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Statement of MNLF Chairman
 Nur Misuari During the 9th Joint Monitoring Committee Meeting
May 25, 1999, Tuesday
Sulo Hotel, Manila

     

      Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

      Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

      At any rate I'm happy that I'm here and I am happy to hear what is transpiring across the table.  I would just like to point out some issues or comments.  First of all, I hope my brother will not mind this, there is nothing personal here.  He is familiar with our principle, with our position ever since. You see ever since when we had our initial contacts with the government in their attempts to convince us to come to the negotiating table,  we were always opposed to their proposal to let us, we Muslims, negotiate among ourselves.  As if to make it appear that this is a problem between Muslims themselves.  So with due respect to the opening statement of my brother here, I would like to remind this body that MNLF has never changed its position.  We don't want anyone to tinker with the character of these talks, with this peace process.  This is a problem between the Bangsamoro people represented by the MNLF and the Philippine government. So therefore, I hope this has nothing to do with that attempt to dilute the character of this.  I am very sorry I have to say this, I have all respect for my brother here, he knows my personal feeling towards him but it's just a matter of principle.  I hope you can understand this. 

      Secondly, the government ever since has been adopting this counter-insurgency program of trying to make it appear before the eyes of the world as if the war in Mindanao is a war between the Muslims themselves.  So they mobilize great number of people to unarm them, give them all those instruments of death use them against us in order to make it appear especially for the eyes of the Islamic World that this problem is a problem between Muslims themselves.  I just wanted to remind you of this because we don't want anyone, as I said, to tinker with the character of the problem.  This is a problem between the government and the MNLF representing certain interest, respective interest of their own. 

      And thirdly, I would like to point out that while our people, our brothers here are so anxious to ask the government to implement the peace agreement, yet, one thing is very, very clear here.  The government has already violated the peace agreement.  Because they have not utilized nearly three years of the transitional period to enable us to do something - something visible, something beneficial - in order to convince the people of the wisdom of having an autonomy for them.  If my memory is correct, the signing of the peace agreement was on the 2nd of September 1996.  Barely one week later election came and shortly after the election, our swearing in as governor and so on and so forth.  And also followed by our appointment as chairman of the SPCPD.  Within this period of time, we were expected to produce something very visible to convince the people that our struggle was not in vain.  But wittingly or unwittingly, what the government has done was to make us appear as if we are useless, to make us appear as if we are incompetent, to make us appear as if we are a total failure.  This is the effect of their strategy, their counter-insurgency strategy.  They want our people to be stranged from us, they want our people to be isolated from us, they want us to become pariahs so to speak, in our homeland.  I'm saying wittingly or unwittingly.  If you reckon with the timetable, from the day 1 of the advent of the ARMM and SPCPD, until now, already we have consumed up, if my reckoning is correct, nearly 2 years and 9 months.  Because we started with the September as the timetable and September to the end of year 1996 you have 3 months.  Now we are fifth month of 1999 so you add 3 plus 5 or 6, it's years and 8 months.  Nearly, if you start from the beginning of the political exercise on September 2, 1996 is already 2 years and 9 months and all of this has gone to waste. In the sense that we have not done much, we have not done anything visible.  And there is an attempt to belittle the promise of the government about the mini-marshall plan.  Mini-marshall plan to my understanding was proposed as an organic body to carry out massive reconstruction and rehabilitation program precisely in order to attract the people to the new institution and be able to convince them that indeed there is wisdom in having autonomy in Mindanao as an alternative to the persistent demand for Independence.  The idea was to really make this institution successful, not to make this institution as an instrument to create dissension, frustration and demoralization among the people in order to compromise our honor and integrity before them.

      But what happened is nothing has been done about it and even this ARMM with the best of intention, we joined the ARMM because of the so many promises and pledges, the government is telling us that this is going to be the last and final election, first and foremost; secondly, take over, brother Nur, they said, well because you have to use this as an instrument for implementing the peace agreement.  After all, the SPCPD, I believe, their intention was really to make this innocuous to make the SPCPD something next to inutile.  So what did they do because they told me in so many words that the idea of making this institution almost literally useless in implementing the peace agreement is because they were afraid lest we play into the hands of the opposition.  They said there was a boggy, they were trying to tell us and show to us that the opposition to the peace agreement has filed a law suit before the Supreme Court, the highest of the land, asking for the annulment and abrogation of the peace agreement.  Because of that so they decided to belittle and to make this institution, the SPCPD, which was the crux of the matter for us literally useless.  If it's useful, it's only because some humanitarian assistance have been brought in.  But in terms of implementing anything from the side of the government, it is useless.  It has done nothing because the government says it cannot do anything without jeopardizing the peace agreement.

      And then they tell us, take over the ARMM and along with some institutions.  OMA was never turned over to us.  SPCPD only during the previous administration when we had the head, but all the members of the board, to my mind, did not belong to us.  So we didn't able to do much and there was no funding, not much funding.  But inspite that we tried our best to produce something.  But later on, SPDA has been taken away from us.  They try to come to us with all those alibis so they took us by such thing, but when we try to ask them to rectify, there have been some problems.  Until now, we are in an impasse.  I have discussed this subject matter with my friend, Mr. Roberto Aventajado, Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects, on several occasion.  The last time we started discussing from almost 6 o'clock until almost 10 in the evening just before I went to Mindanao but to no avail. We are not making so much progress because they insist that he will do the work for us to his own people.  So we told them we have a culture here in Mindanao.  If you do the work for us, you will just make us a laughing stock among our people, because people will never give any credit to us unless they see that our hand soiled and our hands are the ones performing the task.  If we tell them, well, it was done in our names, then they will just laugh us off.  They think that we are useless -- without Aventajado and his men and nothing could be done about it.

      Now you talk about the task force.  The task force is a misnomer.  It was not doing anything because there was no project to supervise, in the first place.  My brother is saying they gave more than 1 million annual budget for the task force in Central Mindanao, but they are not doing anything, because they are not supervising anything. 

      The task force in Basilan, well it does not exist at all, at least to the best of my mind.  So all of these are, I would say, I hope you don't mind me use this term, these are all hypocritical.  Now you want to implement the peace agreement only at the tail end of it.  We are just barely three months to the end.  This last two years and nine months, you have done nothing to convince us that you are sincere in giving us autonomy as an alternative to our demand for independence, for the decolonization of our homeland.  We bended too much already to the extent of creating division among us.  Without our decision to go autonomous to accept the advise there of the Islamic World, the OIC to opt for autonomy, we would have remain, until now, one and unified parlance, one and unified organization in pursuit of a common demand for the decolonization of our homeland and for the establishment of a free independent sovereign state in Mindanao.  But because we have to listen to them, we don't want to be isolated from our brothers in the world.  So you told us, okay, we give you autonomy as an alternative to that but at the same time you are undermined.

      There were some American personalities who came to give me peace award, then later on just before I reached Marawi City, there were lots of people waiting for me in the mountain, in the city and everywhere. I was told that was fighting.  There was fighting around the area of NAPOCOR.  Five soldiers have been killed.  About 300 to 400 forces are encircled by the government.  They used helicopter gunships in an attempt to destroy our people there.  And it so happen this includes civilians, MNLF and MILF which is very dangerous.  I asked Gen. Edgardo Espinosa, I said please, that very evening as soon as I got the report, please order Gen. Santos B. Gabison, Jr. and your commanding officers in the field not to escalate because these could be very sensitive and it could create flashpoint for us there especially if the children and the women are killed.  But the following morning I heard at 11 o'clock in the morning, that was the very time after I called up and he promised to call Gen. Gabison in Cagayan de Oro.

      I understand they fitted some helicopter gunships and they started sending rockets to our areas.  I brought some of the splinters of these small rockets or missiles.  They brought it to me and we smelled it and it was very fresh.  I promised the people I said I will call.  I think I called up Gen. Espinosa, Gen. Angelo Reyes, even Defense Sec. Orlando Mercado but all my attempts have been a failure.  So I tend to that and I want to request this honorable body to do something about this because the danger here is that there are more 200 MNLF forces there, and there are nearly 200 MILF forces in the area.  And both of them are now preparing to protect the people.  And I think you have to do something to investigate what the NAPOCOR is doing. 

      You are drawing resources from our people's water, you have built 6 Agus and you were able to produce 720 megawatts and you are sending this energy to various parts of Mindanao.  And you have obtained loans from the World Bank, you are preparing to put up some kind of a cable or what to send our energy to Leyte or Leyte to Mindanao.  I don't know what is the process here, at the cost of US$230 million.  This is the same money that was promised to me and brother Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema when we went to Paris to ask for assistance.  But now it has been diverted.  And the people there complained to me.  Brother Nur we are surprised, these people are squeezing everything from us, but they are charging us the highest rate for our electricity.  I don't know what is the reason why.  And so many of the barangays around are still in total darkness because they have not laid the cable to them and I don't know why.

      So therefore, I would like to ask this august body that will address this problem immediately, I think there must be some kind of a conspiracy between the people in the NAPOCOR.  I just cannot pinpoint, but there is suspicion of conspiracy among them and like that to the detriment of the people there.  So there are many other things, in fact, I wanted to pinpoint another point here I hope that you understand that the position that spelled out by the brother here is MNLF position.  I have called an enlarge meeting of the Central Committee of the MNLF and I went to various places to brief our commanding officers.  The other day in Marawi City, they were about 500 to 600 commanding officers of the National Armed Forces of the MNLF from Marawi, from Lanao Sur, from Lanao Norte.  I understand there were some people who came as far as Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.  They were anxious to know what is happening to the peace agreement.  Until now they, in the national commands, have not felt anything.  Only the state authorities have benefited from this. We, said the much-vaunted dividends of peace have not touched our lives and the lives of our family and our parents at all.  So they are inquiring they said we are not coming to an end and nothing is happening. 

      And secondly, I would like to just remind this august body that, first of all, indeed, we in the MNLF stick to our standpoint that the elections, if held, will be a gross violations of the peace agreement.  And if they push through, that could probably bring about an end to the peace agreement.

      Secondly, we would like to say that with respect to the referendum, we believe that after you have defaulted, you are unable to despite all of these alibis defaulted in carrying out your duties and obligations now there is no more agreement on referendum.  If you want to have a referendum then let us have a tripartite meeting at the highest level.  So we can discuss the modalities how to hold that referendum.  And that referendum must be a win-win case because under no circumstance that the GRP peace panel or the national government can take any action that would lead to the kind of tragic result as happened in the Cordilleras.  If that happens then the world will point their fingers of accusation to you that for the third time around you betrayed us, you betrayed our people and betrayed the peace.

      And I want to be very frank and very straightforward so that no one will be deceived or be misled.  Our position has always been very clear.  So I hope that the parties concern here will be guided properly.  We in the MNLF tried our best to comply with our commitment and our obligations.   If there is peace between us, between the AFP and the Armed Forces of the MNLF, It's because the MNLF has fulfilled its commitment, so there is peace between us. Its not a total peace but it is better than when we are at war.  When tens of thousands of your forces are pinned down in this long contentious lines, those dangerous battlefields, and it is in fact, you must remember, that the peace agreement has been so advantageous to you.  Because of that, you were able to free thousands and thousands of your forces from their commitment to contain us, to prepare any kind of hostilities against us.

      And because of that the NPA has suffered because they told us the one thing that have caused so much disadvantage on their part is the Armed Forces after the signing of the peace agreement has already succeeded in mobilizing forces to contain them everywhere.   And this is a big advantage to you.  And not only that. Even our brothers in the MILF, they are also complaining.  Because of the peace agreement between our forces, you are able now to mobilize as much forces that used to be tied down in Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur and del Norte and various areas under MNLF-controlled or influenced. 

      But what do we get?  All what we got is frustration.  As a matter of fact, last night I left my office at around 1 o'clock as usual.  Because there were several of our people, chairmen of our committees in Lanao del Sur who came to complain and demanded for a change in our committee.  They told me they have brought this case to you already.  And this problem is the result of these economic activities we are doing there.  Only a small portion of our people have been touched by the dividends of peace and the rest they are in the quandary in the lurch.  So they are now suspecting, they said, that the leaders have stolen those things etc, etc. when the assistance is so little.  At any rate, I told them that we are going to have a full-dressed investigation because they are charging our leaders of having stolen, of having absconded with what have been given to them by the government, UNDP, ELAP and on and so forth.  So you see the assistance you gave to us only creates something that ....it's like a medicine, you give us a kind of medicine to create so much side effects.  The chairman of the revolutionary committee of the MNLF in Lanao Sur is now the subject of complaint.  They want him to be removed.  And they threatened last night if you will not remove him, we will to the other side. 

      I'd like to tell you, when I went the second time around to Camp Abubakre As-Siddique, I brought 1800 forces because when the last time I went there, I had only about 400 or 500 forces.  So this time I said prepare for me over a thousand forces from Matanog, Barira and Buldon.  When I went they were not ready.  And you what happened?  The forces that protected the camp of brother Ustaz Salamat Hashim, I will not say all, but the great majority of them were formerly MNLF.  And part of them happened to be forces of our brother which is now subject of a complaint.  Now this is the result, because of some kind of this treatment, you are driving our people to the MILF and they bring their arms with them and this will strengthen their demand for greater autonomy or even independence. 

      The failure of this autonomy could, mind you, mean a windfall for a demand for independence.  Our success could possibly undermine that demand. People could be convinced, as brother Ustaz Salamat was telling me, brother Nur carry on with your demand for genuine autonomy.  He was present, he can vouch to that.  He even told the media afterwards, carry on with your demands for genuine autonomy.  If you succeed, we will support you, and there is no need for us to continue on fighting. If you succeed, what's the use?  However, he was still a little bit skeptical, he said we don't see any concrete sign about the sincerity of the government to push through with peace agreement.  And therefore I would like to ask you, he said, to give me a pledge, a word of honor, that if I get independence through my own initiative, you should be the first man on the surface of this earth to extend your congratulation to me.  And this what I told him and I want to put it on record.  I told him if I see, not only that I will be the first on to congratulate you, but if we will be proven failure and that you will succeed, then we will dissolve this hypocritical autonomy and we will ask the people to go to you to support you.  There's no problem with me, I can give way to him, or to anyone.  If I believe that this autonomy is already useless, then why should I carry on with a useless kind of war.  I don't like to waste my time. 

      I hope my message is clear and I hope that you will take this seriously when I said this, it's not me alone who said this.  You go around, ask our leaders in the field they will tell you even much more serious than this.  But I appreciate my brother here for ___ despite the fact that we have barely few months to go, he is to still able to master that courage to ask for the government to extend all those kind of assistance to implement etc, etc. but to me it seems now, I don't know, I have been toying with the idea, maybe, because of the fact that we are now at the tail end - just a few months to go - I don't know, no matter how much money you will pour into Mindanao.  It will be almost useless.  It's already too late especially if you hold this elections, you hold a pre-mature referendum that cannot ascertain a win-win case for autonomy.  I don't know what's going to happen.  I want to say more but I have already occupied so much of you precious time.  I came here just to add to this discussion and after this until I listen to the... I would like to ask to be excused because I have another meeting with people in Malacaņang.  I hope you don't mind that I will listen to the statement of the honorable Sec. Alexander Aguirre. 

      Thank you.

 

      We are not trying to belie, maybe it is just a matter of oversight.  This SOCSARGEN CLEAN? was not renewed by Ramos.  It was kept in a suspension and a suspended ammunition, annimation, so to speak, nothing they give no funding, they no human being to do the work etc, etc. with only this gentlemen came and you told you try to use that.  But this is an attempt actually, wittingly or unwittingly, to get the air as if it were from our back to get the SPCPD and ARMM back.  The MAGLANCO was an attempt to fragment the ARMM two provinces in the mainland.  The intention to our mind was just to leave Tawi-Tawi and Sulu under our jurisdiction, after the most important thing to address the post-war problem of our people is economics.  And therefore they took the 2 provinces and added several areas and cities including the city under the jurisdiction of my brother here and place it under the jurisdiction of MAGLANCO.  But we salute the President for his wisdom and we thanked him for that because that is a very serious violation.  I told Sec. Aventajado that, first time he called, he requested my presence at his office at Pacific Star and we discussed we have a very sumptuous food and I told him this is my first time I see this document or a design by the President, but I feel off-hand this will encroach on the integrity of the ARMM and the peace agreement, better study it carefully.  So the last time when I met him he said well the mistake of his secretaries.  He overlooked so many things and so on and so forth, anyway, we thanked the President.  The more you rectify the better for us I'm sure. 

       There's another attempt, in fact, I saw a document signed by congressmen, governors, and mayors etc, etc. and putting Mindanao under one economic authority and they requested that the President will stop and put up a political entity to match that thing.  I don't know what happening now, but that only goes to show really that the peace agreement ____is of no moment to anyone.  That the peace agreement is so meaningless to them, they are not that careful.  That's why we feel sometimes that the GRP peace panel is far behind in its effort to educate the people there.  Because the most devastating opposition is right from within the ruling party itself.  Do I have to name who are trying to destroy the peace agreement?  And for what reason?

       And another thing is there is a one point he mentioned about section so and so and Phase I of so and so and Phase III then Phase II of the peace agreement.  I hope you understand Mr. Secretary that the reason why we had to put that in Section I Phase I is the intention to implement first phase.  Then you mentioned something that would undermine the integrity of that pertinent provision.  What does it mean?  What was your intention?  After agreeing to that agreement in Phase I and then you are inserted a provision I don't think it came from us.  It must have come from your side.  If that was your intention then there was something hanky-panky business there.  We put these provisions in Phase I, the intention was to implement it during Phase I. 

        Try to rectify this because of your explanation is correct then some people I don't know who tried to put one over us.  And this is very dangerous.  Already in Tripoli 1976, they pirated one provision that is now the cause of this trouble for all of us. 

       Our impression is that all of these appointment and like that is well within the competence of the President.  In fact, we tried in the beginning, I recommended someone to the court of appeals right away.  And then we try to recommend by some other places but they said well it was already committed.  I recommended my brother here to head the OMA.  But they said it was already committed to somebody.  And then we recommended for the same reason but this is my understanding, but the problem is they are trying to twist the interpretation so that we will not be represented.

       Anyway, I think there are two interpretations here.  I don't know which one is right.  It could be the government, it could also be the MNLF.  And therefore there is reason for to take recourse to a third party to iron out the kinks.  I think it's important we discussed these because our people have always been asking because that have been in their minds.  Every time we meet with our people they will always say, how come until now we are not represented in the government because the idea was for us to be ... that's why I as a matter of fact even before we signed the peace agreement I remember some people form you panel coming to me on several ocassions asking me to recommend already.  Like Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

       Before I leave first I would like to, on behalf of my brothers here and my sisters, I like to convey our appreciation for suggestions or for the proposal and you count on our full support.  Secondly, I would like to say in passing first remember the peace negotiation was commenced by people from the office of the speaker, de Venecia was the one who sent with the _____ of President Ramos.  So we saw before us, the distinguished Cong. Ermita in Tripoli and also Cong. Nuljaafar and of course their advisers, they were the ones.  But I understand its Congress now that's making things difficult as if what was committed by the previous Congress is not obligatory on their part, this is very far because don't forget that we still have a long way to go.  If you do, you will to continue plan the seeds of these thrusts on our part, then you might find difficulties with us and other movement in the future. 

       Secondly, I'd like to invite the attention to the fact that for the last 9 or 10 months, Consultative Assembly has not met, or because the appointment of the Consultative Assembly has not been approved by ____.  We have been very fastidious in following your advice, that all of us had to tend our resignation, so we tended our resignations.  Only the Executive Council has been renewed.  But without this Consultative Assembly renewed and reappointed, we cannot do anything.  Although Consultative Assembly is as good as useless because we have been trying to produce so many recommendations but to no avail.  You see, we are like fools already, I'm sorry to way this. 

       And the third one, we have trying to produce one high-impact project.  And this is the Sulu circumferential road.  But excellencies and Mr. Secretary, it is very lamentable that the last time we received funding was in November last year.  The President advised Vigilar to sent an investigating team.  They went around the area and they stayed for several days, and I understand there was a draft report they mentioned to me their happiness that the value of the work we have done is very much more than the value sent to us.  They said how will you able to manage this without money?  But the most important thing here is that we look at this project as the only the project that can have some meaning to the people.  Give us the chance.  Give us the benefit of the doubt.  And my last words, I now take my leave.  Thank you.

 

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