Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Zamboanga Siege

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

After a struggling week in the Zamboanga standoff, there is no way that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), allegedly led by founder Nur Misuari faction, should be tolerated in any avaricious act to implant a rebel’s flag symbolizing constructive independence at the heart of a sprawling Christian city and succeed in their ideological innuendo and political immaturity.

I strongly deem that the radical use of force does not satisfactorily cure the root of complicated causes of this protracted Moro uprising in Mindanao. Whatever intention the mastermind has in subscribing to criminal actions of terrorism and hostage-taking to derail an ongoing peace process of rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with the Philippine government, this seems void and unacceptable.

From the creation of the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO) as it morphed into a legitimate movement led by Datu Rashid Lucman aimed at drawing sympathy from Muslim Filipinos to establish an independent Moro state since the Marcos era. The ad hoc armed group strives to grow rapidly in the perception of government’s neglect to their plight until the MNLF was born.

Nuruladji Misuari, popularly known as Nur Misuari, was born from Sulu of ethnic Yakan-Tausug descent. He became an exceptional leader in his pursuit of establishing an independent and sovereign Islamic state in Mindanao. He represented the ideological leaning of the Bangsa Moro movement. His enlightenment of the Moro struggle began as a scholar and student activist under Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison in the University of the Philippines (UP). There he preached his provocative thoughts on secessionism and Moro liberation as a passionate youth.

He remained steadfast in his calling as a Moro social reformer and attracted young Muslim militants in his efforts to organize political and armed units in all the Muslim inhabited regions. Misuari ably concocted the Bangsamoro by proliferating it as an academic discourse at the height when the government heavily battled protracted guerilla warfare with communists. It can therefore be deemed that his founded organization was influenced by the social and political contexts of his time.     

He also taught in UP, thus, Professor Misuari’s persuasion to arm struggle tentatively ended by virtue of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, an international binding contract signed by President Marcos, as MNLF espoused to the recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Philippines in exchange for the establishment of an autonomous government in Southern Philippines.

Until when President Marcos unilaterally contravened the provisions of a unitary autonomous government and established two autonomous governments based in Zamboanga City and the other one based in Cotabato City.

That’s why many civilians are surprised in the ongoing Zamboanga siege on why MNLF’s Misuari faction chose the City of Zamboanga to plot and stage their independence from the Philippines. At present Cotabato City is dominantly inhabited by MILF members. 

During President Corazon Aquino’s stewardship of the country as president, she offered peace pact with the MNLF. She sincerely went to Sulu and met with Nur Misuari. But what went wrong? Instead of the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement which was decided later on by the Supreme Court as void and unconstitutional, Cory established the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as stipulated in the 1986 Philippine Constitution, which triggered intermittent armed clashes with the renegade Muslim group and government forces.

Her successor, President Fidel Ramos succeeded a bit in taming Nur Misuari, after both of them won an international peace award by forging the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA). This is the first framework peace agreement between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government, with a promise that the agreement will provide for a transitory period for two years, during which the law should have been passed legislating all the pertinent provisions of the 1996 FPA which shall constitute as a new organic act for the new autonomous government in place of the ARMM.

However, some analysts are claiming that the MNLF are pushing for the establishment of the wider Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD). This supposed transition authority was concocted aimed at creating more independent regional government. In that case, while performing the duties of the governor of the ARMM, Misuari also headed the unknown SPCPD.

Unfortunately, the Utopian solution to end the Moro uprising of the MNLF vanished and was put into back burner that up to now the law was never passed. Despite that, in a concession to win the peace in southern Philippines, Misuari became ineffective governor of ARMM and failed to reform radical changes to turn around the economic woes and political patronage in the controversial ARMM region.

When President Joseph Estrada became the president and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), his raging policy is to pronounce an All-Out-War with Misuari’s rival, the MILF.

But dire poverty and corruption prevailed in Muslim areas in Mindanao. It became rampant during Misauri’s term as governor of ARMM. Not until when he was removed from his office when President Gloria Arroyo ascended into office in 2001. Six years after in 2007, Misuari was arrested in Sabah on charges of terrorism and denied a petition to bail and remained under house arrest in a camp where erstwhile President Estrada was also detained for a plunder case. The following year, he was allowed by the Court to post bail and enjoy momentary freedom.   

With Chairman Nur in Jakarta (July 2012)

I saw and met Misuari on my way back home to Manila from Jakarta inside Sukarno International Airport in 2012. He was wandering and walking alone and tired. Unrecognizable by some Filipino passengers, very few of us recognized him. Then we requested for photo souvenirs.   

But seriously, the current southern Zamboanga siege is a real human-induced disaster. Is this a kulang sa pansin (KSP) move of Misuari to sabotage or derail the current peace process of the MILF with President Benigno Aquino’s administration? There must be a valid reason to launch a defensive use of force.

If not, then what’s the point?

Many civilians, MNLF fighters, and Filipino soldiers are already killed in this heated secessionist saga. About 200 rebels initially took dozens of hostages and burned hundreds of homes according to reports. Many of the refugees – children, women, and elderly are most vulnerable to wary urban warfare between the AFP and Muslim rebels.

What does the 71-year-old Nur Misuari has in mind? Is there loathe and envy by the Misuari faction with the current peace deal between the GPH-MILF, in which case, the envisaged new peace pact once granted will establish a new autonomous region replacing the failed MNLF-brokered peace deal? Or, did the failed experiment of peace pact with the MNLF will become a precedent in the future in case the road to transitory period will become rough by 2016 between the government and the MILF?

Chairman Nur Misuari should end the Zamboanga siege by commanding his men to retreat and re-negotiate a new peace deal with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

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