Monday, December 21, 2015

Just another bloody chapter

Just another bloody chapter

Not to throw brick at the recently concluded peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, most political observers believe that hostilities are likely to erupt again.  The agreement was only a conclusion of another of those bloody chapters we fought to quell the Muslim separatist movement in Mindanao.  Such is the prediction because the agreement is seen as a continuing political contest between the MILF headed by Al-Hadj Murad Ebrahim, and the Moro National Liberation Front headed by now -ugitive Nur Misuari.

The signing of the agreement through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal  and  the Philippines through its chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer in Kuala Lumpur (with Malaysia acting as the so-called “peace facilitator” represented by Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar and Tengku Mohammed) is seen as a mere lull in the fighting that saw the group of Misuari slowly being eclipsed. For President Aquino, the agreement was something it wanted most to regain credibility, believed as merely being propped up by the elite-controlled poll survey outfits. 
Even as Misuari and his MNLF have been sidelined from the political limelight and their version of autonomy in Mindanao effectively substituted by that of the MILF, the Aquino government feels confident that the agreement could be successfully implemented because it has with it the “tacit” guarantee of Malaysia, the country that for somet ime organized, financed, and trained separatist Muslim rebels to wage war against the government.
True, Oplan Merdeka to liberate Sabah culminated in a bloody fiasco called by the man most likely afflicted with logorrhea as Jabida Massacre in March 18, 1968.  For exposing the country’s national security interest, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. practically acted as the “inside man” of Malaysia.  His betrayal ignited the emotion of Muslim Filipinos only to be exploited by a misguided firebrand to launch his bloody adventure.  Misuari went all out to organize a Muslim separatist movement having as his principal goal the creation of an independent Muslim in Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Palawan.  With his first ninety handpicked men known as the F-90 batch, they began to undergo military training in Pangkor Island in Malaysia. 
Misuari played his role well, of being a stooge for a while of Malaysia. While many Muslims were euphoric to the idea of independence, Misuari and his Tausug-dominated MNLF could not see between the lines that by waging war against the government, they were weakening their chances of recovering Sabah, which the Tausugs consider their ancestral homeland.    Thus, as the MNLF continued to wage war against the government, unwittingly that resulted in the isolation of the Sultan of Sulo who, way back in September 12, 1962, ceded his sovereignty over Sabah to the Republic of the Philippines.
After several bloody and fierce clashes with the government from 1973 to 1976, Misuari and his die-hard followers realized there was no way they could win their war for independence.  It was at this juncture that the MNLF accepted the feelers for peace offered by the Marcos government.  There was a need to reach an agreement with the Marcos government because the war they fought effectively reduced their chances of being able to get back Sabah.  Second, Misuari himself was losing much of his influence.  Many Tausugs and other native Muslims in the Sulo archipelago continued to maintain their allegiance to the Sultan of Sulo who remained adamant in wanting to recover Sabah, and fighting the government only rendered a remote possibility their chances to recover their ancestral homeland.
When that conciliatory attitude of Misuari came to the knowledge of Malaysia, his erstwhile host soon began to keep distance and began throwing support behind the splinter group  MILF. Soon, he was ejected from Malaysia, and effectively lost control of his base operations in Sandakan.    After a whirlwind search for political asylum, Misuari ended up in Saudi Arabia. But he was also ejected from there, with some speculating that it was Malaysia that instigated Saudi Arabia.   Finally, he stayed in Libya, an under the active auspices of the late President Muammar Khadafy, concluded, what many thought as the Tripoli Agreement on December 23, 1976. 
Looking back, many believed that the decision of Nur Misuari not to show up for the signing of the Agreement was his fear that the MILF would formalize its break with the MNLF, and no doubt they were acting with the stamping approval of Malaysia.   Thus, if Khadafy endorsed that initiative of then-First Lady Imelda Marcos, many saw it as a continuing rivalry between the two predominantly Sunni Muslim states in the Middle East, one identified with the US and the other with then Soviet Union. It was bad for Misuari because he lost that golden opportunity to save his own leadership.  
Fortunately, the Ramos administration accommodated him because it wanted to carve its name as the one who successfully pacified the secessionist rebellion.   Seeking the help of Indonesia, the government and the MNLF finally reached an accord on September 2, 1996, with Misuari visibly uneasy of the MILF creating trouble in the south.   So, after Ramos, Misuari increasingly found it difficult to deal with the Arroyo government, and his luck further ran out with the election of President Aquino.
The MILF gained much influence, for aside from enjoying the full support of Malaysia, it too had the blessing of the US and its allies, specifically after the MILF leadership opened themselves to the idea of entering into joint venture for the possible exploitation of oil and other minerals.  In a desperate move to counter that, the MNLF on January 8, 2008 signed an agreement recognizing claim of the Sultan of Sulu over Sabah.
Because of a warrant for his arrest, Misuari created a short-lived but bloody uprising in Jolo and slipped out to Kuala Lumpur.  However, it did not take time for the Malaysian authorities to hand him over to the government for which he was jailed. 
Finally, even if one interprets the agreement between the government and then-MILF as different from the Manila accord signed by Misuari with Ambassador Manuel Yan, the modalities for its implementation are somewhat guaranteed for no less than the country that has been supporting the separatist movement that would now foresee that Philippine sovereignty over the so-called “autonomous region” would be greatly diminished.  In the meantime, the peace facilitator would be assured that the Muslims in Central Mindanao made up mostly of Maranaos and Maguindanaos being in command, there would be no more incursions of Filipinos into Sabah.  In the end, the Aquino administration practically joined hands with the peace facilitator to drop our Sabah claim.

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