Nur Misuari: Has the ‘good warrior’s’ long
struggle come to a disgraceful end?
By Ann Bernadette S. Corvera
Philstar.com 01/16/2002


Nurullaji "Nur" Misuari is back in the country and he just might be staying here
for good. The rebel leader-turned-bureaucrat is now languishing in jail for
charges of rebellion, something which he likely did not expect to face at this
point of his life after having spent most of his days as a revolutionary leader of
the Bangsamoro people.

If found guilty, the man regarded by his followers as the "father of Bangsamoro
independence," could face up to 20 years imprisonment.


Misuari’s woes started on Nov. 19, 2001 when Misuari, former chair of the Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF), declared war on the Arroyo government and
armed MNLF guerillas loyal to him attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo,
Sulu that left some 100 people dead most of whom were his men. Scores were
wounded including civilians.


The attack, launched on the third day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan,
was supposedly meant to disrupt the elections in the Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) scheduled Nov. 26. Misuari, 60, sought to discredit
the elections, which would have him replaced as ARMM governor.

Days after the attack, Misuari fled to nearby Malaysia but was captured on the
eve of the ARMM polls with six of his aides at Jampiras island, near Sabah,
Malaysia.

The Malaysian police arrested Misuari and his men for illegal entry. By then,
the Philippine government had already filed rebellion charges in a Sulu court
against the beleaguered ex-governor and faction leaders of the Abu Sayyaf
bandit group, which the military claims has ties with Misuari.

Administrative cases had also been leveled against him for being an inept
leader of the strife-torn ARMM.

The Misuari-led MNLF signed a peace treaty with the government, brokered by
the influential Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1986 that granted
autonomy to the Bangsamoros. Misuari was appointed governor of the ARMM,
which then comprised of four provinces namely Lanao del Sur, Tawi Tawi, Sulu
and Maguindanao.

While President Arroyo reputed Misuari to be a "good warrior" after having led
the MNLF for more than 20 years of secessionist rebellion, the Chief Executive
said he has proven to be a poor administrator citing billions of pesos of ARMM
funds that remain unaccounted for.

Budget allocations from the national government totaling some P43 billion
poured in for the ARMM but five years after, the ARMM remains among the
country’s most impoverished regions.

In April of last year, Misuari’s colleagues, citing his incompetence, ousted him
as chair of the MNLF and replaced him with the Committee of Fifteen, now the
central leadership of the MNLF.

The government named Misuari special envoy to the OIC, which he accepted,
said the President.

From the Committee of Fifteen came President Arroyo’s candidate as ARMM
head, Dr. Parouk Hussin, who went on to win alongside Vice Governor Mahid
Mutilan, also an administration bet of the Lakas NUCD-UMDP.

After taking his oath, Hussin said his main focus now is an extensive audit of
the region’s fiscal and property resources. The United States AID (US Agency
for International Development) pledged to infuse into the region an initial $20
million of $55 million earmarked for the development of Mindanao.

Offended by the turn of events since his ouster from the MNLF and utterly
frustrated with the government, Misuari, the bureaucrat, returned to his
revolutionary ways.

Abandoned?
Can Misuari’s career still be saved from suffering an infamous end? Evidently,
he is not about to give up without another battle although this time it will be
fought not in the mountains but inside a courtroom.

Misuari, removed from the MNLF and now without control over the ARMM,
however, still commands the respect of a good number of supporters including
leaders of the Muslim community in Metro Manila.

Dr. Mashur Bin-Ghalib Jundam, a professor at the state-run University of the
Philippines (UP), launched a fund-raising campaign on Jan. 9 urging the entire
Muslim community to contribute P1 each for the legal defense of the renegade
leader.

Misuari is now detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna where
residents, fearing for their safety, have rallied to have him sent back to his
home-province of Sulu. He is denied of any access to media.

His lawyers filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking Misuari’s transfer
to a Sulu jail since he and his men were charged with rebellion before the Jolo
regional trial court. Jolo is the town capital of Sulu.

Misuari also filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the high court
claiming he was "abducted" in Malaysia and "unlawfully detained and confined"
at Fort Sto. Domingo. He denied any involvement in the attacks.


But at the height of hostilities, Misuari aide, lawyer Randolph Parcasio told The
STAR in Davao City their demands from the government, which include the
repealing of Republic Act 9054 expanding the ARMM and the postponement of
the ARMM elections.

Misuari’s followers also castigated Malaysia, a Muslim dominated country, for
repatriating their client to the Philippines and not granting him asylum.
Malaysia gave Misuari and his guerillas sanctuary in the early 1970s.

Parrying possible internal conflicts for Kuala Lumpur where Misuari was
detained following his arrest in Sabah, Malaysia pressed Manila to take
custody of the rebel leader noting that he "is a citizen of the Philippines,
subject to Philippine law."

Nur’s reprisal
Critics had said Misuari turned vindictive after his removal from the MNLF
leadership.

Saying he is still MNLF chairman, Misuari had accused people close to
President Arroyo of dividing the MNLF.

In July of last year, an enraged Misuari terminated Hamid Wahid, regional trade
and industry secretary.

Consequently, Misuari fired three more key regional officials: Romeo Sema of
the ARMM’s Youth Affairs Office, Assistant Labor Secretary Israel Abdullah
and Assistant Agriculture Secretary Naguib Solano.

Malacaņang refused to meddle in the leadership crisis hounding the MNLF but
later sent an emissary. Apparently, efforts to settle the row fell short.

Prior to the November attacks, Misuari was already in hot water when at the
5th National Bangsamoro Assembly which he convened in Parang, Sulu last
November, he was quoted as declaring he was ready to fight again for an
independent Muslim Mindanao.

A resolution was passed urging the OIC to admit the MNLF as full member,
and hailed the unity agreement between the front and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), a breakaway faction of the MNLF and now the largest
Muslim separatist rebel group.

The government immediately acted on Misuari’s alleged show of force and
began gathering affidavits on his alleged "seditious" statements.

Subsequently, the armed forces said it obtained "verified information" that
Misuari met with top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in Sulu to enlist
their help in putting the November ARMM polls in disarray.

On December 5, President Arroyo announced she has notified the United
States and other countries that the jailed former governor is now an
international terrorist.

The disaster that is ARMM
Meanwhile, prevalent socio-economic problems and a precarious peace and
order situation continue to beset the ARMM.

This despite a total of P59 billion infused into the region by the government
since 1990.

For 2002, the region would reportedly receive more than P11 billion in
operational and special purpose funds.

A STAR report had said only one thriving project had been built in the region –
the 145-kilometer Secretary Narciso Ramos Highway linking the historic cities
of Marawi and Cotabato.

The construction of the highway was started by the region’s first governor,
Zacaria Candao and was finished by his successor, Lininding Pangandaman.

Records did not show any significant project that was developed during
Misuari’s watch.

Under his term as ARMM head, from January to September of last year,
Misuari had spent more than P20 million for his costly domestic and foreign
travels.

The STAR had also gathered from sources in the ARMM executive department
that Misuari pocketed funds allotted for the poverty alleviation program, as his
supporters reportedly spent P42 million to buy high-powered weapons.

Misuari and the MNLF
The MNLF was established in 1968 with Misuari as founding chairman. Its goal
was an independent Bangsamoro state.

Misuari, then an idealistic youth, along with less than a hundred Moro
youngsters received military training in Malaysia and attended secular
education.

During the Marcos era, the MNLF went through fierce fighting with the military.
Misuari however lived mostly in exile from the early 1970s until the active
involvement of the OIC prompted him to sign the peace pact in 1986.

Autonomy for the Bangsamoro people -- defined as any native inhabitant of
Mindanao willing to identify with the MNLF cause – was chosen as the solution
to the long-drawn conflict paving the way for the signing of the 1976 Tripoli
Agreement.

The 1996 peace agreement brought many MNLF leaders to politics as they
were gained positions in the government. Numerous armed fighters of the
MNLF were integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Aside from heading the MNLF and the ARMM, Misuari also became chairman
of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), a
transitional body established under the 1996 Peace Agreement.

Ironic. After the peace treaty was settled between the MNLF and the
government, the latter would consequently return to the peace table, this time,
with the MILF led by its chairman Hashim Salamat. Talks are still ongoing.