Is GMA Provoking MNLF-MILF War?
Is the Macapagal-Arroyo
government trying to pit the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) against
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the ongoing war in Sulu, an
island province in southernmost Philippines?
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
UP Prof. Julkipli Wadi, MNLF liaison to the
OIC Dr. Abdulrakman Amin, and Moro-Christians People's Alliance
secretary-general Cosain Naga, Jr. at the forum on the Sulu conflict, Feb.
21 Photo by Arkibong Bayan
PHOTO BY ARKIBONG BAYAN
Is the Macapagal-Arroyo government
trying to pit the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) against the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the ongoing war in Sulu, an island
province in southernmost Philippines?
This angle surfaced following a
statement by a specialist in Moro studies who linked the Sulu conflict to
the current peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines (GRP) and the MILF.
In a forum at the University of the
Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City Feb. 21, Dr. Julkipli Wadi, a
professor of Islamic Studies in the same university, suggested that the
current conflict in that southern island province may have something to do
with the peace negotiations between the GRP and the MILF.
Wadi said that the GRP may be
intending to offer the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the
MILF. “Without the ARMM,” Wadi said, “the government has nothing to
The UP professor added that the
government may be attempting to marginalize the MNLF, which now
administers the ARMM, in preparation for this.
tried a number of times to contact Wadi for an interview to follow up on
this issue but could not be reached.
Protestant pastor Absalom Cerveza,
spokesperson of the MNLF peace panel, sees Wadi’s view as plausible. He
even sees the GRP-MILF negotiations as headed for failure.
“They will fail at some point,”
Cerveza, who was interviewed together with Amin, told Bulatlat.
“Because the government has nothing to offer the MILF except the ARMM.
What will the government offer them, autonomy? The ARMM is now covered by
Cerveza was interviews by Bulatlat
together with Dr. Abdulrakman Amin, MNLF liaison to the Organization of
Islamic Conference (OIC). Amin spoke in the same UP forum.
However, Cerveza said that offering
the ARMM to the MILF could not be done legally because jurisdiction over
the region is provided for by the 1996 peace agreement. “Unless they want
Muslims to fight Muslims so that they could once again control the whole
of Mindanao,” he continued.
Amin and Cerveza share Wadi’s call for
a review of the 1996 peace agreement. The said pact, to Amin, is the key
toward a peaceful resolution of the current conflict.
However, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
has been giving free rein to the military’s hard-line stance on the Sulu
war. Does the MNLF really see the possibility of a peaceful resolution of
the current conflict?
“Of course,” Cerveza said. “Because
various sectors are calling for peace, and if the president does not want
peace, they can remove her.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Amin, in the same forum
said that the Sulu war could force the two Moro groups to enter into a
Quoting Amin, Pinoyweekly, an
independent newspaper, revealed that a top MILF official recently asked
him about the possibility of forging a tactical alliance against the
“This is a matter that needs to be
studied well,” Amin told the UP forum.
Roots run deep
Amin said the immediate trigger of the
current conflict in Sulu between the MNLF and government forces, which
broke out Feb. 6 after MNLF forces attacked a military camp, was the
massacre of the Padiwan family on Feb. 1. But the roots run deeper, Amin
and Cerveza told Bulatlat.
At about 6 a.m. Feb. 1, the 53rd
Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army reportedly massacred the Padiwan
family in sitio (subvillage) Banauice, Maimbung, Sulu, Dr.
Abdulrakman Amin, MNLF liaison to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)
told a forum at the University of the Philippines (UP) on Feb. 21.
Killed were Tal Padiwan, a village
councilor; his wife Sidang, their relative Salip Faisal Salim, and their
son Aldasir, 13. Their other son, Almujayal, 7, survived but was wounded
in the right thumb.
Military spokespersons have given at
least two varying accounts of the incident. One is that the Padiwans were
caught in a crossfire between the 53rd IB and the bandit Abu
Sayyaf group. Another account, the more recent, has it that the 53rd
IB soldiers had stopped by the Padiwans’ hut to ask for drinking water, to
which Sidang responded by drawing a gun, thereby provoking an exchange of
“I was not there, and I think no one
among us was there,” Amin told the forum audience, “but for a pregnant
woman to fire a gun at a group of soldiers – that is a big question mark.”
On Feb. 6, MNLF forces led by Ustadz
Habier Malik launched an attack on an Army outpost in Panamao, Sulu. “It
was not in their plan to attack the Army outpost,” Amin told Bulatlat.
“That was in retaliation for the massacre of the Padiwan family.”
Since then, there has been continuous
fighting in the island province.
Just the latest
However, the Padiwan massacre was just
the latest in a series of human rights violations committed by the
military against the people of Sulu, Amin told Bulatlat.
It may be recalled that there had been
an outbreak of hostilities in Sulu in October 2001. That year, 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. According to MNLF leader Nur Misuari, a former
political science professor at UP who was then ARMM governor, 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). He has since been deprived of
access to the media, and has recently been prohibited from using a mobile
Since 2001, military operations in
Sulu have been continuous. Bulatlat
Sulu and the
Moro Armed Struggle
BACK TO TOP ■
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2004 Bulatlat
■ Alipato Publications
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.