THE Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari admitted that some members of his group were part of the more than 200 armed men who occupied a coastal village in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia for more than two weeks.
In his meeting with Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte Saturday evening, Misuari denied any hand in the standoff between the Malaysian police and the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu led by Raja Muda Kiram, brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Misuari said the MNLF members who joined Kiram's group in Sabah did not get his permission. He said they joined Kiram's group not as MNLF members but in their personal capacity because they have relatives in the Royal Army.
"Maraming nakasama dung MNLF forces without my knowledge, I have acknowledged that. But I have nothing to do with their going there. I don't like to make trouble," Misuari said.
In denying his suspected role, Misuari told Duterte and the media that if he was behind the plot to take Sabah, he would have sent a sizeable force and not just 200 men.
"What can 200 armed men do against the forces of Malaysia. That is a big gamble on their (Sulu Sultanate) part. And that is not the trademark of Misuari na gumawa ng ganyang kalokohan. It's a sign of cowardice on my part to deny kung meron akong participation doon. Hindi pwedeng iiwan ko ang mga anak ko, my nephews. Marami akong nephews kasama doon na nadala lang ng sweet talks," he said.
Misuari called on the Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato' Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak not to persecute other Muslim Filipinos in Sabah since it would be unfair to their law-abiding Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters there.
"Kung sakali, in the aftermath of this crisis, they will persecute our civilians there, hindi ko na matolerate yan. That might drag as into a crisis situation and it might tantamount to a bigger problem. I don’t want that," he warned.
"I'd like to call on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib to desist from sending more forces there. I'll also try to talk to the Sultan of Sulu not to aggravate the situation. We must talk in a brotherly way. I can mediate between them," Misuari added.
In meeting Duterte, Misuari expressed alarm over information reaching him that the Philippine Government is planning to arrest him too for “instigating” the Sabah standoff that resulted in the death of two Malaysian police, a Sabah villager and 12 members of the Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate.
"They accuse me of instigating the Sabah (incident). I have been with my wife for almost one month in Africa, malayo kami dito. Papaano ako magfinance, saan ako kukuha ng pera? I do not know who is surrounding the President. Kawawa ang presidente na to, he does not know what he is talking about. We are becoming the laughing stock in the whole world with the way he presents himself before the eyes of the peoples of the world. Basta ano-ano na lang na accusation ang itatapon nila, baseless and unfounded accusations," Misuari ranted.
Duterte, meanwhile, assured Misuari that the government would have no legal basis in arresting Misuari in relation to the Sabah standoff.
"Kung si Nur Misuari ang behind dun magpadala ako ng 200 weapons lang? Di trademark ni Nur Misuari ang ganyan. I hope yang mga threat (of arrest) na yan ay hindi totoo. I don't like trouble with the government. I don't like trouble with Malaysia. I want peace," Misuari said, with Duterte concurring.
"They (Malacanang) might have a reason but ako wala akong nakikita eh. There is no evidence at all that he (Misuari) is one way or the other connected with the uprising there. He may be a distant relative of the ruling family, the sultanate of Sulu, but it does not mean to say that he is into it. Tama yung sabi nya na if I were to go to war, why would I do with a number of only about 200? Eh manggugulo ka na lang rin why not do it with the armada of forces of the MNLF. But he is not going to do that, I'm sure," Duterte said.
The vice mayor assured Misuari that if he needs someone to connect with Malacanang, he would gladly be the emissary.
"Nur can count on me. He is a friend and I support him because he means well for his country. Nur does not have a dimension about getting a kingdom and fighting for it, bloodshed and all," Duterte said.
"I'm just a listener and an observer in the meantime. Everybody desperately needs peace in our land. Whether we like it or not, what develops in Sabah would affect us. I hope that we can have the solution fastest," the vice mayor added.