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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Staying relevant

The Philippine Star

When Nur Misuari and his faction declared independence last month for Mindanao and Palawan as well as Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia, no one took him seriously. Misuari, founding chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front and former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has been acting up since last year following the breakthrough on a framework peace agreement between the government and the MNLF’s breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Since that breakthrough, MNLF forces loyal to Misuari have staged attacks in Sulu that were later dismissed by the military as acoustic warfare. Misuari’s men also reportedly assisted members of the Sulu sultanate in occupying coastal villages in Sabah to stake a territorial claim, triggering deadly clashes with Malaysian security forces.

Yesterday, forces identified with Misuari moved again, occupying several coastal villages in Zamboanga City after an apparent failed attempt to occupy city hall. Hundreds of villagers were trapped and about 20 people were held hostage by MNLF forces. Downtown Zamboanga was paralyzed, with classes suspended and offices and businesses shuttered. Port operations were suspended and flights canceled as a naval blockade was set up. As of early last night the standoff continued.

So far this has been the worst incident yet in the Philippines since Misuari began reminding the government that his group could not be left out of the peace deal being brokered with the MILF. The Bangsamoro entity promised to the MILF will be carved out of areas also covered by the peace pact signed by the government with Misuari’s MNLF in 1996.

That original peace deal, which Misuari says has not been fully implemented, cannot be set aside by an administration eager to trot out its own peace agreement with another group. Sure, all the troublemaking can be seen as an effort by Misuari’s group to remain relevant. But Zamboanga City’s woes show how disruptive a group can be when it feels left out.

There is, of course, no excuse for armed occupation of villages and hostage taking. The MNLF is supposed to have renounced violence after the peace deal. Misuari, recognized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as a permanent observer, should be weaned from violent measures in pursuing his objectives. He should be made to account for the latest armed attacks involving his men. A better handling of their grievances, however, could have averted the violence.

 

 

 

 

AUTONOMOUS REGION

BUT ZAMBOANGA CITY

DOWNTOWN ZAMBOANGA

MINDANAO AND PALAWAN

MISUARI

MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT

MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT

MUSLIM MINDANAO

ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC COOPERATION

SABAH AND SARAWAK

WHEN NUR MISUARI

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