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President Duterte meets Misuari in Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday welcomed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nur Misuari in Malacañang Palace in an occasion that carries great implications in the peace process.
The MNLF chair was in Malacañang upon the invitation of President Duterte just hours after receiving a copy of a court resolution suspending the warrant of arrest issued against him by a Pasig City court for his alleged involvement in the 2013 Zamboanga siege.
“It is with great happiness that I announce to the nation that Chairman Nur Misuari, our brother, who heads the MNLF, has finally decided to just accept my invitation for him to talk to us,” the President said in a short speech.
“He has obliged and we are very grateful,” Duterte said.
The President said that the arrest warrant against Misuari was suspended upon his orders so that the MNLF chair could join the peace negotiations between government and the Moro rebel groups.
“I would like to assure Brother Nur that there was never any intention on my part to deprive you of your liberty,” Duterte told his guest.
He reminisced how, when he was still vice mayor of Davao City, Misuari was accepted with open arms by Duterte and both of them having a vision that they may someday talk together about peace in Mindanao.
“Little did they know that by the grace of Allah, I became the President of the Republic. And in the twilight of our years, we would be able to talk about the problem of our country, the revolution that you have led all these years and finally understanding on a common ground with government,” President Duterte said.
In the meantime, Misuari began his response with the universal greeting of peace of the Islamic world because he said that “peace is a most vital humanitarian value to us.”
“I came here only to see the President. I came here only in answer to the invitation of the President, the man whom I respect and trust,” he said.
“For I believe, as I said during the campaign, ‘that is one single man who can provide solution to the problem of peace and order to our homeland of Mindanao’” Misuari said.
He said that he was grateful to President Duterte for restoring his freedom, albeit temporarily, and vowed to fully support the Administration’s pursuit of peace and its war against drugs.
“I am so happy to be free again owing to the initiative of the President. And now I came here. Foremost in my mind is: how can we help our President finish his job through till the end of his six-year term? Because I know for a fact that he will not abandon his pledge to the people,” Misuari said.
On the government’s war against illegal drugs, the MNLF chair said that he himself had personally seen the destructive effects of drug on the lives of young people in his hometown in Jolo.
“They are destroying our children, our youth. Who will succeed us after this when our citizens are already destroyed by these drugs? To us drugs is a restless, creeping threat to humanity. Drugs is one of the biggest source of crimes to humanity,” he pointed out as he reiterated his vow to cooperate fully with government.
“Allow me to reiterate my sense of gratitude to the President and I promise that should he need our cooperation in his campaign for peace, you can count on us Mr. President,” Misuari said.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.