with MNLF, not MILF, President asked
FORMER Gov. Nur
Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) urged
President Benigno Aquino 3rd to stop negotiating with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in connection with Manila’s bid
to establish a new federal government for the Muslim population
in southern Mindanao.
The MILF has no
more personality because most of its leaders have defected to
his group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Misuari
recently told reporters and editors of The Manila Times during
an exclusive roundtable.
In fact, he said,
the MILF does not exist anymore and what is left is a ragtag
group that the group calls Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
led by Umbra Kato and Commander Bravo, the very persons who led
attacks on villages of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces
in August 2008 over an aborted signing of a peace agreement with
the Arroyo administration.
“The MILF is
already disintegrated. A great portion of their military has
rejoined us. Thousands and thousands of them defected to us.
Practically all of
them are now with us. I don’t know how many remained with the
group of Kato and Bravo,” said the former ARMM governor, who
taught political science at the University of Philippines for
The MILF broke
away from the MNLF in 1980 and was formally organized in March
1984 under the leadership of Hashim Salamat, who died in 2003.
They disagreed on
goals of establishing an independent Mindanao, with the MNLF
refusing to take on a more aggressive approach and the MILF
carrying on with a more religious orientation.
Although active in
armed struggle, the MILF, however, has been attempting to forge
lasting peace in southern Philippines.
On August 5, 2008,
Manila, under the administration of then President Gloria
Arroyo, and the MILF, through the chairmen of their peace
panels, were scheduled to sign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the
Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) under the
Tripoli Agreement of 2001.
The signing did
not materialize after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled against
it, saying that it was unconstitutional.
Kato and Bravo
then led the attacks on civilian villages in Central Mindanao.
the Malaysian government of supporting the MILF’s protracted war
to keep the Muslim population busy fighting government forces
instead of claiming the vast Sabah territory, which supposedly
belongs to the Philippines.
He said that
reporters who interviewed him recently confided to him that they
saw powerful weapons in the hands of the followers of Kato and
“They told me they
saw with their two eyes high-powered weapons in Kato and Bravo’s
camps. But despite this, many of their commanders defected to
the MNLF, like Hadji Murad, Sammy Gambad and their respective
brigades. A younger brother of Commander Gordon rejoined us,”
“If the government
is pragmatic, realistic, it should desist from being used by the
Malaysian government to sabotage peace in Mindanao,” he said.
According to him,
he suspects that Malaysia is prodding the MILF to wage war
continuously because of the problem of Sabah. “They want to
cling to that land (Sabah). War is the only way to keep us busy
fighting each other.”
He said he called
the attention of Kuala Lumpur authorities and told them, “Don’t
ever suspect us of marching forces (across Sabah).”
“They said, ‘Why
is Nur Misuari increasing his forces? They want to attack
Sabah.’ No. We are Muslims, it is forbidden by God to attack
Misuari challenged the Malaysian government to bring to the
International Court of Justice their insistence that they own of
He said that
Sabah’s annual income is pegged at around $108 billion mostly
from its natural oil and mines and minerals.
“You are not
giving us part of $108 billion of your yearly earnings from
Sabah natural resources. Well, get a portion of that money and
look for the best lawyers in the world. Prove before the
International Court of Justice your claim to Sabah.”
Misuari said that
the government is being blinded by an illusion that Manila can
defeat the Muslims of Mindanao through war..
He said over 35
years of rebellion have passed and the armed conflict is still
going on, killing thousands from both sides, including hundreds
“Why persist on
creating war in Mindanao? We were never defeated. Over half a
million people were killed. The government should stop this war.
Don’t wage war just so you can have reasons to promote generals
and inject more fund in your army,” Misuari added.
The MILF’s claim
to establishing an Islamic homeland in Mindanao is anchored on a
peace agreement forged by MNLF with Manila in 1996.
In the agreement,
the MNLF and the government have agreed on 33 issues, leaving
only three major issues unresolved—autonomy; sharing of revenues
between central government and regional government in strategic
minerals and transition mechanism.
The same issues,
ironically, are still the bone of contention in the government’s
peace talks, not with the MNLF, but with the MILF.