Duterte to talk with MILF leaders next week

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RARE MEETING. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte meets with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim (to his left) and MNLF chairman Abul Khayr Alonto (to his right) in Hotel Elena, Davao City, in the evening of June 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of Duterte's office

President Rodrigo Duterte will meet leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front next week to follow through on the peace negotiations with the rebel group, the newly installed Chief Executive said on Friday.

In a speech before top officials and soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines , Duterte said he would also “eventually” meet with Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari, who’s facing criminal raps in connection with the Zamboanga Siege in 2013.

“Next week, we are to talk to the MI[LF] and eventually I think I’ll have to travel to Jolo to talk to Nur [Misuari]. I’m willing to give them safe conduct passes, only the leaders,” Duterte said during the turnover of command ceremonies in Camp Aguinaldo.

Duterte’s appointee Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya took over as chief of staff from acting chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.

“Baka matyambahan ko na magkaroon tayo ng mapayapa. And if that happens really, I can retire happy and I can look back and say that I did my duty in nation building,” Duterte said.

Dutere reiterated the need for peace in southern Philippines.

The Aquino administration struck a peace deal with the MILF in 2014 but failed to have the embodiment of the pact—the Bangsamoro Basic Law—pass Congress.

The BBL seeks the creation of a new autonomous region that will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the entity created after the government reached a peace deal with Misuari’s MNLF.

“It is not a war to be fought forever. We cannot fight forever. We might have the weapons, the armaments, and the bullets, mortars… My job is to bring peace but hand in hand I must also bring order in my country,” Duterte said.

The peace deal with the MILF suffered a setback in 2015 after the Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao in January.

Police commandos went into alleged MILF territory in Mamasapano to neutralize international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Abu Sayyaf Group leader Abdul Bassit Usman.

They neutralized Marwan but 44 commandos were killed when, during the troop pullout, the policemen encountered MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private groups.

Over 60 people died in the incident, including 44 Special Action Force commandos, 18 MILF members, five Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and three civilians.

The Mamasapano incident caused national outrage and affected the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

It also caused many lawmakers to withdraw support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that hoped to create an autonomous political entity in Mindanao. — VVP/NB, GMA News

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