Opinion Skinning Left, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Opinion ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Why Libya?

Libyan Ambassador HE Salem Adam is back in Manila to try, once again, for the nth time to put together bickering factions within the MNLF. A reconciliation and a map for action seemed to have been clinched when no less than Saif al-Islam Gaddafi came to Manila last December to tell them how important it was for them to unite. That is the only way they can help to lift up the lives of their fellow Muslims. There cannot be ifs and buts about it if they cared for the people’s welfare. It can only be achieved through peace and stability. They would have to come together whether MNLF or MILF as Bangsa Moro for a peace agreement among themselves and ultimately with the Philippine government. It is a tall order. How can peace be forged with the government when they cannot even agree among themselves?

Saif Gaddafi’s personal appeal in December and the meeting in Tripoli in May brought that dream of unification closer. It is on time with Saif’s proposed schedule. But there are still a few kinks and that is what brought HE Salem back to Manila to try to sort out. Nur Misuari’s group sent two representatives, Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali and Prof. Samsula Adju of Sulu, to the meeting in Tripoli. An agreement was signed and sealed but back in Manila, Misuari is said to be wavering whether to adopt the May 18 “Tripoli Declaration on Unity and Reconciliation of the MNLF Leadership.” Misuari is out on bail thanks partly to the Libyans, chiefly Saif, who interceded for him when he came to Manila. The May Tripoli agreement for “a transition leadership and unification committee” included Nur Misuari.

It is often asked “Why Libya?” What is its interest for peace in Mindanao? Why has a country so far away taken such untiring efforts, no matter how difficult it has been, to bring all parties to the table to achieve peace?

I was startled by HE Salem’s story. Libya’s interest in what happens to Muslim Mindanao dates back to the Jabidah massacre in 1968 when 28 young Muslims were executed by their military trainers. Nur Misuari, then a young professor, pleaded directly with Gaddafi for help. Gaddafi was touched by his audacity. He helped bring about the first Tripoli agreement  with the Marcos government and remains committed in memory of this cry for help by a young Muslim decades ago.

The young Moro Muslims were recruited to foment dissent amongst Sabah’s non-Malay ethnic groups, the Tausug and Sama, who are ethnically and culturally linked with the Bangsamoro. They had begun training under military supervision but when the Marcos government decided to scrap the project, they were killed so the truth would never be known. It was a failed strategy to wrest the resource-rich island of Sabah from Malaysia after the British ceded it as part of the Malaysian federation despite the Philippine protest. Sabah had never been sold to foreign interests, and was merely leased (padjak) by the Sulu Sultanate and remained the property of the Sultan. It means it is also part of Republic of the Philippines.

Ironically the event gave rise to the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines. For a while, little was known about the massacre. In March 1968 Moro students in Manila held a week long protest vigil over an empty coffin marked ‘Jabidah’ in front of the presidential palace. The real story filtered to the media blaming the government for the plot, and then attempting to cover it up by killing the Muslim recruits.

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

The Jabidah massacre aroused Moro discontent and led the Muslims to form the MNLF and later the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Student activist Nur Misuari has always been acknowledged by radical Moro intellectuals for the role he played then. But times have changed and there is now a growing sentiment among younger leaders that Misuari should take the role of a statesman and unifier to allow new leaders to blossom. That would enable them to tackle a new and different phase in their historic mission for peace and development with the help of Filipino and non-Filipino mediators.

When I interviewed Saif in his last trip to Manila he lamented that sometimes leaders themselves come in the way of what is good for their followers. They are more concerned with their own personal interests and ambitions than the welfare of the people. Leaders have a role to play he told the group of MNLF, MILF and ARMM representatives who came to hear him out in a Makati hotel. But sacrifices would have to be made for the sake of the development of Muslim Mindanao he said.

*      *      *

Another Guingona “eccentricity”. Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales has a point then Vice President Guingona should have immediately reported the assassination plot on President Arroyo at the time when he was approached.

That would have been more responsible. Instead he dismissed the plot and includes it as a vignette and comes out clean by saying he rejected the proposal. That is not for him to do. The matter should have been reported to the proper authorities and investigated. It would have been an opportunity to reinforce our institutions and strengthen law and order. He would have done the Filipino a greater favor than writing it as an episode in a book he wants to sell.

I follow a time honored principle that to know of an intended crime is a matter for the police. In some justice systems withholding such information is regarded as being an ‘accessory’. What if the assassination did take place with or without Guingona’s consent or participation? Guingona would have to bear part of the responsibility for not informing the proper authorities to deal with it. Unless he did not mind that it should happen but without being part of it. As the vice-president he would have become the legitimate successor.

It would be interesting if the former vice president would now come out and tell Filipinos who this person was. That would be fighting for Filipinos, too, if he helped strengthen our institutions for governance. Or does he just want to sell his book by titillating the curiosity of Filipinos?

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
  • Follow Us:
Opinion Skinning Right, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1