The Betrayal of Nur Misuari

Sep. 05, 2006

For the first time since the group led by Salamat Hashim bolted the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) more than 20 years ago to form the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), there seems to be a unification of the two fronts. That, at least, is what a faction of the MNLF, a faction of the MILF, and the government would want the public to believe.

What has been coming out into the open, however, is the result of a gambit by the government to sideline MNLF Chair Nur Misuari whom the faction called the Council of 15 stripped of the fronts leadership.

This plot against Misuari involves forming the Council of 15 faction, persuading the MILF to unite with the MNLF, and asking the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to recognize the coalition, not just the MNLF.

Whether these developments in the Moro revolutionary movements are good remains to be seen. What is certain is that the Arroyo administration has scored some points by orchestrating these upheavals in the Moro revolutionary movements.

As far as Misuari is concerned, however, this supposed solution to the problem wont do the trick because it is a classic case of divide-and-rule. And where would the Bangsamoro people be when the smoke is cleared? Misuari did not say but his statements in the following interview last week with a group of reporters from Davao City, including, provides a clue.

There is the observation that the governments hand is all over the place in the plot to unseat you from the MNLF.

There are signs that some elements of the Arroyo Cabinet are doing this act of divide and rule, and I am not surprised at all. I have always told the government that their position always tends to remind us about this policy of divide and rule. I said if only you can stop this thing because its very un-sportsman-like you want partnership with us but at the same time you want to undermine us? How can we accept this?

Are you referring to (Presidential Assistant for Special Concerns) Norberto Gonzales?

Gonzales and his cahoots (sic).

(Editors note: The MNLF has accused Gonzales of initiating the formation of the Council of 15. Gonzales allegedly even spent for the airfare of those who attended a council meeting in Manila last April. The council declared last month that Misuari was no longer chairman of the MNLF. Late last week, carrying the name of the MNLF, it announced its unification with the MILF. Misuari has said that this unification is part of the plot to isolate him. Gonzales was a longtime friend of Misuaris, having spent years in Sabah with the MNLF during the Marcos years. He brokered the peace negotiations between Misuari and the Aquino government and also had a hand in the 1996 peace agreement. Gonzales leads the Partido Demokratiko-Sosyalista sa Pilipinas, a political party that financed the candidacy in last Mays elections of some MNLF and MILF personalities.)

What do you think is the underlying reason for this plot to undermine the MNLF?

They just want to destroy the peace agreement and destroy the MNLF from within.


Well, that is the nature of a government that wants to solve the problem all by itself. We thought that this should be done through a democratic way. In fact, we have signed three peace agreements with them, which is already quite unusual. But I think they are still insisting on solving the problem all by themselves.

There seems to be an emerging pattern here. On the one hand, the government is pushing for the amendment of the Organic Act, which the MNLF is objecting to. On the other hand, theres this plot against you.

Thats why I was telling (President Arroyo), We cannot understand, madam, why you are so warmhearted toward us, as we could see, but it is very, very dismaying on our part to see that some elements in the Cabinet are trying to do something which is contrary to the pledges of the government. Because the President has been telling us time and again that she is going to stick to the peace agreement, that she is going to implement it in letter and spirit. To divide us is not one of the methods of implementing the peace agreement. In fact, I often insisted that as soon as the peace agreement was signed, everyone should ride on that and allow all problems of Mindanao to be subsumed to that.

Instead of coming to terms with us and with another small group, she will end up creating too many problems at one time. As a matter of fact, there are some loud voices now that say that while President Arroyo is trying to unite the two (MNLF and MILF), may be in good faith, she is succeeding only in creating four enemies: dividing the MNLF and, Im afraid, even dividing the MILF. If they are not careful, the MILF may play into this policy of divide and rule. But the MILF, Im sure, will learn from our lessons. And I dont think my brother Salamat Hashim will play into that.

The scenario (the government) is trying now is to get a splinter group from us and a splinter group from the MILF, bring them together and let the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) recognize them. Is that the way to solve this problem? Can they solve the problem without Nur Misauri and company? Can they solve the problem without Salamat Hashim and the others? I dont think so, especially at this point. I told them, You are spending billions on your intelligence department. Why dont you send I was daring them the best intelligence outfit to Mindanao and find out whether these people (the Council of 15) can deliver at all? I assure you that they cannot produce even five percent of the total MNLF forces — and the MNLF has increased tremendously in strength. But they dont believe me. Of course, it is good for us if they dont believe me, so that they deceive themselves.

Are you seeing a reunification of you and Hashim?

I told the OIC ambassadors in Manila that if its your decision that we be united, why not? Go and talk to my brother. I dont like to deal with people below him or under him because they cannot definitely speak for him. If they want to join us for autonomy, okay, why not? But if they were not in a position to convince him — because Hashim has been saying that hed rather go to his grave than compromise his doctrinaire principle in fighting for the independence of Mindanao and my people if you are not in a position to convince him, I was kidding the OIC ambassadors, why dont you exert every effort to convince Nur Misuari to join Salamat Hashim so we fight for independence together? If you like, with your support! (Laughs)

Its a simple dilemma that the government is facing. But they are putting themselves in a very, very absurd position that they do not know how to solve. In short, I think the government is ill-advised. It doesnt have the people who have enough wisdom to give it the right solution to the problems in Mindanao.

What is the manifestation of the governments efforts to divide the MILF?

They invited my brother (MILF vice chairman for military affairs and MILF chief negotiator) Al Haj Murad Ibrahim and he negotiated with another group from us. See? I dont know if he succeeded in unifying even themselves. I was told that not every one in the MILF leadership is convinced of compromising their demand for independence.

Have you had some victory in opposing this divide-and-rule strategy?

This has been the seventh time that a coup was plotted against me. Every time, I always prevail. I mean, the MNLF always prevails. Seven times, since Marcos.

You cannot divide the MNLF anymore. If they can do it and get all our people behind them, it will be okay with me but, at present, they got only about 1 percent of the MNLF. You ask them to tell you honestly, How many forces these people can deliver nowadays? Ask them to produce the cadre officers? Ask them to produce the ulama, if they can produce? I challenge them! Ask them to produce the members of the Central Committee who are with them? There are more than 120 members there are only four or five of them now in that group. And how many of them can deliver anything to the government?

What sort of enticement has the group of Gonzales been dangling before the MNLF members?

These are politicians from within us. They ran for governor, for mayor, for vice mayor, and so on and so forth. And they needed money. They tried to apologize in dealing with this man (Gonzales), because they needed the money from him. I said, That is not the right way. You dont sell yourselves down the drain. You must maintain your dignity and your honor. This money will not ascertain you of your victory. What will happen if you lose? I told them dont drag the name of the MNLF. We dont want to destroy the credibility and image of the MNLF as a revolutionary movement because we have not yet achieved our goal. We are still in transition.

Apparently, you dont feel intimidated by all this

Do you think Misuari can be intimidated? Only my wives can intimidate me. (Laughs)

Has there been any demoralization within the MNLF ranks?

I am not boasting but we have become masters in this kind of thing. We know how to handle this kind of problem. This is a small thing. Look, when these people left us, cadre officers and well-known warriors are also coming back to the surface and rejoining us, so our forces have been augmented by the thousands everywhere. And then those cadre officers who were operating with them have decided to return to us, so they our now with our cadre officers. You ask them if they can produce a significant number of cadre officers.

What are the chances of the Council of 15 going back to the fold?

Well, my brother here has returned (pointing to Datu Dima Ambil, the chairman of the MNLFs Kutawato Revolutionary State, who had been one of the Council of 15 members). There are also some of them who are there because they have been misled. But what can 15 people do? We can see thousands of leaders in the MNLF. Can the government afford to put the future or to anchor the future on the empty promises of these 15 people? I dont think a wise government can afford to do that. In the first place, they should send the best intelligence outfit first to find out who is Abdul Sahrin, for instance. How many forces can he deliver? Hatimil Hassan? He lost in a small municipality in the last elections. Uttoh Salem Cutan? He ran for governor and lost, miserably. Even his first cousin who handled his security has left him and is now back to us. Parouk Hussin? He lives in exile in Stockholm. He has been living there and he is not even a Filipino citizen, he is a Swedish citizen. Thats why I cannot understand why government appointed him as presidential adviser.

Have you been campaigning against the Council of 15?

No! I leave it to them to return. These are people with conscience. They are not robots. They think for themselves and for the future of their people. I have never pleaded to anyone to please return back. Never! You ask my brother here (pointing to Ambil). This is all conscience that dictates. I am sure that in the future, these people, these hardboiled members of the remaining members of the council, will join us. Believe me! If they dont join, they wont become an asset to the government anyway because people who could betray us could also betray their patrons in the end. (

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