The MNLF and the hostages
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When the battle between the MNLF forces and the Abu Sayyaf was raging, many (including myself) thought that a ‘moro-moro’ was underway. But when reports of heavy casualties sustained by the MNLF in their campaign against the bandit group came in, and the MNLF saying it would not stop until all the hostages have been freed, my appreciation swung to admiration and awe.
The foreign and the Filipino hostages have been in captivity for months in Jolo. No solution or even closure to the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking was even close at hand. Both national and local authorities had remained clueless notwithstanding the swarming of AFP, PNP (both regular and special forces), and aided by the omnipresent US Forces with their armed and unarmed drones.
According to the grapevine, people are beginning to speak of possible collusion or a sort of partnership between some security forces and the Abu Sayyaf. In the local language, it is referred to as ‘pera pera lang yan.’ Many do claim that there would be NO END to hostage-taking and kidnap for ransom (KFR) so long as the booty culture (the US war against terrorism) and the ‘pera pera’ mentality continue to prevail. Whatever the case may be, the media as well as the internal affairs and human rights groups should look closer into this seeming very lucrative 'business' or in the local parlance IGP which stands for income generating program.
Then out of the blue came the MNLF forces under Uz. Haber Malik bent to ‘rescue’ the hostages and put an end to the prevailing 'partnership.' There were many critics of the MNLF operation, claiming that MNLF chairman Nur Misuari was pitting Muslims against Muslims in the said operation. The government (no less than the President) immediately made a disclaimer that the military move against the Abu Sayyaf and kidnap for ransom groups was NOT authorized.
Actually, there was no ‘official’ move against KFRGs and the Abu Sayyaf or to free the foreign and local hostages. In fact, the Abu Sayyaf and the kidnap for ransom groups move freely and with impunity against the backdrop of ‘matuwid na daan’ that is becoming the biggest hoax under the present dispensation.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in their latest Pastoral Letter to the Filipino nation also decried the contradiction between the oft repeated avowal of ‘matuwid na daan’ and the prevailing ‘kalakaran’ in government. The CBCP observes that :
“ ...the continuing corruption and abuse of power by public officials due to lack of information, or still worse, the possible hiding of information from the public. It is ironic that the government that prides itself of treading the daang matuwid fears the Right of Information (FOI) bill because of possible discovery of wrongdoing by public officials. Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?”
“ ...the widening practice of political dynasties. As monopolies in business, monopolies in politics limit the entry that can bring in new ideas and offer better services. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude. We are aggrieved that lawmakers themselves defy the supreme law of the land by not following the mandate of our Philippine Constitution given 26 years ago to make an enabling law to ban political dynasties.”
The whole MNLF military operation against the Abu SAyyaf was NOT a walk in the park. Their men paid dearly for the release of two Filipino hostages and three foreign hostages. While the three foreign hostages await the return of Maas Nur for their official ‘turn over’ to authorities, many forked tongues have begun sowing intrigues to put the MNLF in the bad light.
They easily forget that this crisis had been going on for months! The authorities (both national and local) produced NADA! So even before they begin dishing out ‘dirt’ or ‘garbage’ against Maas Nur, they should see what had they NOT accomplished for months.
Maas Nur has his faults and even weaknesses and limitations. His management style can even be ‘nightmarish.’ But to attach corruption to the man is far-fetched. His house in Zamboanga speaks for itself. While his former comrades who betrayed him wallow in mansions and abundance both in real properties and business, the man has remained simple and devoid of any opulence associated with corruption.
His old suit for his conferences both here and abroad embarrasses his companions who regal with newer suits.
No doubt, that in the emerging Bangsamoro, the new protagonists are the MILF. Government and the peoples, as well, in mainland Mindanao have found the MILF as the new ‘favorite’ of the moment or the ‘flavor of the month.’ But in bringing about that dream of real autonomous Bangsamoro, the MNLF cannot just be put under the rug and pretend that they had their time and the MNLF is a spent force, at worst, or 'renegades.’
The island provinces – Sulu, Tawi Tawi and Basilan – have remained the ‘territories’ of the MNLF. In fact, the combined MNLF with the Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah have extended their claim much farther and wider than the treaty limits imposed by the colonizers.
The victory of the MNLF over the Abu Sayyaf and KFRGs and their successful rescue of the hostages though with heavy casualties, simply tell all sundry that the MNLF and chairman Nur Misuari are very much alive and kicking.
Follow Fr. Jun Mercado on Twitter @junmeromi.