Nur Ends Seclusion, Calls GMA Govt the Worst Betrayer

Sep. 05, 2006

September 3, 2001

ZAMBOANGA CITY A bitter and indignant Nur Misuari finally ended three weeks of silence and a self-imposed seclusion in his hometown in Jolo by accusing the government of betraying the 1996 Final Peace Agreement signed exactly five years ago yesterday.

He also accused a Cabinet member, Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns Norberto Gonzales, of manipulating President Arroyo who, according to Misuari, was not properly informed of the situation in Muslim Mindanao.

In his first media interview since Arroyo fired him as chairman of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development and since a faction of anti-Misuari MNLF officials signed a “unity” agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) less than a month ago, Misuari also revealed that he and House Speaker Jose de Venecia will meet in the next few days in Thailand to discuss how to salvage the damaged relationship between him and the Arroyo administration.

Misuari said the meeting in Bangkok is a last-ditch attempt by the government to save the situation. The meeting, in fact, is the only bright spot so far in the soured relationship between Malacanang and Misuari. De Venecia was a key participant in the 1996 Peace Agreement signed by the MNLF and the government five years ago in Jakarta.

We are standing on square one, except for this last-ditch attempt perhaps to save the situation. Im sure the invitation was not meant to discuss the weather in Bangkok. Im sure he (de Venecia) will have something up his sleeve, Misuari told this writer in an interview in his ARMM office in this city Friday evening.

Misuari said the agenda is not yet clear but because he is a good friend, I intend to see him in Bangkok. When asked whether de Venecia was sent to mollify him, Misuari tartly replied: I am not a kid in order to be treated that way.

It is not clear whether the Bangkok meeting was initiated by Malacanang or even has Arroyos approval. Misuari said he was told that after the meeting, de Venecia would visit President Arroyo to brief her about it. For his part, Misuari said he would bring to the MNLF Central Committee whatever will come out of the meeting. De Venecia could not be reached for comment.

The Bangkok meeting came in the wake of the governments sidelining of Misuari by initiating a plot against him that subsequently resulted in the decision by the so-called Council of 15 to retire the Moro leader as chairman of the MNLF and make him chairman emeritus. The council is composed of members of the MNLF central committee who said they have grown disillusioned with Misuari.

Parouk Hussin, one of the council members, has said that Misuari had to be sidelined because he was a hindrance to the development of Muslim Mindanao. It was a choice between the well-being of our people as against one man. We want to move forward. With Misuari, we are not moving an inch. He’s given enough time. Five years is more than enough time. But what has Misuari done? he told this writer last month.

Hussin and company also accused Misuari of being dictatorial. He doesnt like this endeavor because he is greedy. He knows that this would dissipate his authority, he said.

Sources said, however, that the prime mover of this plot is Gonzales, who, ironically, had been close to Misuari, having spent considerable time in exile in Sabah with the MNLF during the Marcos dictatatorship. Gonzales, for instance, paid for the airfare of council members during a meeting in Manila in April, shortly before they announced that Misuari was no longer their chairman.

Gonzales heads the Partido Demokratiko-Sosyalita ng Pilipinas (PDSP), a Jesuit-led political party that financed the candidacy of a number of MNLF as well as MILF officials in the last elections. Misuari has called this as part of the PDSPs and the administrations divide-and-rule tactic.

In fact, according to Misuari, Gonzaless PDSP has expanded its wings in Muslim Mindanao. Gonzales is promoting the vested interest of his party, which is the unofficial party of the Jesuits. And they have succeeded in mesmerizing some of our leaders by offering them money and power. Cong Saharin is now the chairman of this Jesuit-led party in Tawi-tawi. Yusuf Jikiri is now the chairman of this Jesuit-led party in Sulu. Hatimil Hassan is now the chairman of this Jesuit-led party in Basilan. Uttoh Salem is now the chairman of this Jesuit-led party in South Cotabato. Muslim Sema is now the chairman of this Jesuit-led party in Maguindanao-Cotabato city. They have succeeded in turning these people into agents of the Catholic Church! Misuari bewailed. Saharin, Jikiri, Hassan, Salem, and Sema are members of the Council of 15.

Aside from plotting his ouster as chairman of the MNLF, part of Gonzales scheme, Misuari said, was to remove him as chairman of the SPCPD and for the Council of 15 to sign a unity pact with the MILF. The latter was meant supposedly to make representation in the Organization of Islamic Conference less cumbersome. As of press time, however, the OIC has not issued any declaration that it now recognizes the Council of 15 instead of Misuari. In the OICs resolutions, the MNLF under the leadership of Misuari is the sole representative of the Bangsa Moro people in the 56-member pan-Islamic body.

Misuari said he would go to Saudi Arabia anytime soon to determine exactly where the sympathies of the OIC lie. The anti-Misuari faction in the MNLF, as well as the government, has claimed that the move to oust Misuari had the blessings of the OIC. But only Malaysia, Indonesia and Libya reportedly backed the coup. Saudi Arabia, which initiated the creation of the OIC and which holds considerable clout in the body, is said to be still sympathetic to Misuari.

Im sorry to say this — and Im not underestimating the lady but it seems she is playing into the machinations of this man called Norberto Gonzales. And I think she is not properly informed, Misuari said.

Reached for comment in Singapore, Gonzales did not deny the PDSPs expansion in Muslim Mindanao. He said that the PDSPs emergence in the region is inevitable because of Gonzaless close ties with the MNLF. We have a link even during the underground days so it was natural for them to run under the PDSP. Kung baga, may pinagsamahan, Gonzales said. Im visible because they are my close friends, he added.

Gonzales finds it unfortunate that Misuari has to blame the PDSP for his predicament. If you will look into what happened in the MNLF, they went through an internal rift. I dont know why he takes it personally. He thinks he is the king of the MNLF.

Gonzales also defended the Council of 15. We are not dealing with children here. The council is composed of the top officials of the MNLF.

He advised Misuari to think of the future of the MNLF as a political force and institution in Mindanao. It is very clear that he has destroyed that prospect of being influential in the community. He should backtrack for a while and regain his stature. I admire the guy. He can always come back. He should give time to heal. Its not the end of the world. If I were him, Ill be silent for while.

Gonzales conceded, however, that Misuari cannot be blamed solely for his failure. Government may have to be blamed for his inability to govern effectively. That is evident, he said.

Misuari said that he is not bitter toward anybody in government (This is nothing personal, he said) but throughout the interview, his language betrayed him.

Prior to the August 14 plebiscite in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Misuari said, he met with Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo in a lunch in Malacanang. There, he told Romulo: Dont commit this mistake. I dont make a bluff. I dont make propaganda. I just want to preserve the peace in Mindanao. I dont want our people to become victims of another war. My conscience is clear. If anything happens in the future, nobody can blame me anymore.

Misuari said he did everything to open their eyes but they refused.

He said Vice President Teofisto Guingona met with him before the plebiscite. I explained to him that holding the referendum was probably one of the worst blunders this government could do. But he just smiled, Misuari said.

Misuari and his faction boycotted the August 14 plebiscite, arguing that the law being voted upon RA 9054 that amended RA 6754, the original Organic Act — violated the letter and spirit of the 1996 Peace Agreement. Among the complaints against RA 9054 is that it was crafted unilaterally by the government and that it contradicts the very essence of autonomy by giving, for example, to the national government control and supervision of certain natural and mineral resources in the ARMM.

Misauri said the government and the elite could never abandon their interests in Mindanao. They are not crazy. They want to monopolize the resources in Mindanao. I somehow understand the predicament of the government because of the pressures coming from many quarters who have vested interests in Mindanao but had the government been wise enough, it should not have succumb to the pressures of these vested interests.

Misuari found an ally in Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. OMI, a key personality in the peace process, who argued that what the government should have done was to simply enact into law the agreement and not add or delete provisions unilaterally. In a text message from Indonesia yesterday, Fr. Mercado said, Im in Indonesia mourning the demise of the hope brought by the peace agreement signed today five years ago. A nostalgic dream to retrieve the fire where it began

Asked what he thought went wrong in the implementation of the agreement, Misuari replied: The treacherous character of the Philippine government. They betrayed us. They have never unlearned their treacherous tendencies. We thought when they betrayed us during the time of Marcos, that it was enough. Then they repeated it during the time of Aquino. Again and again and again. And now, I tell you, this is probably the worst betrayal, under the regime of President Arroyo.

Misuari said he thought the end of the war in Mindanao was already imminent when he signed the Jakarta agreement in 1996, and that the government would keep its end of the bargain. But we were wrong because they would rather do something to undermine the integrity of the peace agreement than fulfill their obligations and commitment.

What then has the peace agreement done for the Moro people? It crystallized one thing, Misuari replied, that indeed the Philippine government is not that interested in hearing us out. But I dont regret having signed the agreement. As a matter of fact, we need this crystallization so we wont be mesmerized again by their false promises.

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