World Bulletin / News Desk
In 2013, Nur Misuari -- the 77-year-old chair of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) -- laid siege to the majority-Christian city of Zamboanga to protest a peace process by rival group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which Misuari claims leave Muslims in the country’s south shortchanged in comparison to an earlier MNLF peace deal.
Duterte now wants authorities to temporarily overlook the charges of genocide, rebellion and crimes against humanity in an effort to bring all round peace to the south.
The president handed down the order in a speech Wednesday afternoon at Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga, where a wake -- attended by an Anadolu Agency correspondent -- was held for 11 of 15 soldiers killed in a firefight with Abu Sayyaf militants Aug. 29.
"My order to the police and military, if Nur Misuari comes out from where he is right now in Jolo, Sulu, escort him and bring [him] to where I am," Duterte said.
"Last night, we [Duterte and his team] were together with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and I called up Nur Misuari requesting him that we have to talk as soon as possible.
"He replied: 'How could this be if I have a warrant of arrest?' So I told him he can call me or I will be the one to go to him and we will talk."
Prior to flying to Zamboanga, Duterte told reporters in Manila that arresting Misuari would scuttle efforts to reach a peaceful settlement with Moro groups in Mindanao.
''I am the commander-in-chief of the police and the military. I will tell them not to lay a hand on Misuari," ABS CBN quoted him as saying.
''There's a warrant for his arrest. All I have to do is not implement it against him, because if you arrest Misuari you place him under the custody of police and if he dies for whatever reason, our efforts will be compromised."
He said any adversarial act towards Misuari would result in "conflagration" as Misuari ''has the influence and stature'' among Moro rebels.
Misuari led the siege in 2013 to protest the decision of the government of then-President Benigno Aquino III to hold talks with MNLF renegade group, the MILF.
The Misuari faction of the MNLF accused the government of abrogating its agreements with the group when it held negotiations with the MILF, which led to the creation of the 2014-sealed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
The agreement was due to be enforced this year, but was shelved for electioneering for the May 9 presidential vote.
The Duterte government is now in the process of consolidating all agreements with all Moro groups in an effort to finally achieve peace in the south.
Duterte revealed Wednesday that Misuari has said he wants to meet with him in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur with the mediation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in an effort to end the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.
''He said let's do a signing in two days so we could end this fight," he added.
The OIC helped broker the MNLF's final peace agreement with the Philippines government in 1996.