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MANILA, Philippines - Arriving from Cairo, Egypt on Saturday, February 9, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman leader Nur Misuari accused the government of conspiring with Malaysia to derail peace treaty agreements, even as clashes between the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the MNLF in Sulu have subsided.
He had previously criticized the Frameword Agreement between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed in October 2012. The accord is supposed to lead to the creation of a Bangsamoro political identity, replacing the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Misuari said the peace framework agreement would cause a "big war in Mindanao." The MNLF, under Misuari's leadership, signed a peace agreement with the national government during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos.
Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of an MNLF breakaway faction, the Islamic Command Council (ICC), told Rappler that tension in Sulu has died down, suggesting that Misuari must have talked to MNLF commanders.
"Hindi na nagkaroon ng labanan uli (Fighting has stopped). He must have given instruction to MNLF to delay resumption of the fighting," Hashim said.
Hashim earlier told a local radio station that Misuari himself gave orders to his field commander, Habier Malik, to make war with the Abu Sayyaf once negotiations for the release of hostages fail.
The Abu Sayyaf released last Saturday, February 2, two Filipino hostages who served as crew of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani. Atyani remains in the custody of the terrorist group.
Asked about the veracity of reports that foreign hostages, including Atyani, are now with the MNLF -- after they were supposedly rescued following an encounter in Patikul, Sulu, Misuari said he has yet to be briefed by his people from the field. He could not confirm the reports.
Early reports said the MNLF was in talks with the ASG led by Radullan Sahilon. Two days after the release of the Filipino hostages, about 20 were reported dead from clashes between the MNLF and ASG. The conflict has displaced some 2,000 people or 349 families in Sulu following the release of the two Filipino kidnap victims in Patikul.
From Manila, Misuari is flying to Zamboanga to meet MNLF leaders, according to Hashim.
"Pagdating niya rito, I will see him. He wants to know (the) situation in Sulu. We will wait for him ano mang mapag-usapan namin regarding the situation -- kung paano ma-solve iyon kasi nagkaroon na ng patayan," Hashim said. (When he arrives, I will see him. He wants to know the situation in Sulu. We will wait for him whatever the agenda will be regarding the situation -- how to solve it since there had been killings.)
The MNLF had earlier denied that Misuari involved their organization in efforts to rescue Atyani to boost his candidacy.
The clashes between the MNLF and ASG were alleged to be election-related as Misuari is expected to run in the 2013 polls. Running as an independent, he will be up against ARMM officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman and former Sultan Kudarat Rep Pakung Mangudadatu of the United Nationalist Alliance for the post of ARMM governor. Hataman's wife is also running as Congresswoman of Sulu.
Earlier Rep Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said that the MNLF's move to rescue Atyani and other foreigners held by the Abu Sayyaf was politically motivated.
Misuari attended the 8th session of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Cooperation (PUIC) in Khartoum, Sudan on January 21-22, and arrived with his wife Tarhata Ibrahim Arsad.
- With reports from Cai Ordinario/Rappler.com