Nat'l security adviser claims Nur Misuari supports Bangsamoro law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Wednesday claimed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari supports the creation of the new Bangsamoro region, despite rumors of dissatisfaction with his group's representation in the transition government.

In a media forum Wednesday, Esperon shrugged off reports of dissatisfaction among MNLF members due to their "limited representation" in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

With the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is abolished and replaced with Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), with the BTA to serve as the interim government.

"I'm saying that Nur Misuari is not against the new BARMM. That (federalism) can come later. In fact to me, the BARMM is one step towards federalism," Esperon told reporters.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday told CNN Philippines that although Misuari did not find the Bangsamoro law bad, he finds federalism better.

READ: Despite favoring federalism, Nur Misuari has 'no choice' but to support BOL - Panelo

Panelo said Misuari and President Rodrigo Duterte will meet again next month to discuss what Misuari can contribute to the new region.

New region to limit terrorist forces?

The security adviser said the government's partnership with Moro groups under a new region will help address terrorism in the South.

Esperon said the peace agreement between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), resulting in the Bangsamoro law, would help establish peace in the South.

"What is now in front of us is a new narrative of the secessionist movement where the MILF and MNLF are joining hands to rule over what we call the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao," Esperon said.

He added ISIS forces in the region have also dwindled.

"MNLF is with us. Misuari wants to work with us. Ang mga remnants na lang nito ay 'yung mga Abu Sayyaf. Marami nang nabawas," he said.

[Translation:The only remnants are some members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. It has significantly reduced.]

Esperon said the government will remain vigilant against terror threats.

"Whether they could rise again or not, that is for us to see. But remember that we are not fighting terrorism on our own. ... But we are not putting our guards down."

Aside from counter-terrorism efforts, the security adviser said the government should also focus on preventive measures, including improving state of education so that residents will reject terrorism.

CNN Philippines Correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report.