MILF is a traitor: Misuari

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - Front Page -

NUR MISUARI, chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), has branded as ‘traitor’ the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and said he cannot talk peace with them.

Misuari is wanted by authorities after his forces attacked Zamboanga City twice – first in 2001 and the second was in 2013 – that left over 300 people dead and wounded in three weeks of street battles. But Judge Maria Rowena San Pedro, of the Pasig Regional Trial Court ordered the lifting of the arrest warrants against Misuari. She said the suspension of proceedings and the enforcement of the warrants of arrest against Misuari shall be for a period of 6 months from the date of her resolution, unless sooner lifted by the court. The order was signed October 27.

The aging leader said he will not participate in peace negotiations alongside MILF, whose current head Murad Ebrahim was a senior MNLF official who was among those who split with Misuari in 1976 along with Salamat Hashim and formed the MILF and eventually became its chieftain.

“These (people) are all traitors, that is why I cannot accept them. I hope the government will dissociate from them, otherwise I can’t forgive them. Why will they associate with traitors? Kung involved ang MILF, I will reject, kung involved ang (The Council of) 15 I will not join.”

“The last thing that will happen I’ll honor them by allowing them to sign (peace agreement). They must be put in prison, they are pure and simple criminals,” he told CNN Philippines in an interview last week in Manila.

In the same interview, Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’S vice chairman for political affairs, denied Misuari’s accusations, and said it is now up to government to decide how peace negotiations would proceed.

“Kami ay hindi kailan man nag-renegade o sumuko sa pinaglalaban ng Bangsamoro people. Hindi kami outlaws, may batas kaming sinusunod. Combatants namin ay organisado, may batas sa pakikidigma,” he said, adding, they are willing to talk with any group aspiring to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, including the MNLF.

“The peace we want to achieve in our homeland is not for MILF alone it is for all Bangsamoro people, that includes Brother Nur Misuari,” he told CNN Philippines.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces and former MNLF rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the peace deal with Manila attacked a key military base in Jolo town in Sulu province and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao where Misuari was then the governor.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.

But the MNLF’S Foreign Affairs chief Parouk Hussin, who along with Muslimen Sema, the group’s Secretary General, and other senior leaders, formed the socalled Council of 15 and ousted Misuari and eventually appointed him as chairman emeritus, but he rejected the position.

Sema had criticized Misuari for dragging the MNLF into disarray. The Council of 15 also accused Misuari of being incompetent as governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Hussin, who eventually became governor of the autonomous region, was also deposed several years later after the Council of 15, disgruntled at his leadership, put back Misuari as head of the MNLF in 2007.

Misuari’s fall then had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Misuari also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost.

In May 2014, weeks after he declared himself new chieftain of the MNLF, Abul Kayr Alonto, whose faction also claimed to have replaced Misuari, publicly thrown his support to the peace process between Manila and the MILF, which has been fighting for decades for self-determination in the restive southern region of the Philippines.

Alonto, who was among the original founding members of the MNLF, also urged Muslims to support the peace agreement between the government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Alonto also said his group is all-out in supporting the peace process and even urged Congress to approve the proposed new Bangsamoro homeland which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao. Alonto was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the new chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority.

The strong worded statement of Misuari came on the same day that President Rodrigo Duterte signed the executive order reconstituting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which now has members from the MILF and MNLF, as well as other indigenous groups that is tasked to revise the proposed Bangasamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The MILF previously said it will not revisit the BBL which was rejected by Congress during the Aquino administration because many of its provisions were unconstitutional. And Misuari said they will talk separately with the government.

MNLF Chieftain Nur Misuari (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

MILF Chieftain Murad Ebrahim (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

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