Misuari meets Duterte after court suspends trial, arrest order

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A local court suspends proceedings on rebellion charges against MNLF leader Nur Misuari in connection with the bloody Zamboanga siege in 2013. The reason, to give way for his participation in the ongoing peace talks.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari is a fugitive no more — at least for the next six months.

This, after the Pasig Regional Trial Court suspended proceedings on rebellion charges  against Misuari in connection with the bloody Zamboanga siege in 2013.

The court also ordered the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Bureau of Investigation to forego serving Misuari's arrest warrant for six months, or until April 27, 2017, or unless sooner lifted by the court.

"It appears that suspension of proceedings in the instant cases insofar as Misuari is concerned, is needed to allow the much desired peace talks to resume," according to the resolution signed on October 27 by Judge Maria Rowena San Pedro of Branch 158.

"This would naturally mean that criminal prosecution of Misuari, would, in the meantime, be put on hold," the court said.

The resolution was released to reporters on Thursday.

The court's decision is in response to Misuari's motion to suspend proceedings and enforcement of arrest warrants against him, which he filed on October 14.

The Philippine government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Department of Justice, supported the motion. The court heard the motion on October 17 and 25.

Meeting with the President

Later in the day, President Rodrigo Duterte met with Misuari in Malacañang, after Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza fetched the Moro leader from Jolo, Sulu.

Duterte had previously said he wanted to talk with Misuari about the peace process.

The MNLF signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996 but its members have held on to their weapons.

Misuari is facing charges for the 2013 Zamboanga siege wherein MNLF rebels attacked government forces and took about 300 hostages. The military said more than 200 people were killed during the fighting which lasted for almost a month.

His temporary freedom, however, comes with a number of conditions to ensure his prosecution later on:

Misuari, OPAPP and DOJ must seek authorization from the court if peace talks will be held outside the Philippines

Misuari should appear before the Philippine embassy in the country where peace talks are held

Misuari, OPAPP, and DOJ, must file monthly reports on the progress of peace talks and Misuari's whereabouts during the six-month suspension

The OPAPP should immediately inform the DOJ as soon as peace talks are terminated, and the DOJ shall file a motion to lift the court's suspension of proceedings

Zamboanga City Mayor reacts

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco — who was also the city's mayor during the 2013 siege — told CNN Philippines Network News that her city still "strongly" supports the President's initiative fore peace. However, she pointed out that the suspension of the proceedings "does not mean the accountability of those responsible will be forgotten."

Climaco added that the city government will continue to pursue its "cases in court against all those responsible MNLF members during the siege."