What more is needed to satisfy the meaning of “hostage” which Webster says means “a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge that promises will be kept or terms met by the other party”? Malik was later satisfied. So, he released his hostages. Why hide, evade the obvious?
“Hostaged” or “hosted” is now inconsequential. More important are the realities perceivable beyond the hostage taking which Manila, liking them or not, must face seriously.
Within two years of the signing of the 1996 Jakarta Agreement, Chairman Nur Misuari as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao began questioning the sincerity of the national government in implementing the agreement. To this Manila played deaf and dumb.
Was it merely incidental that the MNLF top men including members of Central Committee whom Misuari assigned to Manila “retired” him from the MNLF leadership as “chairman emeritus”? Some viewed it as a plot by Malacañang to weaken Misuari – a stab on the back of an ally.
The breakup of the MNLF leadership did not stop the questioning of the sincerity of the government in the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. Misuari continued to be vocal. And so were those in the Council of the 15. They addressed also their complaints to the OIC. The silence must have been irritating – as irritating, perhaps, as the complaints were to the government.
Ten years after the signing of the 1996 FPA, the leaders of MNLF both factions still maintained that the agreement had not been implemented fully. The government claimed the contrary but agreed to the holding of a tripartite conference called by the OIC last year to thresh out the differences.
The repeated postponement of the conference at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – originally, July, then reset to September and December, 2006; February 6 – 8, then April this year – angered the MNLF in Sulu. Is the OIC also to blame for the apparent insincerity?
The hostage taking worked. Malik, the chairman of the Sulu MNLF Committee, was assured of the preparatory meeting to be held in Jeddah on March 17-18. Is this final?
Don’t blame the MNLF if it resorts to another hostage taking, just in case.
What will be questioned in Jeddah is the sincerity of the Philippine government in the implementation of the 1996 FPA. In fairness to Manila, how sincere were the MNLF and the OIC in playing their own roles? This, too, will be addressed.
How the breakup of the MNLF weakened Misuari as a Moro leader is not very clear. Have the leaders of the Council of the 15 totally disowned him? Has he been abandoned by the MNLF field commanders? Not, if seen by the unflagging loyalty to him of the Sulu commanders.
Even after the MNLF break up, Manila could only tolerate Misuari’s complaints. But Misuari could not stand being ignored. Did he order his followers in Sulu to rise in arms in late 2002 when Manila turned deaf to his plea not to hold the ARMM election under Republic Act 9054 that he argued violated the 1996 FPA?
While in detention, his followers continued seeing him. He never lost contact. In fact, Malacañang believes the MNLF resistance in Sulu has his blessing. The MNLF leaders, including those in the Council of the 15 were one in appealing for his release so he could lead the MNLF delegation to the Jeddah tripartite conference.
The OIC delegation led by Egypt’s Ambassador Sayed El-Masry which came last May to look into the MNLF complaints asked that Misuari be at the conference. This indicated that the OIC still recognized Misuari as the top MNLF leader.
Malacañang sounds cynical about Misuari. “Who is he going to represent?” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita asked the other day. ”He has no firm grip of the leadership of the MNLF.” Does he mean Misuari will not be released? That will be risking another hostage taking in Sulu?
Ermita’s hiding from reality. That for more than four years now, the government has not had much progress in prosecuting Misuari only means this: Manila is wary about the impact of Misuari’s trial and conviction to the peace situation in Mindanao. But, Ermita said “Misuari is facing a serious criminal charge” so that he has to be tried.
Obviously, the government has been delaying the resolution of the issue that is Misuari. This has agitated the MNLF loyal to him, especially those in Sulu, as well as a significant number of Muslims, his sympathizers.
And politics is twisting it, too. Misuari may run for election in Sulu under the president’s own party, Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino) led by Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno. What position? Still undecided. For governor? For congressman?
Puno said last Saturday, “If Nur Misuari will run under Kampi, it will be based on the issues of peace and development in Mindanao.” What does Manila really want to do with Misuari and his case?
How does the Jeddah tripartite conference impact on the GRP-MILF peace negotiation and peace in Mindanao in the long term? The implication looks serious and should be seriously looked into.
The MNLF is not about to give up the concessions granted to them under the 1996 FPA. What have not been properly and satisfactorily implemented, they will surely seek their rectification. They want the ARMM run according to the agreement. Is perpetual MNLF hold of the governorship part of the agreement – implicit, if not explicit?
Was the lack of support by Malacañang for the reelection of Gov. Parouk Hussin, the MNLF candidate in 2005, a part of the plan to divest the MNLF of power so that the ARMM could be easily conceded to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?
But the Jeddah tripartite conference suggests that the MNLF is not about to yield their control of the ARMM to the MILF or to enter into joint governance. Otherwise, why do they (MNLF) not ask to join the GRP-MILF talk to integrate the 1996 FPA into the negotiation instead of insisting in its “full” implementation?