The Filipino army is definitely able to regain control of those parts of Zamboanga in southern Mindanao which armed men from Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have seized. However, their political challenge will be to do so without a brutal armed assault and possible deaths of several hundred resistance fighters, which may well revive unfortunate memories of decades of brutal war between the Moros and the government.
It is important that Misuari takes responsibility for his supporters and persuades them to stop their action. A peaceful end to the stand off is what the region needs.
Misuari has had a long and varied career. He launched the Moro Independence Movement in the 1960s and after the failure of a deal contained in the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, the MNLF moved to armed conflict with the Marcos government.
By 1996, the MNLF was ready to revive its earlier deal with the new Ramos government and squeezed out its rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) headed by Hisham Salamat. The talks led to the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the MILF rejected even though MNLF accepted the deal. Misuari was the ARMM’s first governor and helped launch this significant development. But when Gloria Arroyo became president, Misuari was removed and later faced a variety of both mismanagement and political charges.
The current crisis started after the MILF made its own deal with current President Benigno Aquino in 2012, which Misuari feels has replaced his earlier deal. He is aggrieved about this and the present armed action has followed.
One of the problems is that Misuari has to recognise that although he is the undoubted father of the Moro independence movement, that does not give him automatic right to dominate its politics. It was telling that he lost badly in recent elections.
It is time that all parties seeking autonomy for the Filipino Muslim Moros work together and jointly build a prosperous future for their people.