MNLF official dismayed, claims of Duterte camp snub

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2016 12:57 PM

MANILA - Presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to assume office, but his camp appears to have already offended a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), one of the largest secessionist groups in the country.

MNLF spokesperson Rev. Absalom Cerveza said Thursday that he went to Davao City on Monday to talk with Duterte, but Duterte's aides failed to entertain his request for a meeting.

"Okay lang naman sana kung sabihin nilang, 'Matagal-tagal pa, maghintay kayo muna' or maybe 'Next day na kayo bumalik.' Hindi naman tayo masyadong delikado diyan, ano. Pero to be ignored is a great insult," he said.

Cerveza explained he was supposed to congratulate Duterte on winning the elections and hear the plans of the next President for Mindanao, in behalf of the MNLF leadership.

But at 83, Cerveza stressed he could no longer join the long line of well-wishers waiting for their turn to meet Duterte at the Matina Enclaves Residences.

"Mahirap para sa akin ang pumunta doon. Mainit masyado ang araw and I might collapse," he said.

Cerveza said he tried to contact Duterte's executive secretary, Bong Go, to ask for a meeting with the incoming president but the aide made "no answer at all" to his numerous calls and text messages.

Cerveza also made calls to Duterte's long-time friend Jesus Dureza, who also failed to grant his request.

"Dada siya nang dada sa akin, wala namang nangyari," Cerveza lamented.

Another MNLF official also reached out to Duterte's camp but he too was ignored, according to Cerveza.

The MNLF spokesperson said he was "dismayed" with the way their party was received and left Davao without meeting with Duterte.

"Sabi ko, kung ayaw nilang kausapin tayo for three or five minutes man lang ang hinihingi ko eh di uwi na ako," the MNLF spokesperson said.

Cerveza said the MNLF understands that the executive team of Duterte may have been busy, but he pointed out that they were able to entertain officials from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

READ: MILF top official calls on Duterte

He said MNLF should be given the same courtesy since they endorsed Duterte during the campaign period.

But considering the treatment they received, Cerveza said Duterte's camp may have brushed off the support they have given him.

"We thought that pwede naman tayo, magkaibigan tayo... Sabi ko, siguro our support was not strong enough to merit the courtesy that we have been asking from them," he said.

"E sa akin, kaunting courtesy naman, mano bang sabihin sa akin na, 'Reverend, wag muna kayo kasi we want you to have quality time [with Duterte] or something.' Pero wala e, totally ignored, totally silent. Ako, napupundi because hindi naman ganyan si Rody (Duterte's nickname)."

MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari earlier expressed support for the presidential candidacy of Duterte, believing that the latter would honor the 1996 peace agreement the MNLF inked with the Philippine government.

The MNLF also agrees with Duterte's proposal to change the system of government to federalism.

Cerveza said MNLF leaders are still open to have talks with Duterte, but they would no longer initiate meetings with the incoming President.

"Nag-usap kami ni Chairman, sabi niya sa akin, 'Huwag na tayo, hintayin na lang natin. Kung gusto nila sa atin e di punta tayo. Kung ayaw nila, we will not take the initiative,'" he said.

Cerveza added that he personally wanted to hear the policy statements of Duterte so they would know his stand on a possible peace negotiation.

"Gusto ko kasi I will have the policy statement of the President-elect para alam din natin kung saan tayo papasok, hindi tayo babara-bara," he said. "Kung alam na natin kung anong gusto niyang mangyari, eh di we will know how to prepare and get down with him to talk substantially."

ABS-CBN News has reached out to the Duterte camp but have yet to receive feedback as of posting.