Manila To Send Jailed Rebel Chief To Exile In LibyaJanuary 22, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 22, 2008) – The Philippines may release a jailed former Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari and would send him to exile in Libya in exchange for his freedom.
Misuari, chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is facing rebellion charges after his followers tried, but failed to overrun a major military base in Sulu province where more than 100 people were killed and held over 100 civilians in Zamboanga City in 2001.
Sources close to Misuari said he may be freed this year on condition that he will go to exile in Libya, which had previously supported the MNLF struggle for independence in the Philippines.
“There is an ongoing negotiation for Misuari to leave the country for good, to go to exile in Libyaand never to return and all these in exchange for his freedom,” a source told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper. Aside from Misuari, one of his wives and dozens of loyal supporters are also facing similar charges, but are still at large.
It was unknown whether Tripoli was aware or part of the plan, but Seif al Islam, the son of the Libyan strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi and former Libyan ambassador to Manila Salem Adam were in Manila last year.
The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has also urged Manila to free Misuari. Six of Misuari’s followers who were also accused of rebellion had already been freed earlier this month.
“We reiterate our calls for the Arroyo government to free our brother Nur Misuari. He is a Muslim, a Bangsamoro brother and he should also be freed as others were pardoned and released from jail just like the six MNLF followers of brother Nur and the others like former President Joseph Estrada and other high-profile prisoners,” Eid Kabalu, an MILF spokesman, said in a separate interview.
Estrada who was convicted of plunder was granted absolute pardon last year by President Gloria Arroyo. Estrada was deposed in 2001 by Arroyo after a bloodless revolution.
“Brother Nur is used to that kind of life. He was in exile in Libya and in Malaysia during the Muslim secessionist war in Mindanao. It is nothing new,” Kabalu said.
Misuari was in self exile in Libya and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted and the Corazon Aquino government was installed in 1986.
Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.
The Muslim autonomous region was meant to implement the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between Manila and the MNLF. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.
Presently, the governor of the Muslims autonomous region, Zaldy Ampatuan is not a member of the MNLF and is said to be a violation of the peace agreement signed during President Fidel Ramos administration.
Many former guerrillas were disgruntled with the peace deal, saying, the Arroyo government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused Manila of failing to develop war-torn areas in the south.
Under the peace agreement, Manilawould have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.
And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.
Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines. He is now under house arrest in Manila. Misuari’s arrest in Malaysia, which also previously supported the MNLF bid for a separate homeland in Mindanao, was said to be in retaliation for his failure to secure the release of dozens of foreigners and Malaysian citizens kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group on two island resorts off Sabah in 2000 and brought to Sulu province.
But Misuari’s fall had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Other MNLF leaders said Misuari failed to bring developments to the Muslim autonomous region when he was governor.
Misuari also ran twice for governor in Sulu province even while under detention, but lost. He also supported Arroyo’s election bid and her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004 in exchange for promises that he would be pardoned and freed. (With a report from Juan Magtanggol)