Massacres by Soldiers Provoked Latest
Clash, MNLF Leader Says
A series of massacres of
civilians in Sulu, including those of two grandchildren of an MNLF leader,
provoked the latest wave of fighting between government troops and the
Moro revolutionary group.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
Last Feb. 17, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) state chairman Khaid
Ajibon sent two grandsons of his on an errand to the market in Indanan,
Sulu. Upon their return, soldiers fired at them. One of the children was
Eight days later, Scout Rangers bombarded the MNLF headquarters in Indanan,
where Ajibon is based.
On April 25, Scout Rangers massacred a family of 10 in Timpuok, Patikul,
Sulu. Only one of the family's members managed to survive.
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in Sulu
DAVID GREEDY / GETTY IMAGES
These incidents are
what provoked the latest wave of fighting between the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) and the MNLF, Bangsamoro People’s National Congress (BPNC)
chairman Ustadz Zain Jali told Bulatlat in an interview this week.
“Because of these, (MNLF
commander) Ustadz Habier Malik has had enough,” Jali said. “He cannot take
At around 6 a.m. on
April 14, MNLF forces led by Malik attacked the detachment of the 11th
Marine Battalion Landing Team in Tayungan, Panamao, Sulu. The assault left
two soldiers dead and eight others wounded.
Before the series of
massacres that provoked the latest wave of clashes, Malik and his men had
“detained” a group led by Muslim convert Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin
Dolorfino in Jolo, Sulu. That was on Feb. 2-4.
Dolorfino, who also
uses the name Ben Muhammad, went with Undersecretary for Peace Ramon
Santos and 13 others to the MNLF’s Camp Jabal Ubod in Panamao, Sulu in the
morning of Feb. 2 to talk with MNLF representatives headed by Malik. The
group included two colonels, a junior officer, nine enlisted men, and
several members of Santos’ staff.
The talks were to
tackle the holding of a tripartite meeting, proposed late last year by the
MNLF, with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the
Organization of Islamic Conference.
In the afternoon of
that same day, Dolorfino and his group were prevented from leaving the
and his group were asked why the tripartite meeting had been postponed
again, and Undersecretary Santos could not give any answer,” Jolo
Councilor Cocoy Tulawie told Bulatlat in an earlier interview. “So they
were prevented from leaving until the GRP and the OIC agreed to schedule a
meeting for March 17.”
tripartite meeting was to tackle issues related to the 1996 Final Peace
Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF.
The meeting scheduled
for March 17 was to be a preliminary meeting in preparation for the
tripartite meeting. “It didn’t push through,” Jali revealed.
The Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) is accusing the MNLF of coddling members of the
bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) – an accusation that the Moro revolutionary
group has vehemently denied.
“There is one group
of people in Sulu tipping off others as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorist
coddlers’ to the military, just for the bounty,” Jali disclosed. “That is
why the military has these accusations against the MNLF.
The fighting has
displaced more than 40,000 civilians in Sulu. Some of the evacuees have
been relocated at the Panglima Mamah Elementary School in Tagbak, Indanan,
Sulu. The rest are in Jolo, the provincial capital – where there are no
“There are no
sanitary conditions (in the evacuation center),” Jali told Bulatlat. “The
dangers of epidemics breaking out there are very high.”
In a separate
interview, Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) secretary-general
Amirah Ali Lidasan confirmed this.
“Within the confines
of the evacuation centers, the refugees catch different diseases,” Lidasan,
who is also one of the nominees of the Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro
People) Party, said. “And the food is never enough for all of them.”
The MNLF traces its
origins to a massacre of between 28 and 64 Moro fighters recruited by the
government in 1968 for a scheme to occupy Sabah, an island near Mindanao
to which the Philippines has a historic claim.
Sabah ended up in the
hands of the Malaysian government during the presidency of Diosdado
Macapagal (1961-1965). His successor Ferdinand Marcos conceived a scheme
involving the recruitment of Moro fighters to occupy the island.
The recruits were
summarily executed by their military superiors in 1968, in what is now
known as the infamous Jabidah Massacre.
The Jabidah Massacre
triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of
the MNLF that same year. The MNLF waged an armed revolutionary struggle
against the GRP for an independent Muslim state in Mindanao.
government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for
peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in the
mid-1970s. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Mindanao
the GRP and the MNLF went on and off until 1996, when the two parties
signed a Final Peace Agreement which created the Autonomous Region of
Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a concession to the group.
Sulu is one of four
provinces under the ARMM: the others are Basilan, Maguindanao, and
In October 2001,
hostilities broke out anew between the GRP and the MNLF. The military was
in hot pursuit of Abu Sayyaf bandits who had abducted tourists in Sipadan,
Malaysia. At one point, the military had announced the defeat of an “Abu
Sayyaf” contingent in Talipao, Sulu.
The MNLF, however,
said that it was its guerrillas, not Abu Sayyaf bandits, who were killed
by the military.
The massacre in
Talipao led the MNLF, just five years after signing a peace agreement with
the government, to once more take up arms. MNLF founding chairman Nur
Misuari, a former political science professor at the University of the
Philippines (UP) who was then ARMM governor, said the Talipao Massacre was
a “violation” of the 1996 Peace Agreement.
Misuari, who was then
in Malaysia, ended up being arrested and subsequently detained in a
military camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (38 kms south of Manila) and charged
with rebellion. He is currently under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon
City while still facing rebellion charges.
Since 2001, there has
been sporadic fighting between the AFP and the MNLF. The waves of fighting
have invariably been provoked by massacres of Moro civilians by soldiers,
“Our people are
always being massacred,” he said. Bulatlat
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