(As of this posting at 4:21 p.m. Thursday, Misuari is at Malacañang, giving a public statement about his meeting with President Duterte.)
Randolph Parcasio, one of Misuari’s lawyers, confirmed on Thursday that Misuari was already in Manila, having left Sulu around 11:30 a.m. on a private jet with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza.
He said Misuari was accompanied by MNLF vice chair Abdulkarim Misuari and two close-in aides.
“Misuari already arrived in Manila and is set to meet with President Duterte. That is the plan,” Parcasio said.
He said Duterte and Misuari would “discuss crucial points in the peace process and the issue of kidnappings in the island provinces of ARMM.”
“It is of course about the implementation of the peace agreement and how to go about it. They will also talk about an enabling law for an autonomous region and how it will relate to the overall plan of the government for federalism,” Parcasio said.
“They are also expected to talk about the issue of kidnappings and how to solve it,” Parcasio said.
The MNLF has been instrumental in the latest releases of captives of the Abu Sayyaf.
Parcasio also said that the public and the security sector should not worry about the suspension of the arrest warrant against Misuari.
He said his meeting with Duterte should be viewed from the perspective of gaining peace and healing the wounds of the past.
“I believe the President is doing a lot to achieve peace in the country,” Parcasio said.
MNLF legal consultant Emmanuel Fontanilla said the suspension of the warrant and Misuari’s meeting with Duterte could be considered a big leap in the efforts to unite the people of Mindanao.
“It was unfortunate that the MNLF was neglected during the time of PNoy (former President Benigno Aquino III). Maybe the Bangsamoro people this time will unite under the Duterte administration,” Fontanilla said.
Earlier, the Pasig regional trial court granted a petition to put on hold the enforcement of Misuari’s warrant of arrest.
Parcasio said they officially received the resolution of the Regional Trial Court Branch 158 on Thursday, which suspended the proceedings and the enforcement of the warrant of arrest against the Moro leader.
Misuari stands accused of multiple murder and crimes against humanity in connection with the September 2013 siege of the city by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gunmen. Over 100 people – including civilians – were killed in the three-week siege that also saw the displacement of over 120,000 individuals. Misuari chairs the larger MNLF faction that marched to Zamboanga City fully armed.
Parcasio told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they received the court order “just this morning but the resolution was issued last October 27.”
He said Misuari was immediately notified about the development.
“Chairman Misuari welcomed this development as soon as he was notified this morning. I believe (Peace) Secretary (Jesus) Dureza also informed him about this development,” Parcasio said.
When news first broke about the court order, Zamboanga City prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron, who has been handling the cases against Misuari, said he had no idea the warrant has been lifted or the proceedings against Misuari have been suspended.
But Dureza, in a short text message to the Inquirer earlier on Thursday, confirmed the order and said he was currently in a meeting with Misuari in Manila.
Parcasio said they filed a motion for the suspension of proceedings and the serving of the warrant against Misuari and the court granted the Moro leader a six-month respite.
He said Judge Maria Rowena Modesto San Pedro signed the resolution.
Parcasio said Misuari’s camp would file another petition before the expiration of San Pedro’s order.
He said Misuari also committed to support the Duterte administration in matters of peace talks and agreements.
“Misuari, with or without the said court’s resolution will continue to work for peace,” Parcasio said.
“He is free now to attend all the meetings and conferences because of this resolution,” Parcasio said.