‘The Government Betrayed Us’

Sep. 05, 2006

September 24, 2001

I had the chance to interview MNLF chairman Nur Misuari sometime late August in Zamboanga City, his first media interview since his self-imposed seclusion in Jolo just before the August 14 plebiscite. The short talk was interesting to say the least. Most importantly of all, it betrayed the pains of a man who felt he had been had.

What was your first reaction when you learned that you were going to be removed as chairman of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD)?

I had mixed feelings. I told myself, How in the world could the government afford to do this, after they sought my cooperation in trying to come up with a peace agreement? I was not the one who initiated this. They (Ramos government) proposed exploratory talks. When they told me that the new (Ramos) government was anxious to launch what they called the most ambitious program of economic recovery, I agreed and we sat together and produce the first agreement in October 1992.

I thought the end of the war was already in the offing and that government was going to fulfill its binding international commitment and obligation, but we were wrong because they would rather do something to undermine the integrity of the peace agreement than fulfill their obligation and commitment.

So where do we stand now? We are literally standing on square one.

Meaning you do not anymore recognize the agreement? Does this mean you are back to your original position

I did not say that I no longer recognize the agreement. I think the better way to put it is that the Philippine government has already abrogated and destroyed the peace agreement. Whether we recognize it or not is another thing.

But the MNLF has complained that the government breached the agreement. Was that official?

We have always protested. Thats why they would say I have been making too many complaints. And I have, because its my duty to open the peoples eyes, for them to realize that it is not good to undermine, let alone abrogate, a binding international peace agreement. Its not good because this will not speak well of the integrity and the credibility of the government and its leaders. They are not going to profit whatsoever from this. They will be the loser.

Do you think the government still considers you a threat?

There is no sense in that. I cannot understand how Misuari can become a threat. I told them that if I wanted war, why did I ever agree to sign the peace agreement to end the war? It is they who are so anxious to make war against us, thinking perhaps that the MNLF is already a spent force, that Misuari cannot anymore command respect, that Misuari cannot anymore command his forces. They are laboring under the impression that the Council of 15 is now in command. I, of course, challenge them. Why dont they send the best minds in their intelligence outfits so that we can ferret out who is who in the MNLF leadership? Find out if this Council of 15 can command even five percent of the military forces of the MNLF. They will have the shock of their life!

Looking back, what do you think has the 1996 Final Peace Agreement done for the Moro people?

The peace agreement has finally crystallized one thing — that indeed the government is not that interested in hearing us out.

Are you sorry that you talked with the government?

No. As a matter of fact, we need this, this crystallization, so we wont be mesmerized again by their false promises. If ever I regretted anything, it is that we spent too much time. But I think we have emerged wiser.

You are acknowledged as the greatest Moro leader this country has ever produced in modern times. Are you confident in your place in history?

I am not bothered whatever history is going to say about me. My only concern is that I be able to fulfill my pledges to my people. I want to enhance the quality of their life. I want to see them free, as free as any people in the world. I want to free them from the regime of oppression, exploitation and repression.

Those are very noble objectives, which you apparently thought would be achieved by the peace agreement. In hindsight, what went wrong?

The government betrayed us. Thats all. Because they have never unlearned their treacherous tendencies. We thought when they betrayed us during the time of Marcos that that was enough. Then they repeated it during the time of Aquino. Again and again and again. And I tell you this is probably the worst betrayal, under the regime of Arroyo.
Given all those betrayals, when will you ever learn?

We have always learned. Its just that we are a very patient people.

Given what you consider a betrayal, what do you think was the government thinking in sidelining you?

Im sorry to say this — and Im not underestimating President Arroyo but it seems to us that the lady has played into the machinations of this man called Norberto Gonzales. And I think she is not properly informed. Norberto Gonzales (leader of the Partido Demokrato-Sosyalista ng Pilipinas) 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 MNLF leaders by offering them money and power. They have succeeded in turning these people into agents of the Catholic Church!

Do you think the government and the elite that controls it will ever give up their interests in Mindanao?

No. They are not crazy. They want to monopolize the resources in Mindanao.
Your critics say this is the end of Misuari

Well, they have been predicting the end of Misuari 101 times. But every time, they see Misuari is still very much alive and kicking. I am more alive than ever before.

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