ISABELA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, September 17, said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari has lost control over young Moros in Mindanao.
In a speech during his visit at the headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division in Gamu town in Isabela, Duterte said the "ambivalent" Misuari could not yet commit to peace talks.
Duterte had earlier said that he was planning to talk to Misuari as part of efforts to forge peace among warring groups in the country. They were supposed to meet in Malaysia in 2017, Duterte said last August. (READ: Duterte targets meeting with Misuari in 2017)
"Ang tingin ko si (I think) Nur will not commit now. He's consolidating forces...but he has lost control of the young men of the Moro generation," Duterte said.
Duterte was referring to the Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao as the young men of the Moro generation.
This poses complications for peace efforts, considering that the Abu Sayyaf now, according to Duterte, "no longer hungers for independence of Mindanao" or even autonomy. Instead, they are "hungry for a fight to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia."
The problem, the President said, is that they are no longer willing to talk on the basis on what government can give them, such as schools. "It's either the caliphate or nothing."
In fighting the Abu Sayyaf, Duterte asked the army to reinvent themselves from being soldiers in uniform to being "intelligence operatives." Terrorism, like in the Middle East, he said, has accompanying urban terrorism, even if there is a front war.
The communist New People's Army is mobile and on the move, while the Abu Sayyaf is static. Fighting them requires using both eyes and ears to find them, Duterte told soldiers. "It's a long fight ahead," he added.
That siege was allegedly prompted by Misuari's fear that a peace agreement with rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front would negate the MNLF's own peace agreement with government. He said he was also excluded from the peace process with the MILF – a claim that has been denied.