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Press Conference with
His Excellency Prof. Nur Misuari,

Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
During the 5th Bangsamoro Peopleís National Congress,
Silangkan, Parang, Sulu, November 3, 2001

Members of the media at the 5th Congress just after the speech of
Chairman Misuari and the press conference


Opening Statements of the MNLF Chairman:

            Friends from the media you are welcomed. You may ask any question you like. Well, I think you have listened to my speech. I think we are now on the cross road, and as I used to say, as leader of the MNLF and of our people, I am not here to make any decision for them. The Holy Qurían tells us ďIn the affairs of the people they must be done through consultation among them.Ē That is the fundamental principle of our Islamic democracy. So we cannot impose our will on the people. It is the people who are going to decide. So therefore, I called upon this 5th Congress to review our prevailing situation for them to draw up certain guidelines for us to follow when we face our responsibilities, in facing the OIC, in elevating our case, if need be, to the United Nations or may be to the international court of justice or whatever be the collective desire of the people, we the leaders, have to follow them. Thank you.

Q: What was the Resolution of the 4th Congress all about?

MISUARI: The Resolution of the 4th Congress was drafted and submitted by the 7th commission of the Congress, which was represented by the Bangsamoro Youth. They asked the MNLF Chairman to convene the Central Committee soon after the end of the Congress to decide on their resolution demanding on the Central Committee to return back to the path of self-determination, decolonization and independence of the Bangsamoro Republic as a separate and sovereign independent state. So, towards the end of the plenary session on the 30th of April this year (2001), in my acceptance speech, I appealed to them to suspend first that resolution since we have this tripartite meeting provided for in the 9th Summit Resolution in Qatar (held in November 2000) so that we can hear from the OIC what exactly would be the guidelines we can have from them. But since the tripartite meeting was not held at all, so we went back to the OIC and asked them for their opinion.

            And there was this 28th ICFM. I reported to them about this historic resolution of the Bangsamoro youth and they told me to wait because they will ask the Philippine government once and for all to abide by their binding international commitment and obligation. And therefore, there was the Bamako Resolution appealing to the Philippine government not to hold any unilateral and arbitrary referendum, let alone the election in the ARMM until year 2003. But on both instances, it now appears that the Philippine government is in no mood to cooperate with the OIC, let alone with the MNLF.

Since that it was the Chairman of the MNLF who was responsible for convincing the Congress to withhold that resolution, now, I am asking them to pass their judgment on the fate of that resolution.

If they will approve then the Bangsamoro people will have to go back to the path of independence. And therefore, this will fit in to the desire of our brothers in the MILF. So MNLF and MILF will now join hands to struggle, if I have my way, to the peaceful and democratic way for the independence of the Bangsamoro Republic which covers the whole of Mindanao and the Islands of Palawan, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Camiguin and all other historic parts of this great nation.

Q: What would be the decision of the Congress or what would be the option of the Bangsamoro people?

MISUARI: Well, I cannot preempt. I cannot anticipate because it is not good. The moment I do that then I could be charged of filibustering their sovereign authority to decide over this matter. So, I would rather say, let us wait until they come together this evening and they will make their voice loud and clear.

Q: What do you think their (Congress) responsibility?

MISUARI: Well, their responsibility is to decide for the destiny of this land. I think you are listening to my speech. I said it is now time to work to get back the destiny in your hands because they have already abandoned the bedrock of peace here through autonomy. There is no more hope for autonomy for us because President Arroyo has decided to listen to her advisers who donít like peace here in Mindanao at all.

Q: How far is your alliance with the MILF?

MISUARI: No, this is not a question of alliance. This is a question of unity and solidarity.

Q: What are the details?

MISUARI: Well, I donít know. The details will have to be worked out first. They are going to have a series of meetings between the two fraternal organizations and I think we will know the outcome of that sooner or later. They started few days ago and I think they will not stop until they can evolve a very, very important decision on this matter.

Q: What is the reaction of the government?

MISUARI: Philippine government? Well, I donít know. I am not privy to the thinking of Malacanang because they are prone to commit blunder, even to commit suicide. To me, for them to abandon the peace agreement and to slap the face of the OIC, is akin to committing some sort of suicide.

You know the world economy is depressed. The Philippine economy is in turmoil. The NDF (National Democratic Front) is gaining strength everyday. The Abu Sayyaf is still there holding out in the jungle. They had to call on the American experts to help them. And now they are taunting us. They want to create more problems for this.

Hindi na sila naawa sa Filipinos. Hindi na sila naawa sa mga sundalo  (They donít pity the Filipinos, they donít pity the soldiers). They are isolated. Ask the soldiers in Basilan. They will tell you that they are already bored and tired doing this. They donít know what they are up to.

Q: With this unity of the MNLF under your leadership and the MILF, what is going to happen with the unity agreement of the MILF and the MNLF Executive Council?

MISUARI: Well, I donít know exactly what will happen. But I think anyone of you can make your own guess. Because the moment we decide to fulfill the objective of the two sides, I think that will overtake the (MILF-MNLF EC) agreement signed in Kuala Lumpur. After, I have the words of honor from brother Ustadz Salamat telling me that that document signed in Kuala Lumpur was just to please the Malaysian government. You see. He said. this is empty and meaningless. It has no meaning at all.

Q: What is the position of the OIC as of this moment?

MISUARI: They have not met yet. The ICFM meet once a year, and after 3 years the Islamic Summit. So, we will have to wait. But we have our representatives now talking to the officials of the OIC in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), and I am not very clear yet about the actions they are going to take. But so far, the OIC has told me through our emissary that this is not new. This divide and rule tactic of the government, they said, is quite familiar to them because they did this before in 1978.

Q: Can this tripartite meeting be materialized?

MISUARI: They postponed it until the end of this year. But I donít see any sign of the tripartite meeting now. I donít know why.

Q: What is going to be the decision of the leaders?

MISUARI: I donít know exactly what will be the decision of the leaders.

Q: What if the Congress would decide that the MNLF will fight against the government?

MISUARI:  Well, we are obedient soldiers of the Congress and of our people. We have no choice but to follow. But if I have my way, I would like to solve the remaining problems of Mindanao through peaceful and democratic way. Whatever happens, I am a man of peace basically. I want to continue to play the role as the defender, protector, guardian and champion of peace. However, I am not the only one who is going to make decision here. I am only one among so many. So therefore, it is not always the case that Misuariís wishes will be followed.

Q: What if the MILF will invite you to fight the government?

MISUARI: Well, it depends. If there is a mutual agreement, we will never violate our agreement. We are afraid of the wrath of the Almighty Allah. If our brothers in the MILF say, Ďbrother Nur we have no choice, we have to go to war.í If they can justify it, well, I am a man of peace but there are times when I have no choice but also to listen to my brothers. May be they are wiser than I am. There are times when the peaceful means donít count at all like in the case of the Philippines now. I have signed three (3) peace agreements but they betrayed me, they betrayed the people. It is only Nur Misuari who is insisting in giving chance to peace.

But no more. You ask brother Salamat Hashim. I think he is fed up of all these (promises). Every time there is a peace negotiation and he would allow them (military) in good faith to enter their camps then they (military) spy there only to attack them.

Here in Sulu, six times we allowed them to enter our camp in Tiis. And later on, the 7th time around they encircled our camp with their tanks and helicopter gun ships and 600 or 700 of their forces. We have only about 40 people inside the camp, others were sleeping because they did not expect that the military would attack them. Several MNLF forces were martyred. You can exhume, in one grave alone there were seven martyred there.

Q: The Executive Council of 15 said you are no longer in control over the MNLF.

MISUARI: Do you believe that? I have told them to get the best outfit from the NICA and from their intelligence network and go around (Mindanao). They can testify to the fact that it is Misuari that holds the lever of power here in Mindanao. I am not boasting. Believe me. You can ask them (Executive Council of 15) if they can command the Armed Forces of the MNLF. They have been repudiated by the people. They have been condemned vigorously by the 4th Congress upon the initiative of the youth. And they have been expelled, all of them. We have good quality people who replaced them. We have our new Vice Chairman who replaced Hatimil Hassan. We have an Islamic scholar who replaced Muslimin Sema (as MNLF secretary-general).

Q: What is going to happen in the forthcoming ARMM elections?

MISUARI: I donít know what is going to happen. Let them do it. I only would like to echo the voice of the people here. They donít want trouble, they donít want war. They want to maintain friendship with the Philippine Armed Forces here. And so therefore, other people should not make any connivance or collusion to force the military here into collision forces with us because they will not profit at all. They will just waste the lives of the soldiers here. We have already found formula to peace in Mindanao. Why donít just respect that? The (peace agreement) is an international agreement.

Read your Constitution. The Philippine Constitution accepts or adopts international law as part of the law of the land. The GRP-OIC-MNLF peace agreement is an international law. They must respect the signature of the OIC secretary-general and the Ministers representing the Ministerial Committee of the Six. They must respect that because this is a civilized world. But why the Philippine government is violating all of these. What gains they could achieve in creating another problem with us?

            Are they not satisfied? They have enough with all these lawless elements. They have the Abu Sayyaf, they have the NPA and they have off and on quarrels with our brothers in the MILF. They are pushing us against the wall and they are forcing us to unite with our brothers. So you donít blame us for doing this because we are only doing this in the exercise of our right to self-defense.

Q: Can we hear some words from the MILF representatives?

MISUARI: No. I think they donít like to say anything here. They are not mandated to say anything here.

Q: Do you think you have enough forces to crush the government?

MISUARI: No, I am not talking in terms of crushing here. We are talking in terms of our right to self-defense. I tell you, I even told this to General (Angelo) Reyes. Hindi pagyayabang ito eh. (This is not boasting). In the beginning I had nothing except one Kris but I was ready to fight against the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (President) Marcos at that time was known as the John F. Kennedy of the Philippines. He was very, very popular. And the Armed Forces was united. And he had very good economy at that time. But I was ready with only one Kris in defense of rights and in defense of justice.

            Now, we have this huge number of forces. I am not trying to boast here. If I could afford to fight against the government with only one Kris in my hands, why not now if there is a need for that. But I donít see it at the moment. I am waiting for the last words from the OIC and I am waiting for the last words from the Congress.

            If the OIC will say that we are betrayed just as the government also betrays them, and if the Congress will say in resounding words that they want us to go back to self-determination and independence, then be it. But I would like to ask that they will not push us against the wall because I want to resolve the remaining problem of Mindanao through the peaceful and democratic way.

Q:  Your comment on the ARMM election.

MISUARI: Kasi panloloko yan eh (Thatís foolishness). They are just fooling around with us. The OIC told them not to hold this election until 2003 because they have not prepared the ground works for the people to make a good decision. What can we do here? They sabotaged our administration. They gave us money but they gave us by droplets. What kind of government is this? I thought when I signed the peace agreement they will going to help us because they promised the mini-marshal plan of reconstruction and rehabilitation. They said we would start with P25 Billion for the period of 3 years. But what happened? Now, how can you explain that to the people here?

If there are improvements in our infrastructure, the circumferential road, the Kan Away coastal road, the bridges, these are only through our initiatives. We are, of course, thankful to (President) Estrada for giving us the bridges. Despite everything we still thank him for giving us the salam bridges. And of course the previous government for giving us the budget in 1998 but they tried to manipulate to cause our failure here.

Q: Your reaction to the creation of the Executive Council of 15?

MISUARI: The Council of 15 is just an extension of the Philippine colonialism. As the distinguished Islamic scholar here was saying, this is the specter of the ghost of the past trying to menace us again here. Philippine government is trying to divide us. But they cannot divide us without strengthening us. This is the paradox here. They tried to divide the MNLF time and again only to strengthen the MNLF.

Q: But they say they have the support of Indonesia, Malaysia and Libya. Do they have support from the OIC?

MISUARI: Well, I donít know. There are 56 Muslim states. And among the most influential member is Saudi Arabia where the headquarter is located. I donít know what Saudi Arabia will say because when I went there to brief them about the situation, they themselves are not that happy of what is happening.

Q: Are there any words of reconciliation between you and the members of the council?

MISUARI: No more. They have to talk to the Congress, they have to talk to the Central Committee. I have lost my patience and I can only return back to the path of peace with them and to the peace agreement if the Congress and the Central Committee will say so. But on my own, no more because I have been betrayed so many times. So I cannot afford to allow myself to be betrayed again.

Q: How true that Dr. Parouk Hussin is not a Filipino citizen?

MISUARI: Well, sila na ang bahala diyan. (Well, I leave that to them). I used to hold his passport. The first time I learned that he is not a Filipino citizen was when I met (President) Ramos in Malacanang. I was asking Ramos to appoint him as minister of health because Defense Secretary De Villa before promised him. But Ramos told me he couldnít appoint him because he is not a Filipino citizen anymore.

But I asked Ramos. I said, if that is the case Mr. President, what about us? Ramos said that our case is different because when we entered the Philippines we used Philippine passport. But when Dr. Parouk Hussin entered the Philippines he was using a foreign passport. And by the operation of the law he has already renounced his citizenship. But I insisted to Ramos that it was only by the exigency of the situation. But Ramos said the law is the law. 

Q:   Mr. Chairman what do you want the government to do?

MISUARI: I donít know now. I am getting tired of advising the government. They donít listen to us. It is just like shouting in the wilderness. It is better here although this is a jungle place because if I talk people will listen. But not to the people in Malacanang. They donít listen to us anymore. They only want to listen to the voice of those sycophants. They donít want to deal with dignified people like us. They only want to deal with people who are asking job everyday and hunkering for money.

They got mad at me because I have to stick to my principle. I have the responsibility to my people and our cause. They (government) are confused, and they are making everybody confused and putting everything in disarray in Mindanao.

Q: You are saying that you are waiting for the final words from the OIC. What if the OIC will decide to unite the MNLF and the MILF with only one leader? Would you or Ustadz Salamat Hashim give way to one leadership?

MISUARI: Leadership is immaterial to us. I can go anywhere in this world if it is needed. I am not after leadership. I am only here after the service to my people. Thank you so much.


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