MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte defended his talks with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari, saying he himself has Moro blood.
“What is wrong with talking to Misuari and embracing him? Eh Moro ako eh (I am a Moro). I want to talk to him because ang sinabi ko (I said), ‘Nur, you have been fighting for 40 years. Do you want another 40 years?” Duterte said at an Integrated Bar of the Philippines event on Friday, November 4.
Aside from his Moro links, Duterte said his son, Paolo, married a woman who has a Maranao mother and a Tausug father.
“So I look at my grandchildren, anak nasa inyo ako (I am with you),” he said.
Misuari met with Duterte in Malacañang on Thursday, just hours after a court order suspending arrest warrants against him was publicized. Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza even fetched the 77-year-old MNLF leader in Sulu in the southern Philippines.
The MNLF leader, who was allowed to give his remarks using the presidential podium, then thanked Duterte for “restoring his freedom.” Misuari is facing charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity over his role in the 2013 Zamboanga siege.
In September 2013, supporters of Misuari occupied coastal villages of Zamboanga City to protest the Aquino administration’s peace talks with the MNLF’s breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Over 200 people were killed and more than 24,000 families were displaced during the 3-week siege.
If the shift to a federal system and the talks with Misuari don’t pan out, Duterte claimed communism would surely stay, exacerbated by the rise of terrorism in the region.
“Because if you do not get the federal system to work then babalik itong – I assure you, as sure as the sun will rise in the east, babalik ‘yung komunista (the communists will return). Nur will go back to the mountains, we will have a problem,” he said.
Misuari supported Duterte’s presidential campaign. The President, for his part, earlier said he does not want a “fragile” Misuari detained or pursued by authorities.
On Thursday, he said it was upon his orders that Misuari was freed so they could talk.
The President, apparently referring to soldiers, also said there is nothing wrong with talking to communists. Duterte went around military camps in the first months of his presidency to explain to soldiers the importance of peace negotiations with communist rebels, and urged them to support the process.
Such acts, he said, would even give the military more leeway and a longer life.
“Is it wrong to talk to communists na wala ng gyera, wala nang mamatay sa inyo (no more wars, no one would die from your ranks)? What did we harvest in the meantime? Makagalaw kayo (You can move). And maybe if you are not destined to die, then you might live for another 10 years,” he said.
The situation, the President said, would be more complicated with the possible spread of terrorism through the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS or the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) in the Philippines.
“There is the looming threat of mindless violence… without any purpose but to kill – ISIS.
Duterte said the terrorist group is slowly being thrown out of the Middle East now. And the other fertile land for their growth is Southeast Asia – Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
“Are they coming? They will come. ISIS is being edged out of the Middle East. ‘Pag nawalan sila ng (If they lose their) bailiwick and don’t have mass lands, where do you think will they go? Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines. Where do we belong? For lack of a better word, saan tayo diyan (Where would that leave us)?” he said.
The group in July called on its followers in Southeast Asia to fight for the terror group either in Syria or in the Philippines. – Rappler.com