WHILE ALLEGED MEMBERS of the Moro National Liberation Front(MNLF) laid siege on portions of the regional hub of Zamboanga City, MNLF founder Nurulaji Misuari, said to be the guiding light behind the incident, is still nowhere to be found.
Misuari, the fiery and fiercely passionate former university professor who united the many ethnic and tribal groups into a fighting force that tied down much of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in pitched battles in the seventies, had reportedly declared independence early last month after expressing his frustrations over the failure to implement the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.
Yet while the rebels had identified Misuari as their leader, Misuari has yet to make an appearance or release a statement since the siege began on Monday. The result has been confusion on the real intent of the armed group, and even greater confusion on what Misuari is planning to do.
What appears clear is that Misuari and his faction of the MNLF have felt sidelined and ignored as the government and the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, today. These frustrations, on top of frustrations over the implementation of the 1996 MNLF peace pact, have grown over the years, erupting into fits of fighting and posturing.
Seven years ago, PCIJ founding executive director Sheila Coronel interviewed Misuari in his jail cell in Sta. Rosa Laguna for a special podcast that the PCIJ was producing on the 20th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolt. Misuari was one of 20 personalities chosen by the PCIJ to talk about EDSA because of his role in fighting the Marcos dictatorship and in uniting the fractious moro groups in the south.
There is much value in again reading Coronel’s story and listening to the podcast of Misuari’s interview, if only to get a better and clearer glimpse of the man who once was the face of the moro struggle.
An excerpt from Coronel’s story:
But Misuari’s greatest enemy today is not the Philippine government. It is not even, like Erap Estrada, boredom or ennui. It is irrelevance. Today the face of struggle in southern Philippines is no longer that of Nur Misuari or of the MNLF. It is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which controls sizeable territory in central Mindanao, or the much feared and discredited Abu Sayyaf.
Read Coronel’s story and listen to the podcast by clicking this link.