Public Lives

Nur Misuari’s last scream


It’s an outrageous way of calling attention to one’s lingering presence. But that is what the arrival the other day in Zamboanga City of armed groups identified with Nur Misuari, the founding leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), amounts to. The plan to march in formation through the city’s streets and hoist the MNLF flag in front of city hall is the desperate scream of someone who refuses to be sidelined as a spectator to an unfolding process in which he once staked his whole life.

Outnumbered and cornered in one coastal village in the city, Misuari’s men are in no position to take over any territory outside of the tiny slice of land in Indanan, Sulu, where they have their base. If they don’t voluntarily give up and march out of Zamboanga City peacefully, they may have to be forcefully flushed out by soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The massacre and the burning that will likely result from an AFP assault are too grim to imagine. A violent end to this standoff will revive memories of past confrontations between past generations of Moro rebels and the Philippine government. It will activate impulses nurtured by historic resentments that successive governments in Manila have tried so many times to appease.

Watching the exhausted and ageing Misuari on TV last August, as he declared Bangsamoro independence for the nth time, transported me back to a late afternoon in early September 1972, just before Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.

Nur, an old friend, paid me and my wife, Karina, a surprise visit at the Faculty Center in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, where he himself had once been a faculty member. He resigned from UP when the Jabidah massacre on Corregidor Island in 1968 was exposed. That gruesome incident, in which 28 Moro recruits were murdered to erase all traces of a Marcos plan to invade Sabah, rekindled Moro anger over the cynical and exploitative treatment of Muslims by the country’s politicians.

This was the spark that led to the formation of the MNLF. Nur decided to work full time to harness that anger to a unified movement for Moro independence. It was a time of turmoil in Mindanao. Paramilitary groups linked to Christian politicians and logging firms roamed the island, engaging various armed Moro groups in brutal skirmishes. In this period of ferment and violence, Misuari became, to the Moro struggle, what Yasser Arafat was to the Palestinian cause—a unifying figure and a credible voice in the international Islamic community.

He had come to Manila that day to check with old friends, how they were preparing themselves for what he saw as the impending declaration of martial law. He wanted to know, in particular, if we thought the New People’s Army was in any position to mount a counteroffensive against a looming Marcos dictatorship. I suspect he was in the middle of deciding whether to join forces with the CPP-NPA, with whose leadership he had had personal links, or to go it alone and focus on Mindanao.

As it turned out, the MNLF distanced itself from the Maoist-led revolution which, at best, only had an ambiguous position on the goal of a separate Moro state in Mindanao. But Nur’s dream remained an essentially secular quest.  Though he was aware that Islam formed a big part of the Moro identity and he was himself a Muslim, he was not an Islamist.

I always thought, for this reason, that if there was anyone who could lead the Moro people to independence and ease their transition toward modernity, that person had to be Nur. Marcos could not ignore the stature that he had gained among Islamic countries throughout the 1970s, when the Philippines urgently needed Arab oil and employment for its first batch of OFWs. And so, in December 1976, with the mediation of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, the Philippine government signed the Tripoli Agreement with Misuari, which pledged autonomy for 13 provinces and nine cities in Mindanao. A general ceasefire quickly followed.

But carrying out the agreement was another matter. In March 1977, Marcos issued Proclamation 1628 declaring an autonomous region in Mindanao, but he made its scope subject to the results of a plebiscite. Ten of the provinces chose autonomy. Marcos outwitted Misuari by splitting those 10 provinces into two—regions 9 and 12. In December that same year, the quiet Hashim Salamat, hitherto a loyal deputy to Misuari, declared his takeover of the MNLF leadership. The Islamic countries echoed this split. Egypt supported Salamat, while Libya stayed with Misuari. In 1984, Salamat’s group renamed itself the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

When Marcos was toppled in February 1986, the MILF, which had by then gained stature as the authentic voice of the Bangsamoro, signaled its readiness to talk peace with the government of Cory Aquino.  The MNLF agreed to join the MILF in this initiative. But in September 1986, Misuari seized upon Cory’s visit to his camp in Sulu to project the MNLF as the sole negotiating party in the talks with the new government. This had the effect of excluding the MILF.

On Sept. 2, 1996, Cory’s successor, Fidel V. Ramos signed the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF. As expected, the MILF did not take part in this agreement and in the elections that followed. Misuari became the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, even as the MILF renewed its call for independence. For a host of reasons, Misuari failed to make this experiment work. Still, no one can deny him the vital role he has played in the Bangsamoro’s historic quest for self-determination. It is time for him to let other Moro leaders pick up the thread of freedom and honor that belongs to his people.

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  • Navarro

    The points to consider:
    1. Zamboanga City is not part of ARMM
    2. The armed components of the state (police and military) will react to the presence of armed people, it is their mandate.
    3. There is no historical justification for hostage taking. Period.
    4. Misuari and his people has still to account for the billions of pesos they stole from government when they held power as the ARMM government. Nauna sila kay Napoles na kumita ng billions. Itinuloy lang ng mga Ampatuan.
    5. Wrong timing. The actions of Misuari is being perceived as a distraction to the pork barrel scandal.

    I have a stinking suspicion that the MNLF leaders are no longer in the area. They have disappeared into the civilian population. Their arms deposited with their relatives. They may be back in Sulu and this was the reason for the Lamitan attack – to ensure their safe landing. Mga privates na lang natira dun – cannon fodder kumbaga.

  • simondj


  • AlexanderAmproz

    Nobody ask me,
    but I noticed when rooming around,
    Mindanao was run by Gangster’s, mostly self service Politicians or at the service of few Manila Chinese billionaires, land grabbers specialists.
    When Ampatuan’s scandal surfaced, nothing surprising, he is only one among others, maybe the craziest and best Malacagnan connected.

    I do believe the Mindanao “connoisseur” or King’s its Cojuengco and Consunji.
    It’s a big land “owners” thievery and mining Problem with a US geo-strategic sauce, terrorism destabilization activities. Maybe there is Oil in the Sulu.
    Who are the agriculture and mining beneficiaries ?
    Who are the beneficiaries of theses dirty politics ?

    The population, Christians, Muslims and Natives are victimized and taken in hostage, Natives are hunt and killed like rabbits on purpose to steal their ancestor domain lands, when none logging, it is for mining.

    I keep excellent memories of the few trips done over-there, Muslims and Christians where charming, careful host, surprisingly open minded with free talk. I went around few Tawi-Tawi Islands, Cotabato Mountains and in Sultan Kudarat track’s and shore lines, private armies where a real and frightening danger as operating an incognito ethnic cleansing(genocide).

    The Napolese case is showing openly how criminal the country colonial Leaders are, but the game masters is the US and the Oligarchy

    • rom

      If you can dig deeper, when there was a bomb in one hotel in Davao, the culprit was an American and immediately they claimed that he is a treasure hunter. After sometimes an insider report in US said that he is a CIA agent, and the report said that they keep the terrorism issue alive in South East Asia though bombing. They do it with all the media script.

      We must wonder why the Balikatan is in that area for a long time now. If only our investigative journalists can research from the locals what the Americans are doing there, they will find clues if not the real answer.

      • AlexanderAmproz

        The hotel blasted by regular customers, two US agents. While cooking bomb’s, a mistake occur with the detonators(nitroglycerine) The US army raid Davao Hospital to ex-filtered their agents. It was print in a full left page in the Inquirer, fews days later Malacanan asking the two agents deportation to be court in Davao.
        Duterte was vert angry at the US Ambassador, The article tittle was “Yank’s aren’t our Allies but our Enemies”
        Few days before a bomb blast in the Zamboanga Market,
        mostly Children’s where victims, then it was Davao Airport.

        All of theses where done to make Bali Bombing an anti Muslim’s credible propaganda, to push for the Australian involvement in the coalition against terror to attack Iraq, for not existing mass destruction weapons, disgusting !

        The Mindanao destabilization is done by the US, AFP,
        Private Armies, Politicians, landlords, mining, logging,
        no doubt at all about it !

        NB: The Swiss secret services Chief said at the TV News Time:
        “Al Qaida is a name given by the US to a non existent Osama Ben Laden Network”

      • rom

        “The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the TV watcher to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US . . .”Pierre-Henri Bunel (born 1952) Former French artillery and intelligence officer

        “Israel Did 9-11″ – U.S. Military Expert Supports Bollyn Thesis April 3, 2010

        “What we need to stand up and say is that not only did they attack the USS Liberty, they did 9/11. They did it. I have had long conversations over the past two weeks with contacts at the Army War College, at the Headquarters Marine Corps, and I have made it absolutely clear in both cases that it is 100 percent certain that 9/11 was a Mossad operation. Period . . .

        “And the Zionists are playing this as truly an all-or-nothing exercise, because if they lose this one, if the American people ever realize what happened, they’re done.”

    • rom

      There was one letter of an American in a print media which I cannot remember which now, saying that the problem of terrorism and bombing in Mindanao is a US design.

  • virgoyap

    Just recently, Misuari is washing hands. He denied being involved on the said intrusion by the MNLF in Zamboanga City. Is he afraid of being arrested?

    • AIMD1876

      Oh really? Did you hear Misuari Himself said it?
      or it was like “Mayor this and that said Misauri said…”

      It’s a third person talking. how can you be so sure that it is not made up?

  • The_Squiller

    This incident should serve as a potent argument for the deliverance of our armed forces from the Dark Ages. If equipped with the latest weaponry and gadgetry, tracking devices, air strength, skilled and highly-trained and professional mobile units, our men and women in uniform can confidently and easily eradicate and eliminate all threats to our sovereignty even if their numbers are not as huge as those of the superpowers.

    This latest tantrum of Nur and his men (if you can call them as such when taking human shields is their plan B if their battle suddenly turns awry) would’ve been easily squelched had our military’s capability been top notch.

    Tsk, tsk, tsk, all this mess and loss of lives all because a geriatric ideologue “ay hindi na napapansin.” One of Nur’s commanders even looked like a haggard pan handler who’s taken one too many swigs of gin when interviewed on TV.

    The MNLF should change their acronym to MTFF, “Meet The Fockers Faction.”

  • SayAsIs

    Islam is divisive

    • AIMD1876

      No. Islam is DECISIVE.

      When it says, go, the Muslims go. No more hesitations cause they know they are holding the truth.

      • SayAsIs

        We know the fanaticism that Islam breeds in its adherents which keeps them perpetually backward like barbarians and stifling any scientific thought or social progress and always blaming people of other faiths and atheists for their backwardness.

        So much for holding the “truth”.

        No wonder folks like you are so disillusioned, lol!

  • kapitanvic1

    Misuari must go to give peace a chance.

  • kingfisher

    Killing Misuari and wiping out MNLF, Abu Sayap & MILF including other armed muslim thugs is only a band-aid solution but not solving the root cause of the problem. After months of annihilation by government military their will always be more of muslim Misuaris, MNLFs, Sayaps that will resurrect to continue their terror for islamist cause kidnapping, raping and killing thousands of filipino christian women and children.

    Aquino should learn the hard lessons from the conflicts between East Timor and Indonesia, Palestine and Israel that have killed and wasted millions of lives. When East Timores were granted independence, the killings of Indonesian citizens including the christians stopped while Palestinians and Israelis continued. Unless the moros will be given a country of their own, rebellion will continue with no end in sight. Once they are isolated from all christians any aggression by them will be easier to dealt with in full force as we already know who our enemies are. At present we can not identify them because moros are living with christians purposely to use them as human shields to their advantage in the event of conflict. Giving them a land to call it their own as small as Sulu and Tawi-tawi island is too small a price for ending centuries old rebellion that have wasted millions of lives.

    Aquino must not adhere to the no-brainer solutions adopted by previous dumb presidents Arroyo, Ramos and Estrada where they all have failed miserably in ending the centuries old conflict.

    • AIMD1876

      check before you speak.
      Do you know how many innocent Muslims are being killed, raped and terorized by your soldiers in Mindanao? Go to Mindanao, in the far flung areas, your soldiers are the ones who are hungry for violence. These people you are calling “terrorists” are those remaining people who still have the dignity to fight for their Human Rights being stepped upon by your power-hungry soldiers and political leaders!

  • wanadelacruz

    sacrificing the lives of both muslim and non-muslim filipinos for the cause of the power-hungry few? not to mention our very own soldiers. sick and tired of negotiations with the likes of nur misuari, mnlf at iba pang rebel groups dyan. hindi naman for the good of the filipino muslims yan eh. para lang sa pansarili nyo yan.

  • talagalangha

    I can appreciate Misuari and the MNLF’s fight for their principles and goals. It did not have to end in a declaration of independence, had this yellow administration handled the peace agreement better…

    I follow the exchanges between the govt panel and the MNLF spokesperson, and Atty Fontanilla makes a better case, always…kaya napiikon makipag-usap palagi si Roxas at si Deles…

    They had to have “sovereign” status, kaya sila nagdeclare ng independence, so they (as a sovereign state) can elevate their Sabah claim to world bodies…and if they succeed, talo na naman ang bansang Pilipinas…nakinig kasi sa dilaw na presidente…

    Uuuy, Pnoy always looks sooo pretty with his ever-present yellow ribbon…sissy boy!

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