MNLF agrees to talks to end 1996 peace pact

The Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front appeared to have softened its hardline stance when it announced on Monday that it would accept the offer of the government to proceed with the tripartite talks in Jakarta on the GRP-MNLF 1996 final peace agreement.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza, however, said their group would not enter into any talks on the resumption of peace negotiations but had merely agreed to formalize the closure of the agreement.

“We have accepted the government offer to formalize talks on the final closure of the peace negotiation brokered and duly acknowledged by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jakarta,” Cerveza said.

The formal closing of the tripartite review talks between the GRP-MNLF, which the MNLF claimed the government had abroagated last year, was discussed during a meeting between Absalom and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process undersecretary Jose Lorena in South Cotabato on Friday.

“We (MNLF) are ready to meet the government on the issue on the petition on the note verbale the government had sent to the OIC asking the termination of the talks,” Cerveza said.

Malacanang, however, reminded Cerveza that it is the OOIC which will decide who will attend the meeting and not the MNLF.

“It has always been the OIC Peace Committee on Southern Philippines that has determined who represents the MNLF in tripartite meetings. We will continue to abide by that protocol,” Deles said.

“What we know is that the new chairman, Egypt, has been meeting with representatives from different MNLF factions. And the MNLF knows Misuari is a fugitive,” Deles added.

Misuari is wanted for rebellion charges following the bloody three-week siege in Zamboanga City. Deles said with the standing arrest warrant, Misuari cannot leave the country.

Misuari has remained at large since the Zamboanga siege, and the military apparently has no information on his whereabouts.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade and chief of Task Force Sulu, admitted that they receive information on Misuari’s location from time to time, but could not confirm if the reports were true.

Cenabre said some reports said that Misuari is still in Sulu, while another report said that the former MNLF chairman had already fled to Indonesia.

He, however, said the military is continuing its efforts to locate Misuari.

Sources said, however, said that Misuari had sought refuge in an island northeast of Indonesia, after he failed to attend the OIC conference in Guinea, Africa in November 12 last year and the 18th Inter-parliamentary meeting in Tehera, Iran held January 18.

According to the same source, Misuari left early for the African conference but proceeded first to Saudi Arabia before finally proceeding to Africa, but was not seen during the conference.

Cerveza, however, said Misuari had briefly returned to the country after his failed trip to Africa, because he was able to talk to the MNLF chairman.

Meanwhile, Cerveza said that after the tripartite review talks are formally closed, the MNLF will submit its comment, after which the OIC will report to the principal (head of the OIC) what transpired at the last meeting.”

Cerveza said the government’s abrogation of the tripartite talks which had prompted Misuari to declare independence for Mindanao which eventually resulted in the bloody siege in Zamboanga City. With Joyce Pangco Pañares


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