Zamboanga crisis: MNLF leader Nur Misuari not only lost his cause, he also lost the plot

The current clashes between Philippine government troops and members of a Muslim rebel group in Zamboanga City of Mindanao despite the 2012 Framework Agreement should be a lesson to all especially President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino that one should never negotiate with terrorists.

Down and out: MNLF leader Nur Misuari

Down and out: MNLF leader Nur Misuari

Obviously, the most recent peace agreement cooked up by the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was a waste of time because not only was it unsatisfactory to the original Muslim rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), it was also offensive to the latter because its leader, Nur Misuari, was left out of the conversation. He even calls members of the MILF traitors since he is still waiting for the resumption of talks to iron out some issues he has with the 1996 peace agreement he signed with former President Fidel Ramos.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

It’s worth noting that the number of rebel groups, each sporting different acronyms, that have sprouted in the years after the peace agreement in 1996 is enough to do your head in. One can be forgiven for getting all mixed up sorting out which group Misuari is actually associated with. I mean, having not been involved in any of the “peace talks” in Mindanao, party people from Manila hardly care about what’s going on outside of their comfort zone let alone care about which rebel group is fighting for and fighting with.

Some Filipinos even claim that the recent gun battles that have resulted in rising civilian casualties and displacement of about 62,000 people is only a distraction created by BS Aquino’s government to divert people’s attention away from the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) or pork barrel funds scam. As far as conspiracy theories go, that one gets half a star out of five for being too irrational.

How does one fake a war anyway? Would it be funded by pork barrel funds? Would BS Aquino even jeopardize his own over-hyped Bangsamoro Framework Agreement by creating chaos in the Mindanao region just to escape the people’s calls to abolish the pork barrel funds? Only if he thinks that the pork barrel is more precious than attaining peace in Mindanao. But that is still a “lose-lose” situation for the President because the instability in Mindanao could spillover into other regions including the capital. But I guess the BS Aquino government’s lack of foresight has not escaped a lot of people.

Going back to Misuari, what the heck is wrong with that dude? He already shook the hands of the man, Ramos when he agreed to what was then the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF during the latter’s term. However, Misuari blew his chance at creating a prosperous Mindanao for “his people”. Some say that when Misuari entered into an agreement with the Philippine government back then, it was less an achievement of peace and more of a “sellout”.

It seems his failed stint as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is enough proof for some people to conclude that he cannot respect institutions or follow the system. He may have been effective as a rebel, but he wasn’t effective as a bureaucrat. In the end, he did not deliver for the Bangsamoro people what he was ready to shed blood for.

Perhaps the privileges of working in government distracted him from improving the livelihood of the people in his region. Unfortunately, some of his followers thought Misuari became too big for his boots and decided to abandon him for another rebel group. Apparently, while Misuari was dancing to the beat of the government’s drum during Ramos’s term, the MILF under Murad Ibrahim became more organized and became the biggest Muslim rebel group in Mindanao. This explains why the MILF managed to become the official “rebel group” to hold talks with BS Aquino.

I don’t really understand why the government is still trying to appease any rebel group. Rebels have a low track record of sharing the wealth they win with the people they “govern” once they are in power. We can say the same about the government. It seems government officials and rebels alike are incapable of putting the people’s needs before their own. They all claim to be fighting for the people and then forget about the people once they are in power.

What now? Misuari is back to where he once belonged – in the jungles of Mindanao, hiding and hatching the next terror attack just so BS Aquino will take him seriously. History repeats itself again. Yet another disgruntled Muslim rebel group is unhappy about the “peace agreement” served on a silver platter by the Philippine government. This time, the original rebel group, the one who managed to get a peace deal in 1996 is the one complaining of being left out and is now wreaking havoc in the region.

Frankly, by the way these rebel groups disagree with each other, there won’t be an end to the number of Muslim rebel groups who will be unhappy with any peace deal coming from the government particularly since history has shown that peace deals keep getting scrapped for a new one by the next elected President. Indeed, seeing the way Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay is throwing the government’s management of this crisis into disarray by bypassing reporting lines and opening his own negotiations channel with Misuari is enough to resign Filipinos to a foreseeable future of hopeless poverty and instability caused by grandstanding politicians. And that thought is enough for any rebel group to stop negotiating with the Philippine government.

[Photo courtesy Malaysian Digest.]

39 Replies to “Zamboanga crisis: MNLF leader Nur Misuari not only lost his cause, he also lost the plot”

  1. what happened in Zamboanga lately is a diversion by the government from what we should have been focusing on, which is the PDAF scam. This is an old, rustic scheme our government has been practicing for a a couple of decades already. Filipinos should have learned by now that we are manipulated by a selfish government who only keeps their butts shiny.

    1. Haven’t you read this part: “Some Filipinos even claim that the recent gun battles that have resulted in rising civilian casualties and displacement of about 62,000 people is only a distraction created by BS Aquino’s government to divert people’s attention away from the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) or pork barrel funds scam. As far as conspiracy theories go, that one gets half a star out of five for being too irrational.”

  2. Thanks for this article, informing readers about what is going on in Mindanao, my home island.

    Just like the Palestinian cause in the Middle East, the Muslim fight for autonomy in Mindanao is a stalemate. The problem is the spread of Wahhabism, the idea that the Shariah system of government is better than anything else, and that any means can justify the end of establishing Shariah law.

    Autonomy by itself, however, is not bad. The key is to realize that whatever our government grants the southern regions, SHOULD ALSO BE GRANTED TO THE REST OF THE REGIONS. Even Cebu wants autonomy. The key is for the national government to devolve most of its powers to the regions, even allowing the regions to each have its own law-making body. This is called Federalism, and I think we should look at exemplars of this like Switzerland’s brand of Federalism.

    1. I agree with you, Carlos. I think federalism’s the way to go for our country, but of course I know that a shift in the form of government won’t solve the worst woes of the Philippines as the problem, I believe, is with the people, as is often emphasized by the GetRealPhilippines bloggers. I believe, though, that shifting to federalism will solve at least some of our problems. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, however, as the mere mention of charter change drives people crazy. I also know that many don’t understand what a federal government is and are not interested to learn more about it. God help us!

    2. Hi Carlos,

      It’s my pleasure. Thanks also for reading. Hopefully you can write a lengthier piece on this matter.

      If Cebuanos want autonomy,their clamour for it is not as loud as the people from Mindanao though.

  3. “Some Filipinos even claim that the recent gun battles that have resulted in rising civilian casualties and displacement of about 62,000 people is only a distraction created by BS Aquino’s government to divert people’s attention away from the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) or pork barrel funds scam.”

    “How does one fake a war anyway? Would it be funded by pork barrel funds? Would BS Aquino even jeopardize his own over-hyped Bangsamoro Framework Agreement by creating chaos in the Mindanao region just to escape the people’s calls to abolish the pork barrel funds? Only if he thinks that the pork barrel is more precious than attaining peace in Mindanao.”

    To be frank, who in their right mind will just think of peace without anything in return? Who in their right mind will prefer his people’s safety over his own benefit? Apparently, no one in their right mind will do that – Noynoy also has his own will to power, just like any one of us, and thus, even if we step into the shoes of whoever President, we will ALWAYS commit the same mistake. For we as human beings will naturally strive for power and wealth – our very own innate will to power. Of course, they also have to show-off their “virtue” – very Confucian, thus very useless and dangerous to the State – by pretending the Zamboanga incidents as “defending the peace”. All for morality’s sake in expense of real results. This is why the end ALWAYS justifies the means.

    1. speak for yourself..not everyone chooses the road of the selfish.. if one has set his sight on a much greater picture of his children and the next generation’s. a fiercely competitive individual making money on his own without strings can attest to the importance of a sound economic playground..with decent roads to move things and people around..with the hope of hiring the best out of the stellar batch of graduates..IF only everyone had afforded to take up decent education..with our grass root livelihood on every vicinity being managed by the government.. there is hope that i see..sadly the catholic dominated Philippines is a breeding ground of the likes of you.

    2. @Chrissie
      Even aspirations to live simply is a will to power – although not as strong as aspirations for power and wealth. And such weak will to power is dangerous to such person.

      Catholicism is definitely not like me – they will not preach about the will to power, the importance of results over morality(end justifies the means), something like that. They are closer to the Confucian model of “showing off” – basically, for them, the end never justifies the means. You know, showing off as if they have morals. Defending the peace as if for peace’s sake. And President Aquino is exactly the Confucian gentleman – showing off for the sake of his own will to power. And the people cannot show off simply because they have no means to do that – how can they when they don’t have their barest necessities at least?.

  4. I love how a career non achiever allegedly was trying to shoot for a Nobel Peace Prize. Not the committee would have ever awarded it to someone who has been so unaccomplished in his life but that would have been funny to have his shining moment “blow up” on him like what happened now. Well,nothing like handing out some Cloud 9 bars couldn’t fix.

    1. @Gogs

      Well, thanks goodness he’s not going to get nominated for that Nobel Peace prize. He is better at creating disunity in Phil society rather than unity.

  5. “The government and the MILF, a splinter group of the original MNLF, signed the historic framework agreement that would form a new political entity to replace the ARMM, which President Aquino had called “a failed experiment.”

    Who gave up on what? The president declared ARMM a failed experiment and now he has this bloody mess in his hands. Do not blame Misuari.

  6. I agree with your assessment Ilda; Governments should NEVER negotiate with Terrorists. Especially THIS Government of inept, incompetent, publicity hungry idiots! However, even if the possibility of real negotiations were on the table; this Student Government sits at the table from a position of weakness. It is abundantly clear that the Terrorists are in full control of their situation. The AFP is there for comic relief.

    Watching the battle footage reminds me of the Lunetta Hostage Fiasco. Once again, the Government has failed to provide proper TRAINING, proper EQUIPMENT and proper LEADERSHIP. End result? Another fiasco in the making. This will end badly in one of two scenarios. Either 1) The MNLF forces will escape (or will be allowed to escape) with their hostages which in turn will be ransomed providing more funds to the bad guys or 2) the Government will order the AFP to mount a Rescue Operation which will result in the deaths of said hostages. Yes Mar Roxas, Human Shields whether Muslim or not are indeed HOSTAGES! These groups succeed simply because Government fails. The Government fails because people are too pre-occupied with what Kris Aquino is wearing or who she is screwing! Those who think this is some sort of “diversionary tactic” are more idiotic than Pnoy himself! They fail to see the REAL diversion right in front of their faces.

    1. @Jetlag807

      More often than not, it’s the government policies that create this kind of crisis. If only BS Aquino continued on where Ramos left off, he could have avoided an expensive trip to Japan for the peace talk.

      Why did he feel the need for a new one and why did he ignore some groups? What was his basis in choosing which group would keep their word? Do people who use violence to get their way even honour agreements?

      1. @Ilda

        Philippine elected officials (from housing subdivisions to the highest national offices) all have the same agenda once they take office. They completely ignore or outright cancel any and all achievements made by the previous administration even if the idea/s were the “best thing since sliced bread”. The Student Government is no different. Why build on the back of an accomplishment of a previous leader when you can erase the chalk board, start all over again and claim full credit. However, the Noytards in the Cabinet are not experienced in the ways of “covering all bases” so, the MNLF gets left out in the cold. Judging from the reaction of Misuari once the MILF peace deal was signed, it should have been a CLEAR warning that one or more issues need to be addressed. But, as usual with this administration, it fell on deaf ears. That being said, the MNLF and Misuari have demonstrated their complete lack of diplomacy by choosing violence and should be dealt with accordingly. The slightest hint of forgiveness and/or bringing the MNLF back to the table (at this point) will send a clear signal to every other armed group with a grievance.

        P-Nut should have continued where Ramos left off. He should have done a lot of things but, so far, he has not. The President (and his cabinet) will continue to bungle their way through crisis after crisis not realizing that they were the ones who could have prevented them in the first place… If they weren’t so dam stupid!

  7. The MNLF and MILF are BOTH terrorist organisations. They should’ve been dealt with using unconditional terms with the alternative of being crushed completely. Instead, because the Philippine government has always been a flaccid pushover, those two plus the Abu Sayyaf and the NPA persist today.

    1. Not only has the government been a flaccid pushover, it keeps making hollow threats. It seems to think that it can always crush opposition whenever it wants to.

      Right. They and what army?

  8. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Ever since the 2010 elections when I first started reading from this website, I had agreed with all of Get Real’s opinions, I applauded the thinking of the Get Realists, notably Benign0, Ilda and ChinoF, I was ecstatic that there were people whose ideas I shared, one who had not grown soaked in Da Pinoy’s mentality.

    But this right here marks my disagreement and complete disillusionment.

    By labeling both the MILF and MNLF as “terrorist organizations”, you have just alienated possibly every Muslim in the Philippines. You should know that Moros (Filipino Muslims) support one Front or the other, whether they publicly acknowledge it or not, and thus are accused herein as supporting terrorist organizations.

    I had thought you GetRealists, of all people, would be the ones objective enough to know the legitimacy of the Moro’s aspirations, and understand our plight and our support for the MILF or the MNLF that are negotiating on our behalf- the Bangsamoro.

    That being the case, I do condemn whatever the MNLF is perpetrating now. The peace talks with the MILF is moving forward and we had every hope it will finally pave the way for peace with only two Annexes remaining of the FAB, and here comes Misuari with his KSP mentality to ruin it (but I’m thankful it showed me the real score).

    And just so you know, my mom and siblings live in Zamboanga and are stuck where they are, unable to go anywhere lest they get shot, God forbid, by the fighting forces, so that you may understand it is us who are aspiring for peace, and you are shooting down our messengers by your labels.

    1. @Aziz

      I’m sorry you feel that way but nowhere in my article did I label the entire Muslim community as rebels. In fact, I was over-emphasizing what in my opinion was MNLF’s failure to uplift the status of the Bangsamoro people when they had the chance.

      Unfortunately, some individuals who claim to represent the Muslim community seem to have their own personal agenda, which doesn’t include prosperity for the majority of the people in the region.

      The actions of the members of the MNLF were brazen and rebellious. They have total disregard for the lost of lives and livelihood of civilians, which makes those who are watching on the sidelines conclude that achieving peace is NOT their priority. The thing is, if you don’t sympathise with the actions of the members of the MNLF, then you should not feel offended when people refer to them as rebels.

      A lot of people have predicted the kind of crisis Zamboanga City is experiencing now was inevitable when they noticed that only one group, the MILF was included in the peace talks with the current government. I’m not blaming this fiasco entirely on the group. The Philippine government should have learned their lessons and realised that when Ramos just dealt with MNLF back in 1996, some groups who wanted to be included in the negotiating table also felt excluded then.

      Now the same thing is happening again with other groups feeling left out of the Bangsamoro deal. Had all the Muslim separatists groups set their differences aside and organised themselves before talking to the Philippine government, the siege in Zamboanga City could have been prevented.

      I hope things will go back to normal soon for your family and the rest of the people who were displaced.

    2. speak for yourself when you say all muslims support these Fronts. when you say that talking of MILF and MNLF as terrorists alienates all muslims, maybe you are the one generalizing muslims. not all muslims support these fronts. given, the article lacks a lot of insight as to why we have this chaos in the southern philippines, the history and origin of the people, it is folly to think that the muslims support the actions of the MNLF/MILF. nobody wants war. nobody wants shooting and outright chaos that displaces thousands and thousands of people. but these fronts seem to talk only in this manner, what do you think will be the response? and these messengers you are talking about, they are the ones who started this. if they were unhappy with the Bangsamoro, why not protest it then? seek an audience with the court or president? MNLF and MILF always say they want peace, but they try to forge this with fire and blood, don’t they know actions speaks louder than words?

    3. @Aziz

      I still recall the Ipil Massacre in Zamboanga. The real truth is that there are terrorists among the members of the MILF/MNLF. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, Nur Misuari is liable for the terrorist acts of his people like arson of homes, kidnapping/hostage taking and shooting of civilians. His so-called declaration of independence is nothing more than secession. The secessionist movement is alive and well in the Philippines. I saw gruesome footages in you tube of actual terrorists and these cannot be denied.

  9. YES, a very good assessment of what is the case for NEVER negotiating with a terrorist. Suspiciously occurring at a time when gov’t. instability could be mistaken for a weak central gov’t. at almost the exact time as a visiting ‘Head of State’ will be soon visiting. Could his be the ‘Wily Filipino’ popping up at exactly the right/wrong time? In need of more ‘Foreign Aid’ to fund the “increasingly desperate” TERRORIST situation on Mindanao Island? A manipulative move ‘provoked’ to procure funds to ‘fight the terrorists’? MAYBE, but it could all blow up in the face of those who are betting that the beneficent leader of the free-world might just get rid of the leader of a country whose own leader negotiates with terrorists and loses?

  10. The Philippine Republic finds itself in an interesting place in International concerns at the present time.

    The USA’s, as well as all other Western Countries Corporations, know what lies under the sea-bed off the shores of the west coast of the central-southern Philippines and they have the resources and technologies that are necessary to get those riches out of the sea. There is also China barking loudly that those resources are theirs, and theirs alone and could possibly steal all of those resources for themselves. The Philippines has scarcely a vessel that could protect these resources and so must chose who to creep into bed with so as to not get left out in the cold and get nothing out of all of the Sea. China does not yet have all of the necessary technologies for deep sea oil exploration BUT is furiously at work to get that technology, by hook or by crook. So what do the diplomats of the Philippines do? Play both sides against the middle, and maybe come up CRAPS? Side with the West who has no concern what-so-ever for the plight of the average Filipino? OR side with the hated Chinese who have the advantage in strategic location to run rough-shod over the entire region?

    Add to that the obvious case that the present admin. of the country is in-capable of not only protecting its own maritime resources but can scarcely control its own population in many area’s of the country. Well, would any foreign corporation want to invest large sums of capital into such a situation? or would they rather wait and see if a more stable situation can ‘EMERGE’ before investing? What could happen to a leader who can not control his own population and only ADDS to the detriment of International monetary considerations, particularly the West’s?

    Interesting? Where is Saint and his idea’s about who EXACTLY is going to be settling this one? HINT: it won’t be the locals. It may appear that way, BUT NO, it won’t be.

  11. Philippines is in her momentum now to deal for change, take a look in positive side,
    our government is now working hard to demolish corrupt and rebel, HEBSA is now doing his best, creating the framework for bangsamoro region then wait for the perfect chance to destroy the rebels, so that it will enlighten the eyes of muslim people that the MNLF cannot be trusted as what many of our fellowmen talking about. and regarding pork barrel issues, HEBSA planning to enhance the budget plan for 2015 annual budget (by that reason) he and his adviser plan out how to demolish that pork barrel, but the problem is that HSBSA is playing safe to the congressmen and senators (so that it will lessen the possibility of gaining political enemies).

    malamang na hindi ko alam ang kabuuan ng kwento sa isyu of ng MNLF at PDAF, pero masasabi ko na kahit papaano ay may magandang resulta na mangyayari bago dumating ang taon 2015.

  12. MNLF/MILF should be branded as TERRORISTS. There should be a shoot to kill order against MISUARI. The whole of Mindanao belongs to the Republic of the Philippines. now more than ever is the time to have a strong military. Punish these legislatores who stole money. They are accountable to millions of Filipinos.

    1. @Dolpho, Do you actually think that the legislatores in the country even THINK they are accountable to anyone inside the country, much less the citizens? Don’t be silly mon, they are accountable to higher authorities than the Filipino citizenry. The one thing that both of those entities(legislatores and those they are accountable to) have in common is that they do not give one good shit about the Filipino citizenry. They are laughing at all of you as you read this.Why are they laughing? Because you actually think that and after conning/scamming/flat-out stealing billions in peso’s from all of you……you all collectively do nothing.Iceland, yes tiny little Iceland is the only country whose citizens have stood up and actually told those in public office that they best “DO the right thing, or accept the ugly consequences.”. “They” listened and Iceland is now re-building their countries economy.

  13. Never ending cycle… some members of MNLF not satisfied and broke away forming MILF.. then some members of MILF had different agendas and formed ASG… and now what’s this bangsamoro and this 15EC?

    No way in hell can any peace be negotiated out of this because some who are not amenable will simply break away again and form their own happy family..

    I can think of some ways. It’s effective but it’s gonna be along the lines of racism.. go figure..

  14. Ilda, I’d like to share this piece of yours thru my facebook account. This makes more sense than any of what is happening in the Philippines. It’s no surprise that this whole unrest came at a time when corruption was again, the banner news for months. It is saddening. But our people need to be informed. And your thoughts can help.

  15. philippines should not have negotiated in the first place. pushing for peace just made those criminals think that they are somehow relevant to the rest of the country.

  16. guys, thank you for your comments but the only thing i could say is there is no peace will happen here in mindanao if still personal interest continue to exist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.