It will take some time, but Zamboanga City will rebuild from Nur Misuari’s reckless, mortal temper tantrum. It has become clear, however, some two weeks after his faction of the Moro National Liberation Front all but declared war on the city, that one of the most important questions to ask is financial: Who funded
Misuari’s indulgent spree of violence?
Columnist Solita Monsod raised the question last Saturday: “In all the discussions, analyses and reports on the Zamboanga crisis that I have read or watched, I have yet to hear the following question asked or issue raised: Who financed this Misuari-organized caper that has led to such tragic consequences?”
On the same day that column was written, President Aquino was raising a somewhat similar question. “They don’t seem to run out of [ammunition]. He has asked [military] officials to look into that,” the President’s second spokesperson, Abigail Valte, told reporters.
As far as food and water and other such supplies are concerned, it seems that Misuari has banked on standard guerrilla practice: His MNLF faction sought to control population, rather than geography, and depended on the civilians under its control to provide the necessities.
There are many stories of Misuari loyalists sourcing provisions from residents in the barangays they occupied or controlled, even of hostages forced to cook for them and other residents held captive.
In terms of arms and ammunition, however, the renegade MNLF faction commanded by trusted Misuari lieutenant Habier Malik seems very well prepared. It launched its adventurist incursion into Zamboanga City with more than adequate materiel. Two weeks in, the loyalists who have not surrendered continue to trade fire with pursuing government soldiers.
The soldiers who face the Misuari loyalists on the frontlines don’t need to carry too much ammunition; Zamboanga City is host to one of the military’s main bases, and supplies are almost literally just around the corner.
But wouldn’t the fully armed Misuari loyalist already have used up all his supplies by now?
According to the testimony of former hostages, however, the loyalists prepositioned ammunition and even critical supplies like medicine before they marched into Zamboanga. Maricel Teves, who was wounded while in captivity, recounted what she had heard: “They said they planned this a long time ago and that their firearms were already in these areas.” Junior Morte, a 60-year-old who escaped from the Misuari loyalists, said the renegades’ provisions were well-stocked. “They just go to the houses where they left their supplies.”
This kind of information will be highly useful in the rebellion case filed against the Misuari loyalists. But—to go back to the original question—how much does it cost to wage a rebellion?
Let us assume that there were a total of 300 Misuari loyalists who stole into Zamboanga on Sept. 9; let us assume further that each renegade began the plan to march into the city center armed with one M16 and a supply of 200 bullets each. At, say, P5 per bullet, it would then have cost Misuari and his leaders P300,000 to arm their troops at the outset—assuming that they had the weapons to begin with.
Not an impossible amount, although Misuari is not exactly rolling in cash. But if the rifles are new, the total cost would run into the millions. That makes the question even more interesting: Where did Misuari source the funds?
Malacañang has vowed to track the financiers down. Given President Aquino’s personal interest in the conflict (he has been based in Zamboanga City for the last several days), there is reason to believe that the Palace actually means what it says. Its report should make for revealing reading.