Duterte apologizes to Misuari, thanks him for 'patience'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari for their unimplemented "agreements" on federalism,  Malacañang said on Tuesday, February 26.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a news briefing that Duterte made the apology to Misuari in a 15-minute meeting on Monday night, February 25.

“What transpired last night was the President told the Chairman that he admired his patience and he apologized for not having implemented or enforced whatever agreements they had previously – I think he was referring to federalism. And they would be talking again precisely on that,” Panelo said.

Asked to elaborate on what Duterte had apologized for, he said: “They had talks before and they were perhaps agreeing modus vivendi on the problem  But somehow, because of the many matters attended to by the President, he was not able to attend to it. And that’s why precisely he was thanking the Chairman for being very patient. In other words, he was not pushy.”

The President 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."

Months into his presidency, Duterte invited Misuari – who is facing charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity over his role in the 2013 Zamboanga siege – to Malacañang and allowed him to use the presidential podium to deliver his own remarks at a Palace event.

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.

Panelo said Duterte and Misuari will have another meeting but no date or place had been set. Misuari just got permission from the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to leave the country to attend the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in the United Arab Emirates in early March.

Responding to questions, Panelo said Duterte has not given up on his bid to shift the Philippines to federalism. “If there is political will, everything is possible,” he said.

A majority of Filipinos reject the proposed shift to federalism, surveys have shown.

On grumblings from the MNLF on the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), particularly the great number of seats given to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Panelo said Misuari did not raise this with the President.

“If the MNLF was complaining about it, the Chairman did not mention it last night,” he said.

Duterte has tapped MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim as the new Bangsamoro region's interim minister. 

Panelo also brushed aside concerns that the composition of the BTA, which will serve as the new Bangsamoro region's interim government from 2019 to 2022, would lead to the creation of a new group that would foment violence in Mindanao.

“I do not think so given the fact that Chairman Misuari is a very reasonable, patient man and the fact that he did not make any complaint last night relative to that shows that he understands,” he said.

Panelo also said that Chief Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr said there is “equitable distribution, representation” in the BTA in terms of “effective” representation to meet the BTA’s goals. – Rappler.com