ZAMBOANGA - The chairman of the Islamic Command Council of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to grant MNLF founder Nur Misuari amnesty over his involvement in the bloody Zamboanga siege in 2013.
Habib Mudjahab Hashim said there are precedents of rebels accused in a rebellion case who were granted amnesty.
He said Misuari was just fighting for the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the government of the Philippines. Misuari believed the accord was abrogated when the government inked a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Hashim said Misuari needs the amnesty so he can attend the ongoing tripartite meeting with the Organization of Islamic Conference and the government peace panel which has been discussing the three contentious issues of the 1996 accord between the government and the MNLF.
These are: referendum of the plebiscite, transition of government, and sharing of resources.
But because of conflicting views on these issues, the tripartite review has not yielded positive results.
Hashim said these issues will be further discussed in the continuous dialogue which will be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on November.
Misuari faces a rebellion case and violation of international humanitarian law after hundreds of his armed followers attacked some villages of Zamboanga City in September 2013, displacing thousands of families.
Since then, Misuari has reportedly been hiding in the mountainous camps of MNLF in Sulu province.
Hashim said two years after the Zamboanga siege, Misuari has no plans to surrender. There are no feelers either to negotiate for his surrender.
He said Misuari remains firm on his move to declare independence, claiming most parts of Mindanao as part of their territory.
He said they are also pushing for the creation of another autonomous government intended solely for the MNLF, citing the 1976 Tripoli Agreement as basis.
In the Tripoli Agreement, the government of the Philippines and the MNLF agreed to include 13 provinces in Mindanao in the autonomous regional government.
These include Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, the entire Zamboanga peninsula, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, and South Cotabato.
Hashim said provinces which are not included in the proposed Bangsamoro government should be reconsidered in their proposed creation of the new autonomous government for the MNLF.
The local government of Zamboanga has been opposing the plea bargain of some of the accused members of the MNLF Misuari faction, which would downgrade their possible sentence.
Hashim said he expects that the local government of Zamboanga and other sectors in the community will denounce their appeal of amnesty for Misuari.
But he said they also should respect Misuari's rights given that he is the founder of the MNLF.