Misuari, still a firebrand at 70
READER’S VIEWS (The Freeman) - November 9, 2016 - 12:00am

At the height of the standoff between the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Abu Sayyaf terrorists holding hostages in the jungle of Sulu, about 1,700 heavily-armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front, under the orders of Chairman Nur Misuari, provided security cover and encircled the area to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from escaping. The hostages were later released unharmed. This belied reports that the MNLF is already a spent force and reduced to inconsequentiality.

Nur Misuari revealed the MNLF's role in the successful operation in a press conference held in Malacañang where he met President Rodrigo Duterte. Misuari called the president to announce the release of the hostages but the president declined and he let him run the show. In Malacañang, the president also broke protocol when he gave the presidential podium to Misuari to address the media by calling him, "Brother Nur." Misuari donned a traditional Muslim head scarf which reminds us of Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

Misuari shared Duterte's contempt for the irresponsible media, the war on drugs and most of all the desire to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. He castigated the media, particularly the western press, for putting words into his mouth. He said that the drug problem is a restless creeping threat to humanity. He finds a glimmer of hope that under the Duterte administration, the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people will be addressed and peace will finally reign in the troubled land of promise.

The MNLF was founded in 1972 by Misuari and Hashim Salamat in the aftermath of the infamous Jabidah massacre in Corregidor. About 180 young Tausugs from Sulu were sent to Corregidor for military training whose mission really was to infiltrate Sabah, which the country had laid claim from Malaysia. Due to inhuman condition and harsh treatment by military officers, the recruits mutinied and attempted to flee the island but were executed. A lone survivor, Jibin Arula, escaped to tell the gruesome tale of the massacre.

My former professor in Journalism at Lyceum of the Philippines, Ben del Rosario, a news reporter of the Manila Bulletin who covered the story managed to hide the lone witness in different safe houses in Metro Manila. Arula's story the headlines for weeks in the leading newspapers. It was the young senator, Benigno Aquino Jr. who initiated a Senate investigation that implicated President Marcos to the massacre.

On September 9, 2013, MNLF members who were armed to the teeth entered Zamboanga City and attacked government forces and took some 300 civilians as hostages.  The three-week siege of Zamboanga City left 220 people dead, 254 others wounded and more than 100,000 people were displaced.  The MNLF was also involved in the Patikul massacre on October 10, 1977 where 34 military officers and soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Teodulo Bautista were killed after being lured into the trap. It was supposed to be a surrender that turned out to be a massacre.

A son of poor Tausug parents, Misuari was a scholar at the University of the Philippines (UP) where he later taught Political Science. At age 48, he resigned from the state university and formed the MNLF. Those in the media, particularly the western press who think that Misuari and the MNLF are spent force, better think twice. Nur Misuari is still a firebrand at 70 and he might hold the key for a just and lasting solution to the peace problem in Mindanao. - Rene F. Antiga, Banilad

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