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MESSAGE OF ARMM GOVERNOR & SPCPD
CHAIRMAN PROF. NUR MISUARI

DURING THE LUNCHEON MEETING WITH MUSLIM CONGRESSMEN AND DIPLOMATIC CORPS
 
ON AUGUST 3, 1999 AT SHANGRILA PLAZA

 

            Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi taala wabarakatuhu.

            Iím very sorry, I donít feel well because of my colds and my cough. You know I went to a very hectic journey through Mindanao and the islands. Two days ago, we were the guests of the Hon. Governor Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi of a very successful Economic Development Summit attended by local and foreign investors. It was a very successful one and I salute the honorable governor for his initiative. When we went to Tawi-Tawi from Zamboanga, it took us 17 hours by boat. From there, after 2 days, hosted by him, I proceeded to Jolo and it took us 7 hours by boat again. And from there after inspecting some projects to deliver water to some municipalities and also the burning of huge quantity of marijauna. In Tawi-Tawi, before I left I was invited by the hon. Governor to burn huge quantity of marijuana that was seized by his forces and the PNP there. We burned right inside the plaza. And in Jolo, there was another huge quantity. I donít know how much it was in Tawi -Tawi, they did not tell me, but it must be big amount but in Jolo that was the third time that we seized marijuana. It was worth 4.2 million. Previously, we seized also 2 farm one was worth something like about 4 million the other one was close to 3 million. So we thank the new provincial police chief, Col. Isa and also the elements from the marines under Col. Buenaventura and local MNLF officers and integrees for their success. Iím sure the PNP were also involved in the seizure of this farm in Tawi-Tawi and also the other forces there. But of course, it was the governor himself who spearheaded the initiative to raid our localities or society of drugs. And also, in this connection in Jolo, I was told, they have reduced the incidents of drugs to maximum 20%. Many have been put in prison. More than 100 drug pushers were identified and they have to report. Those who did not report, they were chased to as far as Basilan. But there is no ____ in the effort to ______ out these very dangerous drugs, shabu and marijuana.

            And also from there, we went to Cotabato, (we passed by Manila) to join the meeting of the League of Councilors and vice mayors and at 10:00 at night we proceeded to Davao City to attend the turn-over ceremony of the SPDA, the Hon. Former Al Tillah who used to be a consultant to the Ayala Group of Businesses and who is one of you who maintains a column in the Manila Bulletin, a well read column, has taken over. And it was a very successful turn-over ceremony. The Hon. Aventajado was there and so with his predecessor the Hon. Sultan Ali Mindalano, very very peaceful turn-over ceremony.

            From Davao, I flew to Cebu City. I went there and I met the governor, Gov. Pabling Garcia who was kind enough to receive me and gave me some legal advises about this very contentious problem in the congress. He used to be a congressman, he sat in congress for so long. He told me that he started his tenure in 1987 up to 1995. And from Cebu I went to Dipolog, there I met our dear friend, a member of the Consultative Assembly of the SPCPD, the Hon. Gov. Isagani Amatong, a brother of the governor of Northern Davao. We were received by him, it was a very lively meeting, we recalled our life with the Consultative Assembly. And heís expecting that once the membership will be re-appointed by the President then he would be ready to come and join us. And the area is very peaceful nowadays, in fact I was supposed to join him in visiting some municipalities because we were trying to prepare some program for the construction of roads linking 4 or 5 municipalities. Until now there is no linkage between them, people will have to go by sea.

            And from there we went to Ozamis. From Ozamis, we went to Kulambugan and from there we went to Iligan then to Marawi City, we passed the night there in Iligan City. As usual in all these places  we have to meet our people there including of course the indigenous people where they brought up some problems to us. I had even a very important meeting with them right in the plaza in Dipolog City. There are hundreds of people but they were supposed to be several thousands of them who were ready to come down from the mountain to meet us but because of the heavy rainfall only few hundreds came. At any rate, weíre satisfied that at least about ten important Datus of the Subanen tribal communities, they told me, there are about 67 thousand families.

            Anyway, from there, we proceeded to Marawi. From Marawi we went ______ Camp. This is the consolidated camps of 11 national forces of the MNLF. Before my arrival there was an inaugural meeting there where  about 3 thousand armed men were present from various branches of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces. I stayed with them for a couple of hours, I also took the occasion to settle some local problem and they were inviting me to return back. They said, brother Nur why did you take us by surprise? I said, Iím surprise myself why you are asking this question. You donít know that we are the master of surprises. You see, the art of war, the art and the science of war which has been you know the mode of struggle of our people have been there for centuries. In fact we taught the world how to conduct struggle of the weak against the strong. And I said you should not be surprised because Iím in the habit of taking people by surprise. This time they said, so we can receive you properly here, we hope you will come and you have to tell us so we can receive you properly. And I intend to go back to the area.

            From there, I went to the Muhtalla, the controversial Muhtalla Forces. They said, there are about 30 thousand members of  the Muhtalla. I donít know how many of them have military training, I donít know. But they told me they have supposed to be about that number of membership. They celebrated their anniversary, the Muhtalla, and it was in that very meeting. In fact my address before the Muhtalla anniversay was played over the radio time and again in Cotabato City. And that includes the definition of our policy specially the current crisis in Congress and the Senate.

            I hope you donít mind me bringing you through this long journey that I went and also so that you can understand why I am not feeling so well. I was exhausted because it was almost sleepless nights. I had to endure, thus we could get to the demand of our people. And I came here just for this purpose. And I intend to go back to Mindanao although since yesterday, I was informed that Sen. Roco is inviting me to join him in a committee hearing about this postponement of the elections, etc.

            I have already _______ the government that the less involvement we have in this proceeding the better for us because after all the Peace Agreement is very very precise. It only involved something and we call this deliberate. In the Peace Agreement, we discuss again and again the question as to what should MNLF deliver in terms of peace in Mindanao and what should the government deliver in terms of the implementation of the Peace Agreement?

            In a seminar in Zamboanga City shortly after the transfer of power of the previous one to the present one conducted by the UNDP in collaboration with the SPCPD (the title is so long even people like me can hardy remember, well anyway we are used to that we decorate some things to camouflage), according to the judgment of the distinguished Gen. Jainal Abidin who preceded our brother Gen. Usman  Basa. Before he left, he made a statement in the presence of former Exec. Sec.  Alexander Aguirre who is now the chief adviser to the National Security Council, he said this in a very touching phrase, ďMNLF has delivered and thatís why we have peace between the MNLF and the government, very stable and durable peace, on the other hand, government has notĒ thatís why people are still in the _____. What do they mean by not delivered, because the main obligation and commitment of the MNLF, the most important was to help restore peace to Mindanao, it is not a universal peace covering the entire Mindanao covering everywhere, no, itís a limited one. Peace between the MNLF forces on one hand and the government forces on the other. I have been asking people to tell me whether or not Iíve been telling the truth when I say that by and large there is peace between us and the government. There is no major violation of the Peace Agreement between us and the government. Even you in the media, I think you can vouch to the fact that we are not at war anymore with the government, are we?  Is that not enough contribution? We have been at war with for nearly 30 years. When I was still out there with the MNLF in the battlefield nobody was safe except the innocent one. Even Manila from time to time as a matter of fact, widows   were not allowed anymore by the government to wear their black veil. In the schools, from time to time they have put up the lights here when they are bringing hundreds of corpse from there. That was when the MNLF was still at war with the government. Are you not satisfied that we have put an end to that? You want to see that the countryís back to that dark ages where Mindanao was without light despite the fact that we have the Agus 1, 2, 4,5, and 6, Maria Cristina Falls and so on and so forth. We have so much light that from time to time Mindanao was enveloped by total darkness because of the consequence of the war. Americans, so brave, have advised their citizens not to visit this place so with the Japanese, etc. We were at the pariah at that time. Are you not satisfied by the contribution we have made to peace? What else you want? You want me to produce economic development? Alright ask your government to implement. I have here a document from the office of  Sen. Pimentel expressing his worries about our budget. This budget might be thrown back to the treasury by December if they are not release. Why are they doing this to us? When we are supposed to serve as an agents of change, when we were supposed to be harbinger of change that the ARMM, SPDA, SPCPD, so on so forth were supposed to serve as instrument of change but how can you change, how can you introduce change - - - when they donít give enough money to our people. In fact I think yesterday or the other day, there was a report about the statement of  Sen. Pimentel.  He was complaining and I have here. I will furnish you a copy of this later on and you will see the difficulties that we are facing. As I have been saying we are not magicians here. Because it is the duty of the government, while it is our duty to help contribute towards the restoration of peace between the government and the MNLF, on the other hand, it is the duty of the government to ensure transformation in the quality of life of the people there.

Well, if  not for the assistance of the World Bank and some countries from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, America, Japan, etc. the situation could have been much more depressed than it is now. But _____ that those international organizations including the OIC- Islamic Development Bank. So therefore, I would like to ask the media who are present with us that it is not really our desire to see the situation as ______ as it is in Mindanao. I went to our people just to advise them not to listen to those who are trying to provoke war in Mindanao. I told them, that if I have my way, if MNLF has its way we would like to see that the Peace Agreement be implemented properly to the letter and spirit so that we can continue with this peace, a peace, which will be accompanied by a healthy economic activities or economic development. Because we have to satisfy our people. We can not feed the people with peace alone, you have to feed their stomach, their hungry mouths, they have to go to school. They have to have new houses because hundreds of thousands of Muslim houses have been demolished by fire during the war. You go to Jolo as an example not to say of the other places in Mindanao. You can still see the scar of war there. They burned about 90% of our houses there at one time because they dropped an atom bomb just to flush us out of the city after we captured the city in 1974. Thatís why we can see the houses are haywire anytime. How many times since then has Jolo burned again and again because of the way they put up their houses.

We have to put up civilize dwelling places for our people. we are now moving towards the next millennium but until now our people are still considered among the most primitive people in the world. Our people are known to be the most illiterate. And the province that I come from is known to be the poorest province among 20 members of the club of poor provinces in the Philippines. Most of these poorest provinces are from the SZOPAD-SPCPD area. Why - - - okey, letís forget about the curse of God, the neglect, abandonment, discrimination, injustices and so on. Let us forget about that. Let us turn a new page. But what we can not understand is, despite the peace, we are still in a quandary as to whatís going to happen. Just because there are few loud mouths in Mindanao who want to derail the peace. I have been saying, I hope that the Senate and of course the Congress have already somehow followed the advice of the president but the Senate, we donít know yet whatís going to happen. And besides, even in the House of Congress I understand, after the rejection of the impurities inserted by some opposition congressmen and  congresswomen in the Committee meeting, after the rejection while the new bill was on the transit to the plenary hall, they were able to put back all of these. And so you still have those impurities, the so-called confiscatory provisions. You see, there are so many, many objectionable provisions in this law. I have gone to the Office of the Executive Secretary, I was very happy before I went to Mindanao to have received the assurances of H.E. Pres. Estrada that he will not stop until he will succeed to get things done in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Peace Agreement. And we are very happy and we are very grateful to H.E. And I hope that these people in the Senate will do anything in their power to remove those provisions and include provisions that are related from there. Because according to our agreement the new Organic Act will reflect only or solely what have been agreed upon between the parties concerned, GRP on one hand and MNLF on the other Hand of course with the active participation of the OIC. Only none of the parties not the MNLF nor the GRP nor the OIC is entitled to exercise any prerogative to think here with any provision of the agreement. Because if you allow anyone of us to _____ with this Peace Agreement after we signed, what is the used of entering into a peace agreement in the first place.

So therefore, it is our wish that the new law will reflect the totality of the peace agreement, otherwise MNLF leadership and our people deserve the right to stay away from that law. We believe, it is a very simple on our part to accept the confiscation of property. They want to drive us out from there. While the present Organic Act is very precise in saying that if they will be defeated in a referendum then they may (you know I am a teacher, ďmayĒ is not mandatory, it is discretionary) they may sell there property including their land. But they want, their goal there in full length to distort just so they could get this land  and drive us out from there in the spirit of,  to quote some of our brother congressmen ďin the spirit of ethnic cleansingĒ akin to that which happening for so long. They have put this into the law to justify their brutal ejection of our people from that property. This is very very uncivilized. This is very very undemocratic. This is very arbitrary. Why do people push us to the extreme? We are living in our Homeland and though these loud mouths are people who came from the Luzon and the Visayas. Why do you persecute us from our Homeland? I am going to ask this question, what right have you to persecute our people there, you came from Luzon, you came from Visayas and now you want to impose your will on us? Even to create this humilation, this indignities, this ignominy? We can not accept this, we cannot accept this. I thought the Filipino people and the Philippine government was already grateful enough that Misuari and company had decided to make peace with the government. But it seems that you are not happy. You donít want to accept us into the mainstream of society. When just the other day, H.E. Pres. Estrada was telling me through Exec. Sec. Zamora, brother Nur, he said, we would like to assure you we are not objecting to your meeting with your brothers in the MILF, we are even encouraging you to do that. Because ultimately we are confident that after your series of meeting with them and after they get enlightenment from your meeting they will join the mainstream of society. I went there on several occasions in order to inflict so to speak with the contagion of peace. Because I wanted to ask for the cooperation of  brother Salamat and his men to protect the peace in Mindanao, peace between MNLF and MILF in the first place and peace between the MILF and the government. I have been saying time and again, once these forces are together, MNLF, MILF, PNP and AFP. Once we are all together to serve as the guardians and protectors of that peace, our children, our women, our old folks and everyone in Mindanao could be assured of stable, durable and lasting peace. And even our visitors from outside including tourists and potential investors, they can come and invest in our homeland. But unless there is cooperation among these forces, it is very difficult to see how Mindanao can have durable and lasting peace. So we are trying and the government is trying. You want to accept the MILF within the mainstream of society, MNLF has just decided but you allow your people to push us out of that. This is the irony of it. But I hope ultimately, Congress, Senate, the bicameral conference and the Office of the President will be able to sort out things in the paramount interest of peace, justice and freedom for the people of Mindanao.

And my in speeches before our military forces in various areas of Mindanao and the islands, I have emphasized to them time and again. And I hope I wonít be misunderstood. I told them this, I said, to me I am very optimistic, Pres. Estrada and his government and the wise people of the Senate and the Congress will eventually be able to overcome the obstacles to the full and final implementation of the Peace Agreement. However I said, I am putting this closed, however I said in the most unlikely event because we are human beings, our wishes could go into wasteful thinking. In the event, in most unlikely event the things will not go the way we want them to be. That in the final reckoning some people would succeed in their attempt to derail the peace of the Peace Agreement, then it is my wish and the wish our people of Mindanao and the islands, including of course the rank and file of the MNLF that I represent. It is our wish that despite the absence of Peace Agreement between us because by that action there will be no more peace agreement, despite the absence of peace agreement it is my wish that we just co-exist, that we donít go back to war. Because we have to protect the lives of our children, our women and our old folks, the very precious. Besides, every time there is war it is the people of Mindanao that were caught in the crossfire. It is my wish just in case, and I hope you highlight and explain this, I donít like war anymore. You remember, many of you, I think some of you were present when I took my oath of office. What did I say - - - henceforth, I said ďwe are now burning our bridge to war and we are turning a new page, a page that would inaugurate the era of peace, continuous, sustainable, enduring and permanent peace.Ē

Therefore, I wish everyone will cooperate to sustain that peace. With or without the Peace Agreement because the peace that we have  obtained in Mindanao is too precious to be left to the whims and ________ of human beings who have hidden agenda, who are pondering to their hidden and evil agenda in Mindanao.

This is our message. Anyway, you are going to ask questions. Our brothers are ready to answer those questions but before I leave this podium allow me at this point in time to convey my most profound thanks and gratitude  to my brothers the congressmen from different provinces in Mindanao for their heroic  efforts to defend the peace and the Peace Agreement. Iím sure history will bear me out that their heroic efforts in congress will never be forgotten by our people. We thank them and I wish you can join me by giving them a big applause for that. And together with this also, our thanks and gratitude to their colleagues from various parts of the country who join hands with them in ensuring the success of their effort in congress for the success of the initiative to get the bill passed despite the impurities. I thank them also and of course the Office of the President and everyone concerned. I believe that, that was a very wise effort on their part. And I hope the Senate will even be much more vigorous in their initiative to protect the peace and the Peace Agreement. So that when the law will be brought before the presence of the President for his signature then everyone will be happy about it. And that the law, none of its provisions will serve as it were a torn in the ______ of peace.

With this, thank you brothers and sisters and friends from the media.   

 

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Copyright 2001 by MNLF, Cotabato City