Sema elected chair of “MNLF”

MNLF chair Nur Misuari could not be reached for comment but Randolph Parcasio, legal counsel of the MNLF under Misuari told MindaNews what Sema’s group did was “a repeat of what they did” in 2001.

Misuari was ousted by what became known as the “Executive Council of 15”  that included Parouk Hussin – who later that year ran for and become the ARMM governor; MNLF vice chair Hatimil Hassan and MNLF secretary-general Muslimin Sema.

The ouster move was believed instigated by Malacanang officials.

By November that same year, 2001, Misuari figured in an alleged rebellion in Sulu and in Zamboanga City and was arrested just off Sabah in Malaysia.  He was fetched from his detention in Malaysia by then Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza in early January 2002 and has since been detained on charges of rebellion in the supposed bungalow for then ousted president Joseph Estrada in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, then in his hospital room at St.Luke’s hospital in Quezon City and later in a two-storey house in New Manila, near St. Luke’s.

The Philippine government acknowledged the Executive Council of 15 as “the MNLF” but the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) where the MNLF sits as an observer, acknowledged the MNLF had a leadership problem that it should resolve internally.

About two years after Misuari’s supposed ouster,  Hassan,  Misuari’s vice chair,  assumed the post of “chair.”  Hassan explained the belated move to MindaNews, that institutions were complaining they would rather deal with one person rather than with a council.

In last Tuesday’s voting, Hassan was made MNLF vice-chair for foreign relations.

The group’s secretary-general, vice Sema, is Abdul Sahrin, former vice-chair for intelligence operations.

Sema did not respond to the query on how many “Central Committee” members and who  attended the Pagadian meeting.

But in an interview with Notre Dame Broadcasdting Corporation which runs AM radio stations DXMS in Cotabato and DXND in Kidapawan, Sema said that among his priorities as MNLF chair is to make sure the 1996 final peace pact is implemented in ‘letter and spirit,’ improve the relationship between the Philippine government and the MNLF with the office of the presidential adviser on the peace process.

He assured residents of Mindanao that the MNLF would become the “vanguard against exploitation and oppression and good governance, transparency and accountability.”

One of the group’s plans, according to Sema, is to work with the United Nations Development Programme’s ACT for Peace.

Before running for mayor, Sema served as the executive secretary of Misuari at the start of the latter's term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but later moved to the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPDA) as executive director.

Sema also headed, at one point, the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA). 

In March last year, the MNLF under Misuari unanimously rejected the return of the “Executive Council of 15” into the MNLF.

“In a manifesto we sent to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), members of the Central Committee and state chairmen have unanimously agreed that we do not accept the return of the Executive Council of 15, who bolted the front, to MNLF mainstream, nor allow them to represent the MNLF in the upcoming tripartite meeting in Jeddah,” Hajji Gapol Hadjirul, MNLF Chief Political Coordinator, said.

“They (Executive Council of 15) allowed themselves to be used by the government in weakening the MNLF,” Hadjirul claimed.

But Executive Council members, among them Hassan and Sema, were listed as members of the MNLF delegation during the 1st Tripartite Meeting among the Philippine government, MNLF and OIC in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in November last year. Hussin was listed under the government delegation but sat with the MNLF.

The supposed head of delegation, Nur Misuari, failed to attend because he had no travel documents.

Misuari, however, was acknowledged chair during the tripartite meeting. Parcasio served as head of  the MNLF delegation. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)