Misuari’s final gambit?
Old, forgotten and hounded, the once-great Nur Misuari, founder of the once-formidable Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is now dealing his last card in Zamboanga City.
Zamboangueños woke up last Monday to his latest and what I imagine is his last caper as time and the tides of history dealt him an insurmountable blow a long time ago when he failed miserably as governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Sidelined in the recent negotiations for lasting peace in Mindanao, he has resorted to the thing he knows best to get attention: blow his way into the national headlines.
His timing could not have been more impeccably suspect as protests against the scandalous multi-billion peso misuse of pork barrel funds is mounting and inching towards the doorstep of Malacañang. It does not take a rocket scientist, hence, to wonder if this Misuari misadventure in Zamboanga has been staged, complete with unlimited funding, to divert attention—and heat—from the capital. Even a lowly taxi driver told a friend and colleague of mine who rode with him, “When Misuari needs money, he goes to war.”
The question to ask therefore is this: Who is funding this little war that Misuari has foisted on the helpless people of Zamboanga? While Misuari may have some following in Sulu where his popularity among the older generation of the MNLF remains, I do not think those followers will risk whatever money they have to this caper that everyone knows will only end in pushing Misuari and whatever cause he is espousing further into the back-burner to be judged later by history. Old men tend to grumble when the latter and younger generation fail to notice what they want. But they do not go to war for it, not unless they have the guns and the bombs. And those cost money.
Here’s a thought to ponder: If I have billions of pesos at my disposal, can I contact Misuari and tell him to start a little war so that people can at least turn away from the scandal now hogging the headlines?
Beyond this whole suspicion that this little war is staged, however, is the reality of bloodshed and death on the streets of Zamboanga. To be caught in the grip of inexplicable violence is an experience no one will forget. I can only share in the grief and misery that the people of Zamboanga are going through now just because this old man has refused to let history take kindly on his cause.
I spent the first eight years of my life in Pagadian, along the Zamboanga peninsula. I was eight years old when Misuari’s forces attacked the Philippine Constabulary camp in hilly Pagadian in 1973 and wreaked havoc on the city. Our house and that of my grandfather’s near the city plaza became a makeshift evacuation center for all our relatives that were trickling in from the nearby towns that were also attacked. That was when I saw so many antique porcelain jars strewn on our lawn as more and more of our Subanen friends arrived to settle temporarily at our place.
Every night, we could hear bombs exploding while tracer bullets would whizz buy just above our heads. Daytime would be spent looking at the fighter jets diving and bombing sections of the city where MNLF forces were holed up. We barely made it out of Pagadian on board a DC-3 Swiftair plane that brought us to Cebu. When my family returned to Pagadian in 1976, I still remember our classes abruptly dismissed as home-made bombs would explode from time to time at the commercial district of the city.
Fortunately, all of that is now but a memory for Pagadian and its people—but not for Zamboanga, whose development and progress, right when it begins to rise, always seems to be pulled down by these miserable minions that know nothing of peace.
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