DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 October) – From a makeshift stage at the Crocodile Park here, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari, introduced by the emcee as “President of the Bangsamoro Republik,” rattled off his achievements in the Bangsamoro struggle in an introduction of himself written in third person and read by him for 16 minutes and in the next 30 minutes criticized the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro as a product of a “tripartite conspiracy” that reduced the Bangsamoro homeland to “five tiny provinces hardly the size of the Cotabato (Empire) of yore.”
Misuari was shielded from the scorching heat of the sun by umbrellas and on several occasions the crowd could only see umbrellas and a hand flipping the pages of the prepared speech he read from 2:46 p.m. to 3:32 p.m, and which he ended with an apology: “I am sorry I was so in a hurry because it’s so hot.”
It was, indeed, “so hot” that a woman in black abaya fainted at around 3:27 p.m. and was rushed to a makeshift tent at the roadside. As Misuari spoke, participants to the “17th MNLF Bangsamoro Grand Summit Gathering” slowly thinned out as participants sought refuge from the unbearable heat.
Crowd estimates varied from 3,000 to 10,000 but a Manila-based photographer used to covering rallies told MindaNews, “mga 1,500 to 2,000 lang.”
A number of the men in the crowd wore mostly new camouflage pants and black shirts of different designs and initials. They gathered in front of the stage when the emcee ordered “formation na” at 2:15 p.m. Misuari, he said, was nearing the Park.
Clad in a khaki pinstripe suit, Misuari arrived at 2:30 p.m., with the emcee asking the crowd to give way to the media.
Misuari delivered his speech in English, reading it haltingly, often repeating words. There was no podium onstage. The sound system was erratic, at one moment his voice was very clear at another he was inaudible.
Now in his 70s, Misuari described Davao City as the “official capital of the Bangamoro Republik.”
He said the “Bangsamoro Republik” is 44 years old, reckoning its founding to the nine-day vigil “right in front of Malacanan Palace” in the aftermath of the March 18, 1968 Jabidah Massacre in Corregidor, that eventually led to the founding of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The MNLF signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1976 in Tripoli, Libya and a “Final Peace Agreement” in Malacanang on September 2, 1996.
Misuari claimed the government has “abrogated” the 1996 FPA with the signing last Monday of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He described the latter as the “fragmentary remnant of the MNLF.”
Then MNLF vice chair Salamat Hashim broke away from the MNLF to form the “New MNLF” in the late 1970s, later renaming it to MILF.
Hashim in a 2000 interview told this reporter that during the Tripoli talks in the mid-1970s, he pushed for autonomy in Moro-dominated areas only but Misuari wanted autonomy for the entire Mindanao, eventually settling for 13 provinces and nine cities.
“The conspiracy in Malacanang Palace that afternoon of October 15 and the signing was like signing figuratively, their own death sentence,” Misuari said.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad and the MIF he said, were “duped and ensnared” and had “fallen along the way, ending up joining traitors to their cause.”
He said the MILF leaders had become “pure and simple puppets and pawns” of the Philippines and Malasian “colonial powers.”
Malaysia facilitated the talks between the government and the MILF.
“Murad and company have agreed to get only five tiny provinces, which, combined together, is hardly the size of the Cotabato (Empire) of yore,” Misuari said.
Reacting to Misuari’s statement, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said Misuari is “no longer rational. The Framework Agreement speaks of its quality. Out of 13 he only got five provinces and one city?” Iqbal said.
Misuari, who served as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from September 30, 1996 to November 24, 2001 and who recently filed his certificate of candidacy for ARMM governor in the May 2013 polls, called on the audience to “join me to continue our efforts to reclaim Sabah and the rest of North Borneo.”
There was no reaction from the crowd. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)