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Misuari, the MILF and Malaysia

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COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Nur Misuari's animosity towards the Moro Islamic Liberation Front did not start after Malacañang forged a peace deal with the group in 2014 but in the late 1970s.
 
The present leaders of the MILF started as commanders in the Moro National Liberation Front, which Misuari, who hails from Sulu, and Egyptian-trained cleric Salamat Hashim, an ethnic Maguindanaon from Barangay Cudal in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao, established in 1970.
 
A discontented Salamat and other MNLF leaders from North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and South Cotabato provinces drafted in 1978 an “instrument of takeover” of the front’s leadership from Misuari for loss of confidence, ousting him as their chairman.
 
A copy of the document was immediately sent to the MNLF’s benefactor, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah in Saudi Aradia, sparking Misuari’s anger that would last until today. 
 
Among the signatories to the document are the now MILF chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, his first vice chairman, Ghazali Jaafar, and their chief negotiator, the more popular Muhaquer Iqbal, now chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. 
 
As a consequence, Salamat and his followers in mainland Mindanao broke away and initially called their group the MNLF-Salamat faction. They eventually established in 1982 the MILF, which is religious in character and now the largest Moro revolutionary front in the country.
 
It first ventured into peace talks with Malacañang on January 7, 1997, just months after Misuari of the then monolithic MNLF signed an accord with President Fidel Ramos.
 
Misuari vigorously opposed the government’s peace overture with the MILF. He warned that any truce with the group could abrogate the September 2, 1996 peace deal between Malacañang and the MNLF.
 
“The ink of the pen we used in signing our peace agreement with the Philippine government has not even dried yet on the document and now we have this separate peace process with the MILF,” Misuari then said.
 
The Misuari-led MNLF fragmented in April 2000 when 15 of its senior officials, among them Muslimin Sema, declared him “chairman emeritus” and took over the group’s central leadership.
 
Sema’s group, which has 20 revolutionary states scattered in central Mindanao, was to become the MNLF-Sema faction after Misuari refused to relinquish his post and consolidated followers that remained loyal to him.
 

Misuari in government

 
Misuari was elected governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on September 6, 1996, exactly four days after he signed the MNLF's final peace deal with the government.
 
His election, virtually unopposed, was engineered by the administration's Lakas-Muslim Christian Democrats Party led by Ramos.
 
Career service officials of ARMM, those occupying positions covered by civil service laws, said Misuari failed to flex the capabilities of the regional government to address poverty and underdevelopment in all provinces of the autonomous region, all covered by the peace agreement.
 
ARMM insiders said that while Misuari was governor, he spent most of his time at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City, ran the regional government by “remote control" and spent a big chunk of monthly regional funds for his domestic and foreign travels.
 
Due to his lackluster performance, ARMM provincial governors asked Malacañang to revert their provinces to Administrative Regions 9 and 12, from where they were carved out when the autonomous region was created via a plebiscite in 1990.
 
The firebrand Misuari, now temporarily free as a result of the suspension of the warrant for his arrest in connection with the siege of Zamboanga City in September 2013, again lashed at the MILF in his speech while in Malacañang on Thursday.
 

Anger at Malaysia

 
He also has a deep-seated animosity towards Malaysia, where he tried to seek refuge after leading a bloody mutiny in Jolo, Sulu in November 2001 to dramatize his opposition to upcoming regional elections that year, where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo annointed Parouk Hussin, also an MNLF official, as administration candidate for ARMM governor despite his still being the region's incumbent chief executive.
 
Instead of providing him sanctuary, the Malaysian government turned him over to the Philippine National Police, which clamped him down in a detention facility in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for about five years, or thereabouts.
 
He also insinuated in his speech that Malaysia, which is helping facilitate the MILF's peace dealings with Malacañang, is a party to the kidnapping activities of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.
 
MILF sources said they were not bothered by Misuari's pronouncements, convinced that President Rodrigo Duterte will uphold Malacañang’s two compacts with them, the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.
 
The MNLF-Sema group twice signed in the past eight months a deal with the MILF binding both to cooperate in drafting a common peace roadmap for the troubled Moro homeland.
 
Sema, former mayor of Cotabato City, on Friday said he is grateful to President Duterte for his commitment to put peaceful closure to the Moro issue.
 
“We cannot solve the Moro problem if we are disunited. Now we are lucky. We have a Mindanaon president who understands the Mindanao Moro situation,” said Sema, whose group is not hostile to the MILF.
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