President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Monday that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari committed wrongdoing during the bloody 2013 Zambonga siege but noted the peace process was more important at the moment.
"Misuari is just around although may mga kasalanan na yan [sa] Zamboanga siege but what can I do? There is something more solvable for the moment than just continue hating each other," Duterte said during a speech at Malacañang.
Misuari, 77, had been in hiding since his forces allegedly launched attacks on civilians in the southern city of Zamboanga in 2013, leading to a three-week battle against the military that claimed about 200 lives.
But on Thursday, the Moro leader traveled to Manila from his lair on the remote southern island of Jolo after a local court suspended a warrant for his arrest in connection with the 2013 siege.
He then met with Duterte in Malacañang. The administration cited Misuari's potential role in the peace process, thus their assistance in helping suspend his warrant.
"Nothing else would appease the Moro people," said Duterte.
Speaking on the President's podium, Misuari assured Duterte of his support for the peace process.
“I know for a fact, he will not abandon his pledge to the people. He said I will give you peace in Mindanao. Is that so, Mr. President? So I support him for that," he said.
The MNLF leader had accused former President Benigno Aquino III of setting aside a peace deal he forged with former President Fidel Ramos in 1996 in favor of the MILF.
The peace deal with the MILF, however, was placed in limbo after Congress failed to pass a law to implement it before Aquino's term ended last June 30.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL would have granted the country's Muslim minority wider powers in an expanded autonomous region.
Congressional debates on the BBL stalled after 44 police commandos died in an encounter with the MILF in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015. The troops had targeted Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir who was hiding in MILF areas.