought Misuari’s help.
“Our allies in Congress have assured me that they will work on it because that is part of my program. In the [presidential] campaign, I said drugs, corruption, and the federal system. I have to comply,” he added.
MNLF to help gov’t stop terrorism
Misuari said he and his group would help the government in its efforts to rid Mindanao of threats from terror groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group that is actively operating in Sulu, the MNLF leader’s bailiwick.
“There is no place for them to go…We can assure the President that the MNLF will fully support the resolution of this problem. Try us on how effective we are,” Misuari vowed.
In recent years, the government has been seeking Misuari’s help to free kidnapped victims that are being brought to Sulu.
Galvez said the military and the police can establish a “close coordination” with MNLF forces on the ground, in a bid to catch the terror groups.
“There will be security coordination with MNLF forces to persuade the Abu-Sayyaf members to return to the mainstream society and to eradicate the problem of terrorism and kidnapping incidents, particularly in Sulu,” he said.