TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE
OF THE FIRST HISTORIC MEETING AFTER 21 YEARS
MNLF CHAIRMAN NUR MISUARI
MILF CHAIRMAN SALAMAT HASHIM
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
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
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
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?
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
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?
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
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
So you are raising your tilapia here?
Yes, as a matter of fact we have a very
big tilapia. And
our next lunch, Inshaí Allah, instead of chicken it will
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.
obliged to report. I just came here as a
plain Muslim, you see.
If I tell anybody, that is just a matter of
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
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
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.
meeting took about 2 hours practically, what
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?
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 -----.
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?
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?
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
vice chairman of the MILF.
How would you describe, sir?
Well, I think the meeting only proved that the
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
is the positive contribution of this historical meeting to
the peace and development agenda of Mindanao?
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
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
as of our meeting, we can not tell you now the
significance of the meeting but you will know what really
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
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
Yes, yes. I told not only the OIC but even president Estrada,
I told Pres. Estrada on the 26th of
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
Sir, are you going to have more
luncheon meeting after this?
Is this the signal of reunification of forces of
MNLF and MILF?
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.
Not after 21 years maybe 21 days?
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
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.
you very much. I hope one day maybe we will have another time for lunch somewhere else.