SULU, Philippines – Despite a standing invitation from President Rodrigo Duterte, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari was unable to meet with the Chief Executive who flew to Jolo town on Friday, August 12.
Duterte now hopes their meeting would happen by next year or after the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) complete discussions on the implementation of the peace agreement.
"I will meet Misuari for sure because after the peace panels talk, it goes up to us, we will be the ones to talk. Hopefully, next year," he said in English and Filipino during an ambush interview, when asked when he was likely to meet with Misuari.
Duterte said his meeting with Misuari will help speed up the peace process in the troubled island.
"When I shall have met Misuari, I think there's a better chance," he said.
On Thursday, Duterte said he would not want Misuari to be detained once the MNLF founder surfaces in public. Misuari has been charged with inciting rebellion and crimes against humanity for his key role in the 2013 Zamboanga siege.
When it was clear that he had won the presidency days after the May 9 elections, Duterte said that he would fly to Jolo to meet with Misuari to ensure the success of the peace process.
'Destroy' Abu Sayyaf
Before the interview, Duterte spoke to over 500 soldiers of Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu, the latest in his series of military camp visits.
Sulu is the stomping ground of the Abu Sayyaf group and several foreign hostages are still being held here, including the remaining hostage from the group abducted in Samal Island, Davao del Norte, in September 2015, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.
As such, the soldiers of the military's 11 battalions here are on the frontlines of the country's campaign against terrorism.
Duterte instructed the men to "destroy" the Abu Sayyaf.
"Those who want to destroy us, you destroy. Not just fight but destroy," he said.
Like in his previous camp visits, he declared his 100% support for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"All that you need, I will provide," he said.
Duterte, the first Mindanaon president, emphasized his "commitment to the Moro people" to end the violence and strife in Mindanao. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.