Ibrahim sees other possible reasons for the government attack on the MNLF. “Whenever there is a budget hearing in Manila, the military creates scenarios to justify perhaps their requests for handsome allocations in the national budget,” he said. “I also believe that they want to divert the muscles of the tri-media and the devastating eye of the Filipino people from the beleaguered government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, like what President Joseph Estrada did at the height of the jueteng scandal.”
Macapagal-Arroyo has long been facing calls for her ouster because of her government’s implementation of what cause-oriented groups describe as “anti-national and anti-people” policies. These calls had intensified earlier this year following renewed allegations that she cheated in the 2004 election, in which she is supposed to have received a fresh term after first assuming office in 2001 following the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada.
Ibrahim also said the government may be intending to “sabotage” MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari’s recent appeal for temporary liberty in order to get medical treatment. Misuari has been imprisoned in Sta. Rosa Laguna (38 kms. south of Manila) for alleged rebellion.
Asked if he thought the present Sulu fighting could have something to do with the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in which the government has been seen as intending to offer the ARMM to the MILF as a concession, Ibrahim said it is “curious” that the GRP has been talking of an agreement having been forged but the deal is still hidden. “The government should inform Congress, the Senate and the Filipino people as to the agreement they entered into with the MILF,” the MNLF leader said.
“But I think it is good if the government can meet the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsa Moro people for self-determination,” he added. “But as far as the Constitution is concerned, the government cannot do what is beyond the ambit of the peace agreement.”
When asked about the present state of MNLF-MILF relations, Ibrahim said they have no quarrel or trouble with the MILF. “Well, first of all we are brothers in peace, we share the same colonial experience and oppression, and we also have the same national political aspiration, which is the recognition of our fundamental right to chart our own destiny as a nation,” he said.
In the mid-1970s the Marcos 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 Muslims.
The government insisted on a plebiscite to settle the territories of the autonomous government as allegedly provided for by the government,” wrote Guiamel Alim, a Mindanao civil society leader, in 1995.
The MNLF did not recognize the results of the plebiscite and the negotiations bogged down. In the meantime, the Marcos government was able to win over some of the MNLF leaders “through various forms of attraction,” Alim continued.
The disastrous aftermath of the Tripoli Agreement led to a split in the ranks of the MNLF and the formation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1978. The MILF waged armed struggle for an Islamic state in Mindanao, and continued to do so even after the signing of the GRP-MNLF peace agreement in 1996. (Bulatlat.com)