Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 6 March 7 - 13, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Bangsamoro Party Nominees:
may be new faces in Philippine politics but they are all veterans of the
three-decade Mindanao struggle. Serving as nominees of the neophyte Suara
Bangsamoro Party-List, the three aim to unite the 13 Muslim ethno-linguistic
groups in Southern Philippines and give voice to a sector that the government
has always sought to silence with guns – the Moro people.
Suara Bangsamoro members at a peace rally.
he was a child, Wahab Ibrahim Guialal, or Kabs to his colleagues, sold ice drop
to help augment the earnings of his family. His mother died early and it was his
grandmother who took care of him.
is the son of a farmer who was also an Imam, a Muslim prayer leader. At 40, he
considers himself a veteran evacuee. His family has moved from Tacurong, Sultan
Kudarat to Buluan, Maguindanao, then to Saranggani province and later to General
Santos City, then still called Dadiangas, and still later, to someplace else in
Mindanao, southern Philippines.
evacuated non-stop,” he said. His family was affected by the war that
intensified in the early 1970s and was sheltered by relatives as they were
forced to sell their land for a meager sum.
was this relentless war in Mindanao that stimulated his political awareness and
inspired him to participate in seminars and educational activities, some of
which were held in Camp Abubakar, organized by various Moro cause-oriented
groups and other progressive organizations.
spite of “walang katapusang pag-eevacuate” (as he puts it), Kabs was
able to finish his Political Science degree in Notre Dame of Dadiangas College.
college, he organized Muslim students through the Parhimpunan ng mga Moro
Mag-aaral at Kabataan sa Ummah or PAMOKAU, which according to him is a parallel
organization of the militant League of Filipino Students (LFS).
1984, he helped organize the youth through the United Moro Muslim Association
where he also served as its chair. From 1991-1998, Kabs was with the Moro
People’s Resource Center (MPRC) and in 1998, he helped establish the MCPA,
which he currently chairs.
the all-out war of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he
helped facilitate relief and medical missions in evacuation centers and
documented human rights violations committed against the Moros, Christian
settlers and Lumads in Central Mindanao.
problem is the continued oppression and exploitation perpetrated against the
Bangsamoro people by the collaborative efforts of U.S. imperialism, local big
business, political warlords and kingpins,” he said of the Bangsamoro problem
in a nutshell.
there was one thing the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has done, he added, it
was to pave way for the exodus of the people of Mindanao to other countries due
to lack of livelihood opportunities and the perceived hopelessness in the
country particularly in war-torn Mindanao.
Ali Lidasan: Voice of Muslim Women
was a fervent chorus of “Takbir!”, the Moro people’s cry of unity,
that greeted the speech of Amirah Ali Lidasan, Suara’s second nominee, when
she spoke during the party’s general convention in Cotabato City last January.
is how any Moro would respond if your words come from your heart, that is how
passionate Mek-Mek is in her conviction,” said one of the delegates, using
native of Parang, Maguindanao, Mek-mek belongs to the Iranon Muslim
ethno-linguistic group. Her family is one of the most influential families in
Maguindanao province. She, however, grew up in Manila where she took up her
elementary to college education.
as a child, Mek-mek was already sharp enough to hold discussions with the mujahideen
(women fighters) whenever she would go to Maguindanao for vacation. This
exposure helped her understand their lives and the essence of what the Muslims
in the South are fighting for.
since Grade 2, she commuted on her own from her school to Quiapo where she
lived. She was exposed to student activism and in high school, initiated a rally
of Anti-U.S. and Anti-war stance when the Gulf War I was still burning.
Journalism graduate of University of the Philippines in Diliman, Mek-Mek ran for
president of the College of Mass Communications (CMC) Student Council and won in
1994. She became chair of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP),
a nationwide alliance of student councils, in 1995 and was elected as its
secretary general in 1996.
2000, when the Estrada administration launched its all-out war against the MILF
and human rights violations against the Moro people were being committed by
government forces, Mek-Mek volunteered to work in Karapatan’s (Alliance for
the Advancement of People’s Rights) Moro Human Rights Desk.
the armed forces started to drop their bombs in Maguindanao, Mek-mek was
actually in Matanog, a municipality in the said province, visiting her
grandmother. Being known to the military as an activist, she couldn’t stay in
Mindanao and flew back to Manila and organized broad inter-faith rallies against
the all-out war.
however says that it was under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration that the
number of displaced families in Mindanao swelled. This is due to Macapagal-Arroyo’s
own all-out war in 2002 and the series of U.S.-RP military exercises in the
Arroyo is just using the Moro people. She authored policies that allowed
business investors to take away the ancestral lands of the Bangsamoro people,”
the feisty Moro leader said.
added, “It’s disheartening because she was catapulted to power by the people
through EDSA 2; she promised reconciliation but actually employed war
the MCPA, an inter-faith organization composed of Muslim and Christian
individuals and organizations, was realized as an organization that asserts the
rights of the Moro people and helps in their quest for genuine freedom and
lasting peace. Mek-mek has served as its spokesperson since its
youth and professionals around Campo Muslim, one of the major Muslim communities
in Cotabato City, felt no surprise when they heard the news that Esmael “Bapah
Mike” Abdula was elected as one of Suara’s three nominees.
is used to respectfully address an old Muslim man and Bapah Mike, as his peers
and young followers fondly call him, has earned the respect of his fellow
Muslims as he has fought most his life for the self-determination of the
Kabs, Bapah Mike and his family went through countless evacuations, particularly
in the early 1970s when he was still in grade school. On the day of his
elementary graduation, a firefight between soldiers and defiant Muslims was
taking place at the same time names of students were being called.
Mike vividly remembers how during his high school years, he would wake up with
an M-16 aimed at him. Soldiers would force the men to line up and, usually, they
would end up “bugbog sarado.”
his innocent age, he questioned why the military had to resort to fascism.
“It’s as if human rights don’t exist for us,” he said.
with his fellow students, Bapah Mike hit the streets when the military converted
their school into a military camp, suspending all classes. The school was
subsequently closed after he led a negotiation with the Department of Education
Culture and Sports (DECS) and insisted that DECS either resist the military
takeover of the school and its other oppressive activities or it stops the
school from operating.
he entered college, Bapah Mike became a Moro youth organizer and founded the
MINSUPALA (Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan) Student’s Solidarity Commission that aimed
to strengthen the Moro students’ education by raising their political
consciousness. The organization gained the support of Muslim youths from as far
as Sulu and Zamboanga.
has since then worked with Karapatan and MCPA in exposing the human rights
violations in Central Mindanao communities during the two succeeding all-out war
campaigns under Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo.
to him, the Bangsamoro problem is “political” and that “ARMM (Autonomous
Region of Muslim Mindanao) has never served as an answer” to the long-standing
plight of the Bangsamoro.
will happen if the decisions would always come from Malacañang and not from the
Moro people themselves,” he said, adding that “a true Islamic leadership”
should be “consultative, collective and transparent.”
Aside from the Suara Bangsamoro Party-List, Bapah Mike is also with the Union of Mindanao Muslims for Advanced Humanity or UMMAH, which, in Arabic, means community. He presently teaches in Eastern Kutawato College in Maguindanao. Bulatlat.com