Duterte meets MILF, MNLF leaders in Davao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte met with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) late Friday evening, June 17, in a "brother to brother" discussion envisioned to end decades of conflict.

Duterte joined MNLF chairman Abul Khayr Alonto, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim, and MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar in the meeting on Friday at Hotel Elena in Davao City.

Reporters saw Duterte, Murad, and Alonto posing for photos with supporters past 9:30 pm at Jacky’s Resto Cafe in Hotel Elena.

"It’s a meeting of a brother to a brother," Alonto told reporters.

"Setting aside formalities, there is no substitute for a brother talking to a brother, with the MILF and the MNLF, and of course with President Duterte. That is a brotherhood," Alonto explained.

Duterte aide Christopher "Bong" Go confirmed that Duterte met with Murad and Alonto at the same time in Hotel Elena. Go declined to disclose other details. 

This is reportedly the first meeting between the president-elect, the MILF chairman, and the MNLF chairman since Congress declared Duterte’s victory in the May 9 elections.

MNLF chairman: Federalism 'acceptable'

In his interview with reporters, Alonto said the proposed federal system of government was one of the topics during Duterte’s meeting with leaders of the MILF and MNLF.  

Referring to federalism, he said, "It is acceptable to all parties concerned and to all the stakeholders in Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro and the national cultural communities."

Alonto said they also discussed "other matters of great consequence.”

He then cited the need to address the problem of illegal drugs in the Philippines, and the "kidnap-for-ransom industry" that “has to be dismantled."

"The government has to put an end to this. And we have given the assurance of the support of the Bangsamoro people," he said.

This meeting comes as Duterte’s peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, began talks in Norway with communist leader Jose Maria Sison. 

Duterte ran on a platform of ensuring peace and order in the Philippines.

Palace welcomes development

Malacañang welcomed the initiative taken by the incoming president.

"Nakakagalak naman para sa atin na makita na sila ay masigasig din sa pagtataguyod ng prosesong pangkapayapaan. At sana’y lumawig pa ang mga pagsisikap na ito,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in an interview on dzRB on Saturday, June 18, when asked about the development.

(We are pleased to see them taking a proactive stance in pursuing peace talks. And we hope that this effort would expand further.)

Lahat namang ng hakbang na hahantong sa pagpapatatag at pagpapatibay sa ating peace-building process ay dapat na bigyan ng suporta ng ating sambayanan. Lalong lalo na kung ito ay inisyatiba na ng papasok na administrasyon,” Coloma added.

(All steps leading to reinforming the peace-building process should get the support of the people. Especially if these are initiatives of the incoming administration.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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