By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACANANG ON Monday denied that President Rodrigo R. Duterte made any “arrangement” with the Sandiganbayan for the overseas trip of rebel leader Nur Misuari.
Mr. Duterte on Sunday said he “talked” to the court and other concerned authorities to allow the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader to leave the country.
“Now, Misuari came to me sa opisina ko (at my office) the other night because he wanted to go out, he was not allowed, tapos may kaso siya (there are cases filed against him). Kinausap ko ang police pati military pati ang korte na palabasin muna siya (I talked to the police, the military, and the court to allow him to leave). Ako ang nag-guarantee (I guaranteed) that he will come back,” Mr. Duterte said in his remarks at a campaign rally by the PDP-Laban in Zamboanga City last Sunday, March 3.
In a separate event in Isabela City the same day, Mr. Duterte said he personally phoned authorities to allow Mr. Misuari to leave.
“Tinawagan ko ‘yung mga (I phoned the) — well, of course, the authorities, at sinabi ko payagan mo na lang, hindi ‘yan sisibat (and I told them to let him go, he will not escape). Nur Misuari will never abandon his country and I’m sure that he would only prepare to die in this native land,” Mr. Duterte said.
But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo on Monday denied the President made such an arrangement with the Sandiganbayan.
It was on Feb. 25 when Messrs. Duterte and Misuari met at the Palace. The Sandiganbayan released a resolution the next day allowing the MNLF leader to leave the country for his overseas engagements.
Mr. Panelo said, “He did not arrange. Again, the courts will not allow themselves to be intimidated, coerced, commanded, or directed by any branch of this government.”
“Iyong to call the courts parang (was just like) to call the attention of the courts of his position on the matter so that it can be evaluated by the courts. Kasi (Because) if it means the survival of this country, then the President should do everything in his persuasive power to convince other branches na ito ang mas magandang lakad diyan (that this is the better approach). But still, ultimately, it’s the other branches that will decide for themselves,” the spokesman said.
He also said the President “will not interfere because that is not his style.”
Mr. Misuari is facing rebellion and crimes against humanity charges in connection with the 2013 Zamboanga siege. He also faces charges before the Sandiganbayan over the alleged ghost purchases of educational materials when he was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).