02/08/2007, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Government and opposition vying for separatist Islamic leader’s candidacy

Nur Misuari, head of Mindanao’s Islamic guerrilla, has received a proposal to run for governor on President Arroyo’s ticket even though he is currently under house arrest for possible involvement in 113 murders.

Jolo (AsiaNews) –Mindanao Islamic rebel leader Nur Misuari is being wooed by the Philippines’ main political parties to run in the next May 14 elections despite being under house arrest accused by the government of involvement in the deaths of 113 people.

Mr Misuari confirmed that he has been approached as a potential candidate by both Mrs Arroyo's Kampi Party and opposition representatives, but said that he was “keen to run for governor [of Sulu] under the party of the administration.” Sulu Archipelago is an island chain south-west of Mindanao Island.

Misuari chairs the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), an organization that for years has fought for Mindanao independence. He has been under house arrest for many years but no court has yet pronounced a final sentence on his case.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said he could not comment on the administration's plans to field the detained rebel chief, but noted that since Misuari had not been convicted of any crime, “his political rights to vote and to be voted upon are not removed.”

But the government last year dangled the possibility of dropping charges against him. Misuari's lawyer, Yasser Lumbos, confirmed yesterday that late last year the regional trial court hearing the rebellion case had sent it back to the Department of Justice “for re-investigation.”

One of Misuari's aides, Ustadz Sharif Zain Jali, said should he run for office Mrs Arroyo would reap electoral dividends. He said the chairman's followers would campaign for other Kampi candidates in the region.

Ronaldo Puno, Department of Interior and Local Government secretary, said that “if Nur Misuari will run under Kampi, it will be based on issues of peace and development in Mindanao.”

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