Nur: MILF proposing a quasi-independent state

written by : JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL CORRESPONDENT

THIS is asking for a quasi-independent state.” This is the reaction of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari on the proposal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to form a sub-state for the Bangsamoro people.

This writer met with Chairman Misuari in Tagaytay to be a…ble to contribute this article to this Sunday Times special report on “The MILF sub-state proposal.”

Misuari is in Tagaytay where the MNLF panel and their Philippine government counterparts are meeting (August 12-15) to discuss issues surrounding the implementation of the GRP (now GPH)-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of 1996.

In our exclusive interview, Misuari, told The Manila Times on Saturday that even he, who was a political science professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, found the term “sub-state” and the description of it in the MILF documents submitted to the government panel very confusing.

“The term is not only alien but confusing and nobody knows exactly the real meaning of the word sub-state, and this is very unusual,” Misuari said.

In justifying his observation that sub-state is a quasi-independent entity, Misuari said, the status is above autonomy and just one step towards independence.

According to the MNLF chairman, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, scholar and political analyst, the MILF looks at the proposed “sub-state” as a transitional mechanism towards the Bangsamoro people’s attainment of eventual independence.

Misuari said he agrees with the statement of former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. asking why the government and the MILF have to becloud the issue and not just work to create in the Philippines a federal system. Federalism and federal system are terms already known to everyone.

“I agree with Senator Pimentel since apart from autonomy or federalism, what is left to us is independence,” Misuari emphasized.

He said the government and MILF must now decide of they agree on what the proposed sub-state really means, if it a transition mechanism towards independence for what everyone now calls “he Bangsamoro people.”

“I was the one coined the word Bangsamoro and propagated the term to the extent that I hadto quarrel with our elders because they do not like to hear or use the word Moro in describing our people,” Misuari added.

Misuari said to defend the use of the word Bangsamoro he told those who opposed it that the term will have a beautiful sound eventually.

“Now everyone is proud of it. I am happy also that bothers in the MILF are using the term Bangsamoro,” the MNLF chairman said.

“But to me, with the confusion brought about or generated by the term ‘sub-state,’ they cannot blame us if we suspect their intention,” he emphasized.

However, the August 8-14 editorial of the Luwaran, the MILF interactive website, stated among other things that “the MILF’s formula calls for the creation of a sub-state for the Moros. This entity is not an independent state. The powers over national defense, foreign relations, coinage and currency, and postal services are still the sole jurisdiction of the central government. The sub-state has jurisdiction only over other matters, except those jointly exercised by the sub-state and the central government.

The editorial continues to s ay that “There is nothing to fear in this proposal, because the sub-state, as the name connotes, is still part of the Philippines. It has no army, except police and internal security forces, tasked to do policing within the sub-state.”

Misuari countered, however, that the MILF wants to create a state of its own. He said just remove the prefix sub and what will remain is a “state.” It is just but an adjective according to him.

“A state is still a state no matter what and just like a rose is still a rose by whatever name ,” Misuari logically said.

“I am not saying I am opposed to the creation of the state for our people if that is what the government wants,” Misuari said.

Misuari took exception to act of rejection by the MILF of the ARMM. The MILF has called Muslim autonomous region is “inutile” and far cry from the sub-state they are proposing.

Misuari told this writer “we did not ask for ARMM from the Philippine government, for our original demand was for the complete independence of the Bangsamoro homeland. But the government only gave us the Bangsamoro autonomy that is embodied in documents that resulted from a series of formal peace talks and several agreements that have met the approval of the 57-member states of OIC, the abbreviation of the former Organization of the Islamic Conference which is now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

He cited the case of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement wherein it was agreed by all the parties in Tripoli, Libya, to provide the United Nations with the official copy as a binding international agreement that emphasizes the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination.

“But the trust of our agreement is the formation of Bangsamoro autonomy within the ambit of the law or in accordance with the Philippine Constitution,’ he added.

The MNLF chairman also disclosed that when he and other MNLF leaders negotiated with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines peace panel, the MNLF saw to it that representatives from Congress, the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court and even the Armed Forces of the Philippines and of course the Office of the President were represented in order to be sure there would be no legal or constitutional impediments.

“So this is my view though I could be wrong since they (MILF) don’t want the ARMM and they do not want to invoke even the word autonomy, so what can we say this sub-state is a midway between autonomy and independence,” Misuari further emphasized.

The MNLF chairman also concluded that the sub-state as envisioned by the MILF is a sort of transitional mechanism and once they got it they will expand the power and authority and exercise dominion until they attained full-fledged independence one day in the future.

“We are not against independence of the Bangsamoro people though,” Misuari reiterated.

He recalled that had already an agreement during his last meeting in Camp Abubakar with the late Ustadz Salamat Hashim, the MILF founding leader and chairman of the central committee, who was Nur Misuari’s deputy chairman in the MNLF until Hashim withdrew.

According to Misuari, in his meeting with Hashim, they agreed between them to unite and support each other for the cause of the Bangsamoro people.

“He (Hashim) was the one who initiated that meeting in the presence of Hadji Murad, Jaafar Gadzali (MILF deputy chairman for political affairs), Mohagher Iqbal (MILF chief peace negotiator), and all other key leaders of the MILF,” Misuari recalled.

Misuari said in fact during that meeting with the late MILF chairman in the presence of former Libyan Ambassador to Manila, Rajab Assarouq, Hashim stood up and said: “Brother Nur, we in the MILF leadership would like to assure you that if you get genuine autonomy we will support you and there is no need for us to continue on fighting. However, we in the MILF are keeping tab of the development between you and the government, and we believe that the government is not sincere.”

In response, Misuari said if we fail to accomplish our mission of getting genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro people, and you will get instead independence for our people, Misuari told him “I will not only congratulate you for your achievement but call our people and the entire MNLF to support you once you get freedom.”

Hence, even if our late brother Ustadz Salamat Hashim is no longer around, the letter and spirit of our agreement should be upheld and complied with by the brothers who call themselves MILF leaders, as well as the the rank and file, the MNLF chairman said.

“They (MILF) are duty bound to respect and comply with the agreement between me and Ustadz Salamat Hashim,” Misuari said.

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