Lacson hits Misuari bid to grant amnesty to Abu Sayyaf

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Saturday, November 5, criticized the proposal of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari to grant amnesty to members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

"It smacks of scheming tactics," Lacson said in an interview on DWIZ.

"Bibigyan mo ng amnesty ang ASG, e ano ba ang ASG? Walang theology 'yan. Ang ASG, nagki-kidnap, nagpuputol ng ulo (You will give amnesty to the ASG, but what is the ASG? It has no theology. The ASG kidnaps and beheads people)," Lacson said. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier rejected Misuari's proposal to grant amnesty to the ASG, notorious for kidnap-for-ransom activities targeting mostly foreigners.

In his radio interview, Lacson also cited the 2013 siege of Zamboanga City, over which Misuari was charged with rebellion and crimes against humanity.

The Zamboanga siege in 2013, which lasted for 3 weeks, killed 200 people and displaced around 126,000 others.

Lacson said: "Wala silang kinalaman, kundi mga civilian na nawalan ng titirhan dahil nagkaroon ng bakbakan ang gobyerno at MNLF na kasapi si Nur Misuari. E pagkatapos kakalimutan na lang ba natin lahat 'yan?

(They had nothing to do with it, but were simply civilians who lost their homes because there was fighting between the government and the MNLF, which included Nur Misuari. Then we will just forget all of that?)

Duterte hosted Misuari in Malacañang on Thursday, November 3, a few hours after it was announced that a court has suspended arrest warrants against him for 6 months.  The court order stemmed from a petition filed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Department of Justice, citing Misuari's role in peace efforts in the southern Philippines.

Nothing specific on Duterte-Misuari meeting

Victims of the Zamboanga siege, some displaced to this day, have criticized the temporary freedom of Misuari, who appeared in public for the first time since the siege on Thursday, and was allowed by Duterte himself to use the presidential podium at Malacañang's primary hall to deliver his remarks.

On calls of victims of the Zamboanga siege to hold Misuari accountable to the crimes he had allegedly committed, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Saturday, "At the right right time, those issues would be addressed."

Abella said in an interview on state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday that at this point, "what is important is that he and the President are talking."

"The President has promised na uusad ‘yung structures…that will lay the ground for Bangsamoro territory and doon po, it will be connected to the whole concept of federalism," Abella said.

(The President promised that there will be progress in the structures that will lay the ground for a Bangsamoro territory and it will be connected to the whole concept of federalism.)

When asked, Abella could not say whether the President made any commitment or promise to Misuari when they met in Malacañang.

"Ang mahalaga lang po, nag-usap so wala po tayong specifics at this stage. So 'yun po. Ang mahalaga ay nagka-face to face sila, nagkita sila and then saka pa lang magsisimula po talaga ‘yung actual conversation," he said.

(What's important is they talked.We have no specifics at this stage. So that's it. What's important is that they met face-to-face, they saw each other. After that, the actual conversation would begin.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and 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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