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On the occasion of 31st Bangsamoro Freedom Day
On March 18, 1999 at Kabatangan, Zamboanga City

          Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem…

My distinguished brother B/Gen Usman Basja, who is here with us in this occasion along with his colleague, Brother Col Didik Erapornomo, to convey the message of unity and solidarity on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference that they represent in their capacity as head of the Joint Monitoring System.

The honorable former Mayor Vitaliano Agan, who is here to honor with his presence, my brother, the distinguished head of the tribal communities 5 to 6 million strong all-over Mindanao, the Honorable Sultan Victor Banguyan, who just spoke before us to reaffirm the spirit of unity and solidarity between the Muslim people and the Highlander communities in Mindanao and the islands.

The distinguished Hendrick Cobarubias representing the Hon. Caroline Iglesias, Executive Director of PARECO, the distinguished Bernie Concepcion, head of the Zamboanga Press Club, the president of the Zamboanga Press Club, and his colleagues,

Former Vice Mayor of Jolo, Hon. Hadji Hassan Hassiman, the distinguished representative of the business community in Jolo, the Hon. Hadji Jammang, who is probably one of the most prominent businessmen in Zamboanga and entire Mindanao, and his colleagues.  He is also a businessman, the distinguished Mr. Diusop.  The dynamic leaders of different religious, civic and non-governmental organizations responsible for today’s program, I salute them, the youth of our homeland – the Bangsamoro homeland of Mindanao and the islands for their initiative in organizing this observance of the 31st anniversary of our Freedom Day.  And also representative of our cabinet of ARMM, and the RLA as well as the Consultative Assembly of the SPCPD represented by the Hon. Salipada Tamano, head of National line-agencies and city officials. 

In this connection, I’d like to convey our sincere gratitude to the Hon. Mayor of the City of Zamboanga for the cooperation in extending the official permit for our brothers to go around the city.  This is a very good sign for all of us because what we want really is to have complete cooperation here in Zamboanga and in all other places in Mindanao in order to ensure peace and stability among us. 

And also, allow me to mention in particular the leaders and members of the Bangsamoro Youth Assembly, who along with the other youth movement, civic and religious movement were responsible in putting up this celebration.  And I would also like to mention the presence of our MNLF Field commanders and of course the MNLF integrees.  And of course some key leaders of the MNLF are present here and finally, I would like to thank all of those brothers and sisters who took the pain in coming to this occasion and, of course, I would like to finally salute our brothers in the SPCPD and ARMM who are holding offices here in the Kabatangan, in particular, our brother Nuung Ajihil, who is the spearhead of this program, and the other officials who have been very much responsible for this occasion.  I would like to mention brother Sumbing, the Executive Secretary or Deputy of Bro. Bong Parcasio is here to represent his office.  I would like to apologize to everyone for my inability to mention everyone here but, of course, I would like to thank you all for coming to this occasion and tomorrow, Insha’ Allah, we will culminate our celebration in the island of Jolo. 

Before we came here as mentioned by the distinguished brother Sultan Victor Banguyan, we have gone to various parts of Mindanao.  Three days ago, we started our journey to Mindanao from Davao City around 7:30 or 8 o’clock in the morning.  Our journey started out from one hotel there in the city and we proceeded to Sinoda.  Sinoda is a boarder community between Bukidnon and Davao City.  Their representatives of 40 tribal communities were present by the hundreds of them in that area and the occasion was the second conferment to me by our dear brothers and sisters of the highlander communities of the title of Datu Matuus, which means the supreme datu or the supreme leader of the highlander communities.

I was very grateful to all of them for this great honor they have given to me, they have bestowed on me, but this is an honor which I believe reaffirms and sanctifies the unity and solidarity among us.  As a matter of fact the key speakers in the occasion representing the indigenous communities were mentioning about the fact that we the Muslims and the Highlanders came from two brothers who sailed the present indigenous population of Mindanao.  There were two brothers Datu Mamalu and Tabunaway.  They were two blood brothers.  And Iranons and the Maranaws and the Maguindanaons and all of us probably descended from these two brothers.  So we were grateful for the great honor they have given to me in the name of all of you. 

From there, we proceeded to Maramag, deep inside Bukidnon.  There were hundred of integrees who were waiting for us.   It was a very lively occasion and speeches were delivered before the audience.  The military camp was very lively for there were so many people around.  From Maramag, we went to another area to visit our camp, the MNLF camp.  There were several brothers who are armed and unarmed in the camp just about a kilometer or two from the area where the integrees were staying. 

From there, almost late in the afternoon, we proceeded to Malaybalay; also there several hundreds of our integrees were waiting for us. And we had a very lively occasion also and we were over-token by the nightfall and then later on we proceeded to Cagayan de Oro.  In Cagayan de Oro, there were MNLF officers coming from the indigenous and Muslim communities in Northern Mindanao – outside of the SZOPAD – outside of the SPCPD and the ARMM.  The officers – very distinguished in their uniform – they represented seven brigades.  I think you know very well that the peace agreement that we signed both in Tripoli, Libya and in Jeddah, 1997 – the Jeddah accord, as well as the peace agreement that we signed on September 2, 1996 in Malacañang Palace, Manila – all of these stipulated that only part of Mindanao are included in the proposed territorial dimension or jurisdiction of the autonomy.  But the truth of the matter is we have tens of thousands of forces outside.

In Misamis Oriental, we have in Agusan , we have in the mountains, we have in Davao del Norte.  In fact in Davao, both Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte, I think we have the greatest proportion of armed forces there in Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental.  But we got only Davao del Sur as part of autonomy.  Of course Bukidnon - we have many forces there coming form different commands, national commands, of course.  Well, anyway, from there, we stayed overnight and then early in the morning we proceeded to Prosperidad.  There was a celebration there of March 18 – that was an advance celebration.  From Prosperidad, we proceeded to Davao del Norte to Tagum passing through Surigao and then later on in the evening we reached back to the city and we stayed overnight.  The following morning we proceeded to Matalam municipality.  We advanced our occasion there – two-day occasion – because of my impending meeting with Brother Ustaz Salamat Hashim.  They were expecting in Matalam about 6,000 MNLF armed forces – about 6,000 coming from neighboring places and also from far distant places.  But because we advanced by surprised one-day in order in difference to our meeting with Chairman brother Ustaz Salamat Hashim.  So only few hundreds were present because we took them by surprise.  But yesterday, we were expecting that huge number of military forces were coming from the Christian, Highlander and Muslim communities, alike.

And last night, we stayed overnight in the city of Cotabato, but of course, I think the media must already told you about our visit to Camp Abubakre As-Siddique.  Many people have been fanning up so many loose speculations about these but I hope I managed to clarify this issue even well before I entered the camp.  I told them that I was going there not as Governor of ARMM, nor as Chairman of SPCPD.  But I was going there as a plain Muslim brother trying to meet another Muslim brother.  I went there at best as Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front of which MILF used to be an integral part.

And people were asking – from the media – is it true, Mr. Chairman, that you are going there to consolidate back the unity and solidarity.  Well I said, we are always united, we are always consolidated, only we belong to two different organizations nowadays owing to the fact that my brother Salamat Hashim is leading a Jihad for complete liberation, for complete independence while we are contended with limited freedom with, of course, genuine autonomy over certain part of Central parts of Mindanao.  But it was the MNLF leadership, in fact, I was the one who first conceived of putting up the Bangsamoro Republik after I organized the MNLF.  And also I was the one who taught to work for the total decolonization of our homeland and for setting up of the Bangsomoro Republik as a free sovereign independent state.  Nobody can deny that.  I was the one who organized these.  And as a matter of the fact at one stage at one time I was able to send a delegation to the United Nations to submit our petition for the decolonization of our homeland.  Our petition is still with the UN Commission on Decolonization of 24.  But because of the advice of the OIC, we decided to defer the taking of action on this subject they told us that might do havoc to our mediation for peaceful solution to the problem. 

Well, anyway, dear brothers and sisters, I would just like to inform you in brief that the meeting that we had had with brother Ustadz Salamat Hashim was a very historic meeting, was a very significant meeting.  And when I was asked by the media right there in Camp Abubakre – because after our meeting and our lunch – it was a lunch meeting, in fact, because before I went there brother Ustaz Salamat Hashim had sent me a handwritten message inviting me for lunch.  He said: brother Nur, we have not taken a lunch for many years.  Before you go to Saudi Arabia as head of the Hajj 1999 … you know I was ameerul hajj for 1997 and 1998, now for this year I was planning to enjoy my 8-day mandatory vacation.  So I made preparation to go to Saudi Arabia to meet my friends and then to proceed to Egypt to visit my eldest son, Abdulkarim – still studying at the AL AZHAR University.  And then from there, I said, I was going to proceed to the Emirates to visit my younger son Adeeb and from there my plan was to return back to our homeland to resume our activities here in the ARMM and SPCPD. 

But then one evening, somebody called me up.  He said: Mr. Chairman I am now mobile in Metro Manila, I just came from Malacañang and I met the president and the president has asked me to convey to you his pleasure to appoint you as the ameerul hajj again.  So everything was changed and therefore we start making preparation and now I will be heading again about 4,000 pilgrims from our homeland but my immediate companions will be around 80 of us. Previous year 1997, we were able to bring about 45 people, 1998, we brought 53 about.  Now I’m bringing about 80 people with me – old people. 

I have always told our people everytime when we need the cooperation of the weather, the weather will always cooperate with us, Insha’ Allah.  So don’t be afraid.  I have the fastest speedboat in this part of the world.  So you will reach in Jolo maybe faster than my small aircraft.  Anyway, ‘yung tungkol sa meeting with Brother Salamat Hashim, it was a very historic one.  If only for one reason that we managed to overcome persistent speculations and fitna and smear campaign making it appear as if MNLF and MILF are at war with each other.  Hindi totoo ‘yun.  That’s impossible.  Kung mayroong awayan noon, it was not between MNLF and MILF.  It was just among brothers who are coveting one beautiful lady.  Kaya nga at times sinasabi ko sana wala na tayong magagandang babae dito sa timog Pilipinas or dito sa Southern Mindanao.  Kasi itong magaganda, ‘yan ang cause ng mga giyera sa atin – awayan between two tribes.  So anyway, maganda rin ang maraming magaganda sa atin.  But the truth of the matter is we are one. And as I told the media yesterday in Camp Abubakar: don’t misunderstand us.  We are Muslims. 

We went up the mountains.  We passed trough very rugged and very tortuous road.  But we thought that it was our sacred duty to go there.  Before we reached the destination, kaunti na lang ang naiwan sa aming vehicles – sirang-sira na.  ‘Kako baka tailored itong daan nila.  Gipang-sira ng kanilang mga tangke ng government.  According to our information maraming tangke ng government doon.  At saka nakikita din namin, they have mobilized so many tanks.

So we went up.  Before we reached our destination -- the small bila of our brother Ustaz Salamat Hashim – kaunti na lang ang naiwan sa amin.  ‘Yung the whole tire naitapon kung saan.  Mga Toyota cars pa ‘yun.  Sana ang nadala natin ay yung mga karag-karag ng Jolo because it is a sign for a very rough terrain.  But yung Toyota, Mazda, lahat hind makakaya sa daan doon.  So anyway, Alhamdullilah, we managed to reach our brother nandoon siya.  He has relatively comfortable residence except that before we reached his residence, may nakita kaming bahay doon, a complex of houses ‘kako bakit ba ‘yan mukhang sira.  Eh ang sabi nila yun ay natamaan ng 81 mm ng govenrnment.  May namatay doon mga babae more than ten of them – 11 or 12, pati isang Alim. 

Anyway pagdating namin doon, tamang-tama, the table was set for the food.  It was a nice food.  I could not imagine how revolutionary people prepare such sumptuous food.  I t was real good food.  Then when I asked him what kind of chicken is this.  This is native chicken I know brother Nur matagal ka nang hindi kumain ng native chicken.  So he gave me, he served us … the usual Ustadz.  He’s a very kind-hearted man; very intelligent, very wise and very dedicated to his cause and to the cause of our people. 

So kumain kami we are chatting like this and like that.  Ang sinabi niya sa amin, you know brother Nur, here in our area, we have so much plantations for our survival.  We have our own fishpond.  We have so many things here.  Ang government ay pumupunta dito.  They offered us so many things, sabi nila: We want to bring development here.  Sabi nila: we are not opposed to development.  You come and develop our area if you like.  Ang problema sabi niya, everytime they come, ironically, pagkatapos while we were waiting for the goodies and for the windfalls to come, ang nangyayari, all the time ang dumating dito ang mga tangke.  So kaya nga parang nasasawa sila daw.  Eh ‘kako don’t lose hope.  Maybe under president Estrada, yung lahat ng mga promise na yan, they might fulfill their promises.  And then pinag-usapan namin so many wanted to interview but I just ignored them because I told myself, kailangan sana, let us wait for Brother Ustaz Salamat to tell the story.  Of course, binigay na namin ang story doon sa mga media.  In front of us with brother Ustaz Salamat, there were nine tape recorders.  Marami yung mga camera, maliit at saka malalaki.  So ano ang mga tinanong nila sa amin?  Marami, karamihan yung mga speculations.  The truth of the matter is I went there, I would like to repeat, just a simple plain visit of a Muslim brother visiting another Muslim brother. 

Secondly, we discussed about this fitna going around from time to time and get published in the media.  Sabi niya, they are always trying to divide us.  They were trying to pit us against each other.  But this will not do any harm to us.  After all, deep in our hearts we are brothers and I said to the media, you see, the truth of the matter is, as brothers in Islam, our brotherhood is most sublime than brotherhood of two brothers or sisters coming from the same womb.  Mas sublime ang brotherhood ng Muslims because it is sanctified by Allah in His book, the Holy Qur’an, when He said that a Muslim is a brother to another Muslim.  Kaya nga kung mag-fight ang dalawang Muslim, wala namang justifications, walang  investigation yan.  You go down to hell.  So huwag ninyong kalimutan yan.  And don’t forget also, sinabi ng Holy Qur’an, If you kill one human being without justification, as if you have killed the whole of humanity.  Nandiyan sa Holy Qur’an, basahin ninyo.  And the Holy Qur’an also says – immediately after the verse, if you save one human being, not necessarily a Muslim, it is if as you have saved the lives of humanity.  Anlaki ng reward, anlaki ng punishment if you kill one human being without a cause.

That’s why when we launched our Jihad fi sabillilah, we launched it in the name of our Islamic civilized warfare.  Tayo lang ang mina-massacre kung saan-saan.  No massacre occurred from our side.  We were always on our defense because sinasabi ng Allah:  Don’t be aggressor for Allah does not love the aggressor.  We are Muslims belonging to the religion of Islam and to the Ummatul Islamia.  Members of the United Nations – 55 members of the United Nations – Muslims are members of the OIC.  Right now we are 55 Muslim countries in the OIC of which the MNLF is a permanent political observer and recognized by them in their summit resolution as the sole legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people.  Bangsamoro people embraces Muslims and our highlander communities because after all that is the definition of the law and that is how our dear leader here sultan Victor Banguyan and all the leaders feel towards us and also that’s how we feel towards them.  After all we came from one common ancestry.  Now apart from that, ang pinagusapan namin doon, brother Nur, sabi niya: I don’t mind you getting this autonomy.  I will not feel hurt but I would just like to ask you.  To be very careful, because baka nasa trap ka.  Good if they will implement that.  If they will implement the autonomy, walang ano sa amin.  We welcome that and we support you.

In fact this morning I was told – sinabi raw ni brother Ustadz Salamat sa media this morning sa radio station: I support the autonomy of brother Nur.  And we hope the government will fulfill their obligations under the terms of the peace agreement.  Ngunit the good Ustaz Salamat also whispered to me: brother Nur, puwede ba, if I gain our Independence, you will also be the first one to congratulate me.  ‘Kako you tell the government. If they tell you they assure you they will give Independence to you, I will dissolve the autonomy and I will join you in your independence.  So the spirit is mutual.  If he wins, I join him.  If we win, they will probably join us, Insha’ Allah. 

Secondly, it is our belief, shared belief with our brother Ustaz Salamat, Hadji Murad, the commander of MILF armed forces there was present, and with brother Mohagher Iqbal and the Ulama.  Sabi nila: let us now move on parallel line.  Let us not quarrel.  Let us not allow our people to quarrel.  After all, we have common destiny.  We are brothers.  Whatever you do should be good for our people.  Whatever I do and the MILF should also be good for everyone. 

The third point na pinagkasunduan was sabi niya: we must now protect the peace in Mindanao because unless MNLF and MILF will work together for peace it’s impossible to have peace in Mindanao.  So yun ang pinagkasunduan.  But equal important was our decision to include our highlander brothers in promoting peace in Mindanao.  And I believe if the highlander communities, the Muslim communities to be led by the MILF and MNLF will work together, I am sure, Insha’ Allah, there can be peace in Mindanao.  And Mindanao can be among the most peaceful parts of the world.  And I think our brother will stand up as a confirmation or affirmation of his support to this principle that peace must now be guaranteed by the unity of these three: MILF, MNLF and the Highlander leadership, Insha’ Allah.  Thank you. 

And the more so if as I know if the government, President Estrada, Mercado, Nazareno, all of those handsome faces will join hands with us.  And I think they will because President Estrada, to me, is a gift to the Filipino nation.  He’s a gift to peace. He is very simple and very grassroots in his approach.  But some people misunderstand him for his simplicity.  But he is just the right man for the day for the hour.  But of course he will never succeed unless everyone, in his government and outside his government, will cooperate with him.  But he is a very sincere man.  First time I met him, he immediately told me after he won victory, he called for me in Malacañang palace, Brother Nur, rest assured in the presence of some Korean, Chinese and Japanese businessmen, would like to tell you that I’m promising brother Nur that he will get much more than what he got under the previous administration. 

Now he is suppose to serve for six years.  Right now, he has served out only six months out of six years.  Now already, I’d like to tell you, in compliance to his promise and pledges to our people, President Estrada has already approved for implementation 163 bridges costing 4 billion pesos.  And he has approved it here and signed there in General Santos.  He invited me to his boat Pangulo.  We sat together side by side and he called Diokno and Vigilar to join us – four of us – City Mayor Lobregat was by his right side.  I was to his left.  And Pimentel and bishop of Zamboanga and the beautiful senators there were present and he said this: I want you to release P1.6 billion.  Apart from the P4 billion intended from 163 bridges for 4 provinces in the ARMM, President Estrada has also approved the release of P1.6 2 billion for the completion of the first two lanes of our circumferencial road in Jolo.  And the President said: after you finish the first two lanes, move on to the other two lanes and then the other two lanes and so on and so forth until you are able to produce that circumferencial road which shall be the finest circumferencial road in the whole Philippines and which will be one of the proudest and the greatest achievements of Pres. Estrada’s administration, Insha’ Allah.  So that’s for two projects that is worth P5.62 billion.  But sabi ni Presidente when he was asked by the media in General  Santos after the signing of the MOA for the 163 bridges because the circumferencial road we announced was 162 kilometers now after the signing I said I will make the road 163 kilometers also.  Now he said this is just the beginning.  He was repeating it. 

This is just the beginning so therefore, before I left Manila, our undersecretary for DILG called me up to tell me he said: brother Nur, I was informed that the President has placed P3 billion with the Landbank. I said what for.  That is for livelihood that you have been demanding.  So sabi nila we must participate.  So ngayon maggawa kayo ng good quality project.  Don’t exaggerate, if you exaggerate gaganyanin namin yun.  Alam man namin.  So we will put big cross ganyan that means disapproved.  Only be very practical. Huwag kayong magkuha ng loans although it is very soft loan that you have to pay after 20 to 25 years, but be practical.  After all, we know your capability.  So maggawa kayo ng mga loans na yan and then you submit later on, make it very good quality loans and then we will see how much they will approve.  But be sure that the loan will multiply.  The money that you loaned will create wealth, but not create utang.  Don’t allow this loan to ruin you.  You get loan and then itapon lang ninyo ganyan and then you will have headache looking for money how to repay.  Get the loans and have it multiply.

  I have also that project but this is going to be funded by the special fund from Japan.  Container Seaport – the container seaport to be complemented with the high quality domestic airport with option to become international as soon as tourism and business start peeking up in our homeland.  This container seaport will be built in Jolo because it is strategic for purposes of business.  And recently I’d like to inform you, I was in Jakarta, I met His Excellency Bapa President Habibie and something like eight or nine ministers.  I met them and we decided first Indonesia will now release the 10 aircrafts for our Minsupala airways.  So don’t be surprised if one day I will not be flying anymore this aircraft.  I will be flying another kind of aircrafts, Insha’ Allah.  Ten aircrafts – four of them F28 the latest version, ang anim for transport for cargo -- product of the joint technology of the Germany and France.  This is the Transal that can carry each unit 18 tons. 

Apart from that, and upon the suggestions of many brothers Indonesia also approved two things in addition.  First, the putting up of the Majapahit Trade Zone to complement our present business relationship with Indonesia that we are conducting through Davao City and General Santos City via Menado.  Our people from Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and others, they have to go to Davao City, take a boat to Menado.  From Menado they had to take aircraft or what have you to Surabaya or to other parts of Indonesia that entails a lot of money that would be added to the cost of goods and commodities and customers will have to shoulder that eventually.  So in order to make business, easy-to-carry-on, we decided to put up the Majapahit Trade Zone. 

President Bapa Habibie and the ministers had told me: brother Nur, you don’t have to go very far.  All you have to do is give identity to your businessman when they come.  But we don’t have to go to Surabaya, all we have to do is to ask them to go to Tarakan or go to Sebatik sa Sungay Niyamok.  All the goods that we need, that’s why I asked my assistance to prepare a long list what is it that we need here from Indonesia?  Kahit karayom, trade, anything we need then they will identify and they will give us concessioner price.  So cheaper pa because we don’t have, it does not entered too much transportation values and cheaper pa because they will reduce the price for us.  And to complement this para we could have easy access to commodities, we have decided together with Indonesian government to put up the Majapahit Shipping Lines.  So Bapa President Habibie advised me one day after hajj to visit Surabaya to arrange for the kind of cargo vessels that we need because Surabaya is producing high-quality ships for this purpose even Germany at the present moment has asked them to produce very big boat for German use.

So I planned to bring some businessmen with me, yung mga high-quality genuine businessmen, huwag lang yung mga hypocritical businessmen nakasisira lang ng atmosphere doon, but good quality businessmen who are ready to deal in accordance with business ethics with the noblest Islamic ethics.  So we will deal with them, Insha’ Allah, this will make part of our homeland prosperous.  So yung tatlong decision, Insha’ Allah, this will.  The fourth one, Bapa President Habibie has told that I am at liberty to immediately import at concessioner price - cement and asphalt.   Now, for cement and asphalt, the elder brother who used to be ambassador of Indonesia to London – Ambassador Penny Habibie came to see me in Manila, we had a meeting in one hotel there.  He told me: now anytime we can ask for the asphalt.  The asphalt we need for our long road in Jolo 163 kilometers.  My intention _______ my way I will get them money available I want to put cement first.  After the cement, I will put asphalt so that our karag-karag will not be called karag-karag anymore.  It will not sound krag-krag anymore because it will be moving on very smooth surface. . . . . # # #



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