In his first interaction with media since the charges were filed against him, Misuari talked exclusively to Arab News in Davao City. He claimed the case was brought against him by people out to sabotage his participation in the Mindanao peace process.
Arrest warrants were issued by the Sandiganbayan (special appellate court) on Aug. 31 for Misuari and four others in two counts of graft and two counts of malversation for the allegedly anomalous purchase of educational materials when he was the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Misuari acquired bail on Tuesday for what he termed as “trumped-up cases aimed to discredit” him, stressing he was not involved in the alleged multimillion-peso fake education projects. He said the alleged purchase took place after he was forced to end his term in office — which ran from 1996 to 2001 — and escape to Sabah, the East Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. Misuari left the Philippines when he was accused of staging a rebellion against the government, and he claims there was an attempt to assassinate him at that time.
Misuari said that one of the providers of the purchased materials, to whom he referred as “Lolit,” told his lawyer, Bong Percasio, that the payment for the project was made when Farouk Hussein sat at the helm of the ARMM after Misuari left.
He stressed the need for further investigation into the case.
“The problem here is that some people play dirty. They know that it’s just a matter of time and we can probably conclude our talks with the government,” said Misuari, who was engaged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to participate in the ongoing peace process between the government and Muslim separatists.
Misuari said he was told “these wayward elements in our society, who are serving as puppets of the former Philippine colonial government (referring to the previous administration) and who also have links with Malaysia, spoke to some people in the Office of the President.”
He quoted these elements as saying: “Misuari has to be put in a legal quagmire so he cannot assume authority here,” and added, “Some of these people are still serving as tentacles of the former government of the Philippines.”
Amid these alleged attempts to remove him from the picture, Misuari still expressed an optimistic view of the peace process under the Duterte administration.
“With this president, probably, it is a different thing,” he said. “The president, being from Mindanao, I think he understands us much better than the previous ones. The other (administrations), they were just pulling our legs, conspiring with Malaysia.”
According to Misuari, he will complete half a century as a revolutionary on March 18 next year.
“I told the president that I do hope before the end of this half-century, we can consolidate the (peace) agreement. Otherwise we just have to continue. We cannot stop halfway through,” he stated.
At the outbreak of the Marawi siege, Misuari expressed the MNLF’s readiness to deal with the Daesh-backed Maute Group. Misuari offered to deploy MNLF fighters to help defeat the terrorist group, saying they saw the Marawi crisis as an opportunity for them to show their mettle in helping the government restore peace in Mindanao.
“I told the president... there’s no need to employ tanks, bombers, cannons, mortars. We will deal with it hand-to-hand...” Misuari said, adding that he wanted to prevent the destruction of Marawi’s infrastructure.
Asked what could happen in the event that the talks fall through, he replied: “Well, the logic of failure is war.”