KIDAPAWAN CITY—Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari has urged his followers to support the presidential candidacy of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
In a phone patch at a gathering here on Sunday, Misuari said Duterte had publicly declared his intention to pursue peace negotiations with the Moro groups in Mindanao.
Misuari issued the statement during a peace summit attended by MNLF leaders and at least 500 members.
The MNLF leader has been in hiding since his followers attacked Zamboanga City in 2013.
“Don’t be afraid, give all your support to our brother Rodrigo Duterte. He is the MNLF’s candidate,” Misuari said.
He said a Duterte presidency would also mean victory for the people of Mindanao—Muslims, Christians and indigenous people “ who have been longing for peace.
Datu Kautin Usman, MNLF chief of staff for Central Mindanao, said he was surprised by Misuari’s statement.
He said it was a first for the MNLF chair to endorse a presidential candidate.
The MNLF has not endorsed any candidate in the past but this time, it was chair Misuari who announced it, Usman said.
He said he would relay Misuari’s message to his followers.
Disappointment with BBL
And since it was announced by our chair, we will conduct consultations among our followers, Usman said.
Usman claimed the MNLF could deliver votes to any favored candidate.
Campaigning in Albay last week, Duterte had expressed disappointment over the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), likening the measure to a basketball that had been dribbled and passed to President Aquino’s successor to act on.
Duterte warned the delay in the passage of the BBL would only create serious problems that could heighten the violence in Mindanao.
Duterte, who is running for president under the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban), said the delay prompted him to talk to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Murad Ebrahim and try to persuade him to avoid drastic moves that would impact the peace process.
“I told them not to cock [their guns] or pull their triggers,” he said, warning the group’s leaders that this would create a serious problem that the government and MILF would not be able to control.
Duterte said any violent reaction would not be good, especially in the run-up to the national elections.
Whoever would be elected president, he said, would have to uphold the law.
“I told them, if by the grace of God I win, then I would…uphold the Constitution. Even if we are brothers or friends, then we would fight if you would not uphold the law,” he said.
Congress missed its deadline to pass the BBL before President Aquino ends his term on June 30.
‘I am not a thief’
In Butuan on Saturday, Duterte parried attacks on his womanizing and coarse language.
“At least, I am not a thief,” Duterte told participants of the Rotary Club district convention in Butuan.
“I am what I am, you have to understand me,” the mayor added.
Duterte reiterated his promise to rid the country of widespread corruption, pointing to his stint as one of only two tanodbayans in Mindanao during martial law.
The Tanodbayan, the Ombudsman now, was created to go after officials accused of crimes, particularly graft and corruption.
Prior to his appointment as officer-in-charge vice mayor of Davao City after the Edsa revolt, Duterte was a public prosecutor.
The mayor was apparently not bothered by allegations that he has the makings of a dictator.
“Diktador ako (Me a dictator)? Of course!” he thundered. “I will have to dictate the tempo of my governance.”
The mayor clarified that while he advocated a strong leadership, it won’t be undemocratic.
“I will never, never, never rule a country with so many zombies around,” he said.
Duterte reiterated that his presidential bid was hinged on the platform of fighting corruption and criminality and beginning the process of federalism.
“We have to talk…this is a nation-building problem,” he said, citing the failed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The Davao mayor earlier complained that the BBL was crafted without consulting the people of Mindanao. With Niña P. Calleja; and Mar S. Arguelles and Michael B. Jaucian, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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