MANILA - The Moro National Liberation Front denied Tuesday that it is forging a pact with the Abu Sayyaf Group during a meeting of its troops in Sulu last January 10.
In an interview on radio dzMM, MNLF spokesman Absalum Cerveza denied reports that they invited the Abu Sayyaf Group to their January 10 meeting to establish ties.
He said ASG fighters may have been present in the gathering because it coincided with a "kanduli" or fiesta. He noted that many ASG and MNLF members are related by blood.
"Ang mga kaanak, dumadalo. Kung saan man ang kanilang affiliation, that is not the issue. They are just there for their relatives," Cerveza said.
"It was an open convocation. Wala namang security na ini-install para hindi makapasok iyung mga hindi member ng MNLF. Everybody was welcome to come if they like to," he added.
The spokesman denied allegations that they are protecting the Abu Sayyaf and its alleged extortion and abduction acts.
"We have distanced ourselves from the Abu Sayyaf. We do not like to be attached of that shenanigan. Kung may ginagawa man sila, kanila iyun. We do not have control over them just like the military has no control over them," he said.
MISUARI MEETS TROOPS
In the interview, Cerveza confirmed that MNLF founding chairman, fugitive Nur Misuari, led a meeting in Sulu last week.
"It was a general consultation and parliamentary meeting para pag-usap-usapan ang mga hakbang na dapat gawin para mabigyan ng katarungan ang mga bagay-bagay na hindi inaasikaso ng gobyerno natin."
Over 2,000 MNLF from all over Mindanao reportedly converged in Sulu last week for the meeting that Misuari presided.
The MNLF reportedly discussed plans for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Jeddah on January 25 to 27, and the replacement of the late Ustadz Zain Jali by Alibashier Sidri as new chair of the Bangsamoro Parliament.
Cerveza added that the MNLF discussed its remaining options to peacefully pursue independence from the national government.
"If there is any possibility for a political solution e iyun ang tatahakin nating landas because we do not want violence. Gusto nating ma-achieve and independence pero through a peaceful and humane way," he said.
HARBORING A FUGITIVE
In the interview, Cerveza confirmed that Misuari faces several charges for the 2013 Zamboanga siege that left 200 people dead and displaced thousands of families.
"We do not like to deny that. Ang sabi ko nga sa kanya, huwag ka masyadong magladlad diyan at baka madisgrasya," he said when asked about Misuari's fugitive status.
He also said the arrest warrant for Misuari has yet to be served.
Misuari has not left Sulu, the spokesman said.
READ: Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought
Malacañang on Monday said government forces continue searching for Misuari. Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma insisted that the outstanding warrant of arrest against the MNLF leader is valid.