The latest reports from Zamboanga City indicate that its all over.
Nurullaji Misuari, a.k.a. Nur Misuari, a.k.a. “Hadji Maas,” and the Moro National Liberation Front that he co-founded 40 years ago have come full circle, three months and one week to the day he ordered the young ideologues of the then still-unnamed movement he had organized in Sulu to attack the town of Jolo.
This pathetic denouement is how what the Bangsa Sug believed would be the one great leap by which they could regain the kamahardikaan (freedom) which was unlawfully and forcibly taken from them, first by the American colonial government, by authority of a spurious victory they claimed over the Filipino revolutionaries, and then by an anomalous Philippine Commonwealth government to which American authority was handed over through the most obscene sleight of hand performed in violation of international law.
The sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao and the pangampong and datu principalities of the noble Maranao were never defeated and subjugated by the Spanish conquistadores nor by the American occupation forces. They never surrendered.
But the assortment of immigrants from different European countries, escaping from religious suppression, severe economic disparities and sociopolitical discrimination, at the time still struggling for nationhood after emerging from the brutal internecine war between the aristocratic, intellectual (and food-producing) South and the working men’s North (which had almost nothing except its smelters), heard voices from heaven saying that instead of the divine rights of kings that they had rejected, they should now pursue their manifest destiny to transform the savages of the world into their own image. Which is why until now they have not returned the bells of Balangiga after turning Samar into a “howling wilderness.” And yet those bells were cast by European smelters.
And so because Misuari organized his movement with teach-ins taken directly from the Little Red Book of the peasant Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, his ideology was formed from the very convenient anti-American, anti-colonial, and anti-Jeffersonian democracy cause of what were then called “leftists.”
Although Misuari had been earlier expelled by UP professor Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison from the Kabataang Makabayan, youth auxiliary of the Communist Party of the Philippines where he had been designated vice chair for Mindanao, he found another and more powerful sponsor with the same objective: to bring down the government of then President Ferdinand Marcos and stop him from seeking another presidential term in the elections of 1971.
The strategy was to make the Left straddle the Philippine archipelago—with the New People’s Army in Luzon and the Visayas, and the Moro rebel movement in Mindanao and Southern island provinces which, because they were predominantly Muslim, were expected to resist an atheistic communist ideology.
Misuari, an intellectually outstanding Moro who graduated with a political science degree from the University of the Philippines, and hailing from a fishing village on a small island in the South, himself struggling to be free from the huge chip on his shoulder, the social discrimination and oppression of his tribe by the arrogant Tau Sug, was the perfect person to lead the southern Left.
Upon the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, Marcos immediately ordered the arrest and, later, the execution by firing squad of Benigno Aquino Jr., Joma Sison and Misuari.
With the help of sympathizers, Misuari and his first group of recruits were able to escape to nearby Sabah, Malaysia. At the time, Malaysia had strained relations with the Philippines over the latter’s claim to Sabah (also called North Borneo), which had been illegally included in the federation called Malaysia by Kuala Lumpur in connivance with the United Kingdom.
And so the first 90 recruits, called “Batch 90,” were welcomed by the Malaysian government and were given not only refuge; more importantly, they were trained in guerrilla warfare in the jungles of Sabah and provided with war materiel including explosives, with the objective of attacking Philippine military forces in Mindanao and the South.
On Feb. 4, 1974, Misuari, although out of the country, ordered the recruits of his rebel movement, then known as “Maoists” to attack the town of Jolo.
In what was to be known as the Mindanao Conflict of the 1970s, over 150,000 civilians were killed, not counting the thousands more of undocumented deaths in the hinterlands. The Tau Sug of Sulu were ruthlessly looted by the military of their wealth and their cultural heritage. The residents of the province, and especially those of the commercial center of Jolo, the Chinese businessmen and capitalists, were driven into poverty.
To this day, the once beautiful town of Jolo has not really recovered from the trauma or risen from the ashes left on the trail of that conflict, as almost its entire population fled and never returned.
Only in the past two or three years, with the combined efforts of Gov. Abdusakur Tan and Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin, is progress slowly but surely coming to the province.
The billions in seed money and foreign endowments awarded to the government of Misuari who was elected without opposition through the graces of then President Corazon Aquino upon the advice of Misuari’s friend Norberto Gonzales, vanished into thin air just like Misuari’s dream of self-determination for his Bangsa Moro nation.
May God grant that Zamboanga City be spared from what befell the South as a consequence of that deceptive insatiable greed for power by a self-anointed, false messiah.
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