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Camp Abubakre As-Siddique
March 16, 1999


This photograph was taken during the first meeting of Chairman Misuari and Chairman Salamat by the photographer of Chairman Nur Misuari.

What have the two Chairmen agreed, work hand in hand, foster lasting peace in Mindanao or wage another war for Muslims to achieve self-rule in Mindanao?

SALAMAT:      Actually this meeting has no agenda. It is just a meeting among brothers. What we discussed are matters concerning our long existing brotherhood or fraternal relations. These are matters we discussed. Of course, we can not avoid discussing matters concerning the peace and order in Mindanao because everybody is affected of the peace and order situation. We can not avoid discussing this and also we can not avoid talking about matters concerning developments of our area, because our area was depressed for quite so long time. So these are the matters we discussed: our long existing brotherhood, fraternity and then matters concerning the improvements of the peace and order situation in the area and also the improvement of our depressed areas.

MISUARI:        Well, I can not add anything. He has already said practically everything we have discussed. As I said earlier, you see, Iím coming here just upon the invitation of my brother here to have lunch with him. And we took the lunch so therefore he fulfilled his promise. I would have asked him, saan na ba ang lunch, bakit nag-imbita ka? It was a nice one, nice lunch. I never expected in a place like this by the side of the mountains that we could eat such a sumptuous lunch here.  So next time around Iím asking him to expect our visit everytime weíll be guaranteed that there be the same lunch they will give to us.

Bakit ngayon lang nangyari after more than two decades?

MISUARI:        Well, you see, brother Ustadz Salamat was very elusive. He was still filling his.. ano.. around the island and me, I was trying to consolidate, alam mo I had to go everywhere in fact before I came here, I was in Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Agusan and Surigao, in Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte just before I came here.  Because now that I have found enough time to spare and especially I heard that my brother is saying, I would like to send messages to our mutual friends in the Middle East.  Because he heard that I was appointed as Ameerul Hajj then this is the good timing for him to send words to his friends who are also my friends.

 How does it feel that after 21 years you see each other?

MISUARI:        Well, of course Muslims are Muslims.  They are brothers unto each other and in fact our brotherhood, thatís why he mentioned brotherhood because the brotherhood of Muslims belonging to one common religion is much greater and most sublime than the brotherhood of those coming from the same womb.  So you can imagine, we have been far apart from each other for so long.  Before we were staying in the same house, eating the same food, sitting around the same table, discussing about the strategy and the tactics how to win peace and freedom in our homeland.  Now we are moving on two separate paths, his is to pursue independence the way he wants it, me, I want to pursue our objective in another way.  And now, itís up to the government to see how they can utilize this to ensure that there will be lasting, durable and permanent peace in Mindanao.  My brother here wants lasting peace in Mindanao.  Misuari also wants lasting peace in Mindanao.  Eh, wala naman kaming pagkaiba dito.  Both of us want greater freedom for the people of Mindanao, Ďdi ba?

Did you discuss what made you separate in 1978 and are there any regret because of that split?

SALAMAT:      Actually, there was so separation.  We have been emphasizing the so-called split between us and our brothers in the MNLF was just a tactical approach to the solution to the problem of our Bangsamoro people.  And I would like to repeat what brother Nur said, I invited him to have lunch with me because I believe that for a quite long time he has not tasted the real native chicken which is self-supporting.  Next time I think and I hope you will not be surprised if I invite him again to have lunch with me with Tilapia.

MISUARI:        So you are raising your tilapia here?

SALAMAT:      Yes, as a matter of fact we have a very big tilapia.  And our next lunch, Inshaí Allah, instead of chicken it will be tilapia.

 MISUARI:        So letís call it a Tilapia lunch.

 Chairman Misuari, sir, supposing the President will ask you what have you discussed in todayís meeting, how would you report to the President?

 MISUARI:      I will not report to anyone.  Iím not obliged to report. I just came here as a plain Muslim, you see.  If I tell anybody, that is just a matter of courtesy.  This is just a simple affair between me and my brother here and of course the other brothers (Murad, Iqbal and everyone here).  And I also wanted to see our sisters, we were together before, you see.  And of course, even now we are still together and thereís no doubt about that.  We are brothers, no one in this world can separate us.  We are Muslims, our unity and brotherhood is eternal.  You see, otherwise we will be cursed by God, we can not.  But itís just too bad that because I have signed the peace agreement so our hands are tied otherwise we can not tolerate our brothers and our people to be harmed right before our eyes.  That we can never tolerate.  But what can we do, the religion of Islam is also telling us be not the first to violate your agreement, because it is sacred.  So it is like that.  But as I have been very vocal and very sad, I said itís very painful for me, thatís why I stayed away.  I stayed away in some places.  People were looking for me, in the first place I had no right to intervene because I didnít have any mandate form the government and that because itís really very painful for to see our people being harmed just like that.  But anyway, the important thing is, this is just a simple, I donít think President Estrada is so interested to get report from me about this.  I know he is a very good man.  He trusts us, he likes the Muslims, he likes the people of Mindanao.  I donít think itís the media wants to get report.  We are reporting to you already.

   The meeting took about 2 hours practically, what ------- ?

 MISUARI:        But we are eating and sitting down here, drinking coffee, they just ___with you that the glass, cups before you come in.

 We would like to find out Mr. Chairman if the upcoming ARMM election, and the plebiscite, and the SPCPD, and the Mindanao development plan, the flagship project of Pres, Estrada were discussed in todayís meeting?

MISUARI:        You can ask him, we never touched on these.  As I promise the media, I never touched about the election, referendum, all of these plans.  No, no.  I just came here for a -----.

SALAMAT:      In fact, I was the one who mention about these development projects in the government.  I told him that many government offices came here to ask us if we welcome development projects.  I told them, as a matter of fact, we were longing for these development projects for quite long time ago.  But we are confused, the government used to emphasize to us that the government wanted to develop our area and then they need the cooperation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  And I told them that we are very cooperative.  But we are confused because instead seeing development equipment and facilities here in our area, we see tanks and artilleries.  How can we believe that the government is really sincere in developing our area when instead of bringing here development equipment and facilities they bring tanks and artillery.  This is- you see, the reason why until now we can not really believe that the Philippine government is really sincere in developing our area.  We are even expecting that the government will come and recruit our poor people as workers of these developments programs that they are talking about.  But instead of coming here and recruiting our poor people as laborers of these development programs, they bring soldiers, thousands of soldiers in our area.  So how can we believe them.

Mr. Chairman, mayroon pong imbitasyon, hindi ko lang malaman kung ang presidente po ba ang nag-imbinta o kayo ho and nag-imbita para mag-usap kayo, saan ho ang tama rito?

SALAMAT:      Actually, the message was the one who told the media that he was willing to meet me anywhere and anytime.  He was the one.  We read in the papers, we heard in the broadcasts that president Estrada wanted to meet me anywhere and anytime and so we responded (I responded) positively.  And more than that, he sent Sec. Aventajado as his personal emissary to me to convey to me his willingness to meet me anywhere and anytime.  So I responded positively.

 Maybe we can ask Cot. City Mayor and MNLF Sec. Gen. Muslimen Sema, how would you describe the meeting sir?

SEMA:             Well, the meeting was very cordial, very ____.  In fact, after we arrived the food were already on the table.  When we entered it was time to pray so there was a choice between eating and praying, so the Ulama said eating should come first.  So we took our lunch while on the table there were so many of us brotherly discussed what took place.

  I think we would for a comment from the vice chairman of the MILF.  How would you describe, sir?

MURAD:         Well, I think the meeting only proved that the two decades that past have not changed anything.  The brotherhood is the same, the relationship is the same.  So the more than two decades of absence of meeting proves to us that it did not change our relationship.  So thatís all I think.

Some people would misinterpret the meeting negatively as a consolidation of forces and that as Edwin said earlier the MNLF and MILF might wage war against the government.  But this has been denied by the both Chairmen.  What for you is the historical significance aside from the fact that his is your first meeting after 21 years.  What is the positive contribution of this historical meeting to the peace and development agenda of Mindanao?

SALAMAT:      Well, we believe that after this meeting there would be a continued improvement of the peace and order situation in the area.  And there would also be a continued implementation of what development projects are there.  And that regarding what will happen in the future will be pinned on what will actually happen.  We can not tell it now and this will all depend on the government.  If the government is really sincere in finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem of our people here in Mindanao, then let the government prove to us their sincerity.  And as of our meeting, we can not tell you now the significance of the meeting but you will know what really happened afterwards.

 MISUARI:        Well, my brother has stated already but seems to be very obvious and very apparent.  Well, heís leaving everything to the future.  I think there would be more good things than bad that will emanate from this and that our meeting will be justified, Iím sure by the positive outcome in time because the fact that our brotherhood and our fraternity is as intact as ever is a guarantee that there will be larger peace and larger freedom for Mindanao.  Not only for the Muslims and the highlanders but as well as for our Christian brothers and sisters who have decided to come down and stay and live here and even die here in Mindanao.  We welcome everyone, Mindanao has enough space for everyone here and therefore  there will be________ effect.  Consequence would be such that everyone will be saying one day that it was a nice thing that the two leaders finally had met.

 Mr. Chairman, there have been dozens of recommendations to the government, to the GRP panel, to enlist the MNLF in helping monitor the ceasefire in areas where forces of MILF are scattered.  Because there are areas also where MNLF are also scattered but the government seems to ignore all of these recommendations. How do you figure out these recommendations because there are contentions that it could have been deliberate on the part of the government to create impression that right in the Bangsamoro homeland, the GRP-MNLF truce could not even take off?

MISUARI:        Well I think the people in the media like your good self are much better informed than we are and you are in a better position to make what they call educated guess.  Probably even we, we have to rely on the judgment of the people from the media because you know at one time I was contacted by our brothers, they told me that there was some kind of an initiative to exactly what you are saying, to request to put our forces in between.  I said go ahead, provided the two sides will agree (M/Gen. Rolando Bautista and Lt.Gen. Angelo Reyes were agreeable, and our brother here was agreeable and everyone) because who does not want peace?  Everyone, because thatís the basic instinct of human being is to have peace.  At least, we in the MNLF, and I would say that our brothers in the MILF too because we are Muslims and we belong to the religion of Islam which is peace.  In fact Islam is suppose to be the main guardian of peace in this world, because the religion of Islam always teaches peace.  And that as you have said, this is where we should rely on you, we too, we are wondering why there are no formal attempts to put this thing in place, you see.  I donít know I can not supply the answer.  But thatís a very good question.

Mr. Chairman, is the OIC aware of this meeting?

MISUARI:        Yes, yes.  I told not only the OIC but even president Estrada,  I told Pres. Estrada on the 26th of February.  I said Mr. President (because we are in the Ang Pangulo) the President invited me one evening along with some Congressmen, city Mayors, etc, etc., we had a very nice meeting there and then suddenly told me (in a whisper) he said so that you will know, I am decided not to push through with the meeting.  Why Mr. President, everyone is already looking forward to the meeting and everyone is hoping and expecting that there would be many good things that will come from there.  He said technical problems have arise, etc.  Well anyway, I told him, in that case Mr. President, maybe because there is an initiative I have for us to have a courtesy meeting, probably I can go and push through a meeting with him.  I did not ask for blessing.  I did not ask ano.  Because it is just a matter of courtesy, because I am his subordinate and Iím going here not as an ARMM governor, not as SPCPD Chairman but as MNLF chairman and better still as a Muslim trying to meet another Muslim brother.

Sir, are you going to have more luncheon meeting after this?  Is this the signal of reunification of forces of MNLF and MILF?

SALAMAT:      Yes as I have said that this meeting is a result of my invitation to brother Nur.  I invited him to taste our native chicken here and the next meeting will be Tilapia lunch because we have plenty of tilapia right inside the camp.

When sir?  Not after 21 years maybe 21 days?

SALAMAT:      Yeah, you see during these past years he was busy traveling abroad while I was hiding in the caves.  So it was difficult for us to meet while he was traveling abroad while I was hiding in the caves and in the jungles of Mindanao.  That was the reason why, it was very difficult for us to meet.  And some people in the media were asking me why only now you are meeting with the media?  Because I pity you, I think you can not afford to reach inside the caves where I was hiding before. 

Mr. Chairman, both the MILF and the MNLF are conducting peace process with the government, both of you, how would you assess the Estrada administrationís approach to the Bangsamoro issue?

SALAMAT:      Well, we can not see anything about it because the Estrada administration is still very young.  We are expecting a better developments in the near future.

MISUARI:        Well, I think I agree with my brother here.  Itís a youthful administration, still trying , I would say to grope its way through these maze of problems, obstructions to peace process and to the attainment of peace. We shall give them a chance to position themselves better so they would enrich themselves with more experience and they will take a more correct approach to the problem with more experiences and more understanding, to handle this very delicate matter like entering into a peace process, one should not be so precipitous in ones approach. One has to calculate every step to ensure that one step will inevitably lead to the other. So that you can be ascertained that the peace process will move forward. We in the Muslim community, we Muslims, we are guided by a certain dictum prescribed by the Rasulullah. When I negotiated with Marcos, with Corazon Aquino, with Ramos and signed all those 3 agreements, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, the Jeddah Accord of 1987 and the MalacaŮang Agreement of 1996, we achieved that largely because of us. Because we were so flexible, because we were following very strict guideline from our Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.) when we entered into a peace process.

Thank you very much. I hope one day maybe we will have another time for lunch somewhere else.   


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