When I read and saw photos in the mainstream and social media news of President Rodrigo Duterte finally declaring the liberation of Marawi City from the ISIS, I was overcome by emotion. Tears uncontrollably ran down my cheeks like the waters of Maria Christina Falls cascading down from the heights to the floors of the Agus River.
It was a varied emotion that took hold of me. I was jubilant over the President’s announcement he made right at the center of Marawi City that the ISIS reign of terror over the city is finally over. It was an announcement pregnant with mixed symbolism. This is why at the same time, it also plucked a sad note inside me when the sudden realization struck me that it was the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that liberated the Islamic City of Marawi and not one of the Moro liberation fronts took part in its liberation or was singularly responsible for the same.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation (Front) are what their nomenclatures say they are – liberation fronts. Ostensibly now, that is. They were created to liberate and defend the Moro people. This is their raison d’etre. We know this from first hand experience because we had been with them since their genesis. You, of all our brothers, should know this.
But truth to tell, when the ISIS laid siege (on) Marawi City, captured it and drove its Moro inhabitants out of their homes, the MILF and the MNLF were not able to do anything – or more correctly, did not do anything – to defend and protect the people. Simply put, the Fronts abandoned them.
And to be honestly brutal and specific about it, it was the Maranaw people whom the Moro fronts abandoned.
The bitter pill we have to swallow is that the MILF is only concerned now with the ‘liberation’ of the MILF; and the MNLF is only concerned now with the ‘liberation’ of the MNLF. This is the heartrending epilogue to the Moro liberation narrative.
The MILF’s armed confrontation with the ISIS faction of the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in Cotabato was an afterthought in the face of the Marawi siege. The MILF had to do it or lose and concede territorial control to the ISIS-BIFF. To the MILF, Marawi is a Maranaw city whose loss to ISIS was not as significant as the loss of MILF territory in Maguindanao. This much is obvious.
No MILF fighter died in Marawi defending the city and its people from ISIS.
Similarly, no MNLF fighter died defending the city and its people from ISIS.
But, the irony of it all is that it is the AFP in the almost five months that Marawi was under siege by ISIS, that sacrificed the lives of its men-in-uniform to recover Marawi and restore it to its residents.
This is the same AFP that occupied and converted our homeland into a vast military garrison in the 70s and 80s; the same AFP that was reviled by us as “the occupation army of Philippine colonialism” during the heyday of our guerrilla stint in the Moro resistance struggle.
Now this same AFP has liberated our people in Marawi from ISIS, while those who now run the Moro liberation fronts had stayed away from Marawi at that very crucial moment when they could have proven to us – the Moro people – that they are still deserving of that nomenclature ‘liberation front’.
As I was looking at recent news and was staring at photos of MILF and MNLF leaders making their pilgrimage to Malacanang while Marawi was burning, I almost vomited my heart out in disgust as well as from deep sadness.
I asked myself: Why have we reached this point of humiliation and apathy?
What has come to pass, however, has come to pass. Let it thus be a painful lesson – a painful lesson learned that should not be stored and left to decay in the cupboard or cranny of our collective memory.
To reiterate, I was glad when President Duterte announced the liberation of Marawi. But deep inside, I bled in shame because the liberation fronts under whom we served “for the liberation of the oppressed Moro people” have failed us at the proper time and at the right opportunity – and that is, when our people needed them most.
The only thing that can perhaps mollify this shame and pent-up anger is that it is a Moro President, a Maranaw President, or so he proudly claims, who made the announcement that the Maranaw city of Marawi had been liberated by the AFP.
And to give credit to whom credit is due – I salute and congratulate the AFP!
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Our Marawi is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on what is happening in Marawi City, the country’s lone Islamic City. This piece was written by Brother Khaleed to Robert Maulana Marohombsar Alonto, a comrade in the Moro National Liberation Front during their younger years. Alonto, a member of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the Arroyo and Aquino administrations and a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission from 2014 to 2016, posted this piece on his Facebook account on October 19, 2017 with a note that he was “a little bit hesitant to post this but since we encourage critical thinking, here’s a very interesting opinion that was sent to us by a Muslim brother, an expatriate, a former Moro fighter-activist and now senior citizen, from outside Mindanao.” MindaNews was granted permission to reprint this)