Duterte ‘not involved’ on court order allowing Misuari overseas travel – Panelo

Aika Rey
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte is confident that Nur Misuari 'will come back'

'BELOVED FRIEND'. President Rodrigo Duterte greets his 'beloved friend' MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in Malacañang in November 2016. File photo from Malacañang Photo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday, March 4, denied that President Rodrigo Duterte “made arrangements” with the Sandiganbayan to allow Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari to travel abroad.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the President “did not call the courts,” despite Duterte admitting that he did, in a speech at the administration bets’ campaign rally at Zamboanga City on Sunday, March 3.

“Sinabi niya ‘yung posisyon niya para makarating sa mga kinauukulan, para mapag-aralan nila ang wisdom ng kanyang sinasabi. (He said his position so that it will reach those in authority, so they can study the wisdom of what he was saying),” Panelo explained.

“But he did not arrange. Again, the courts will not allow themselves to be intimidated, coerced, commanded, or directed by any branch of this government,” Panelo added.

On February 25, Duterte met with Misuari. The following day, Sandiganbayan released a resolution granting Misuari to travel to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates, to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers.

Misuari is facing charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity over his role in the 2013 Zamboanga siege.

But Panelo said that Misuari is a key figure in achieving peace in Mindanao.

“Kung ang problema doon sa Mindanao ay nakasalalay sa isang tao, kagaya ni Misuari na napakalaki ng impluwensya, tungkulin ng Presidente na gawin ang lahat ng makakaya – persuasion – na tulungan na kung yung pagbibigay ng laya temporarily kay Misuari. Palagay ko, tungkulin ng presidente na ipaalam sa hukuman na makakatulong itong tao na to,” Panelo said.

(If the problem in Mindanao is dependent on a person, like Misuari who has huge influence, the President has the responsibility to do everything – persuasion – to help what could give temporary freedom to Misuari. I believe that it’s the President’s duty to inform the courts that he can help.)

Misuari will be attending the summit on March 1 and 2. He will be in Morocco for the 14th session of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC member states from March 13 to 14.

Panelo said that the President is “confident” that Misuari will come back to the Philippines.

Duterte had sought input from Misuari in achieving peace in Mindanao. The two met in March 2017 in a closed-door meeting in Davao City, then in September 2017 in the same city “to discuss Bangsamoro concerns.”

After the Bangsamoro Organic Law was approved by the people in a plebiscite in January, Duterte said he wanted to work on a new “agreement,” this time with Misuari. 

The presidential spokesman said this may happen again if the matter at hand is of national interest.

“Kung persuasion lang naman walang problema dun, kung national interest. (If it’s persuasion, then there’s nothing wrong with it, if it’s of national interest) There are many ways of presenting the position. Ang importante, (What’s important is) it is the duty to preserve the country,” Panelo said. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.