Nurallaji (Nur) Misuari sample essay

Nurallaji (Nur) Misuari was born on March 3, 1942 in Jolo, the fourth son in a family of 10 children. His parents were simple Tau Sug and Sama fisherfolks from Kabinga-an, Tapul Island. According to friends, Nur was so poor that he could never have gone to college were it not for a kindly teacher in Jolo who recognized his potentials and pulled off a scholarship for him as a Commission on National Integration (CNI) scholar at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila.

Nur recalls being an “ordinary child without ambition. All I wanted was to go to school and serve my family.” In 1958, Nur left Jolo to attend the university, where friends say he was soft spoken, reserved, and a disciplined student. Former Secretary Ruben Torres, who went to the university with Misuari, recalled that Nur’s only recreation was billiards. “He was very religious,” says Torres. “He never drank or chased women.”

Nur took a degree in Political Science and soon after blossomed and became the embodiment of campus charisma through his campus activities particularly as a debater.

Upon graduation, Nur went to law school in 1962, but dropped out in his second year. He took a Master’s degree in Asian Studies and finished it in 1966. Through the help of the noted historian, Dr. Cesar Adib Majul, Nur landed a job as a Political Science instructor in UP.

Emergence as a Leader

In 1964, Nur founded the Bagong Asya, a radical student group. Together with Jose Maria Sison, Nur also became one of the founding fathers of the Kabataan Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) or KM. KM was founded as a comprehensive organization for student, worker, farmers, and professional youth. It undertook political demonstrations and trained large numbers of young people for a “proletarian revolutionary party.” It drew membership from students and young professionals. With Sison as the Chairman of KM, Nur was appointed Chairman of KM’s Western Mindanao unit. KM became widely known as a Marxist front organization, and it was the first opposition group to be outlawed upon the declaration of Martial Law.

Discovery of a Revolutionary Calling

Nur Misuari soon discovered his revolutionary calling as a Muslim, in 1968, when news broke out on the so called Corregidor Massacre, now popularly known as the Jabidah Massacre. It involved the killing of 64 innocent Bangsamoro youths who were lured to join a clandestine military operation and who mutinied against their officers when they came to learn that they were being trained to invade Sabah and would possibly be killing fellow Muslim brothers and their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there.

This incident in Corregidor was reported to have two important political consequences. First, it angered both Christian and Muslim leaders in the Philippines, particularly Cotabato Governor Datu Udtog Matalam. And second, it inflamed the Malaysian government of Tunku Abdul Rahman.

On May 1, 1968, hardly two months after the Corregidor bloodbath, Datu Udtog Matalam organized the Muslim (which later was changed to Mindanao) Independence Movement (MIM), that sought to form a state comprising the contiguous southern portion of the Philippine Archipelago. Its manifesto accused the Philippine government of pursuing a policy of “extermination” of the Muslims and made “manifest to the whole world its desire to secede from the Republic of the Philippines, in order to establish an Islamic State.”

Nur Misuari, who was then an organizer and moving spirit of the Philippine Muslim Nationalist League (PMNL), wrote as editorial in the July 1968 issue of PMNL’s official organ, the Philippine Muslim News: “Separatism is a costly and painful process and few ordinary mortals are prepared to pay the price. But this world has been a witness time and again to the division of certain countries into smaller ones. For, political division is a matter not fully within the control of men, nor yet a sole product of their whims and caprices. It is in fact mainly the creation of the actual conditions in which men find themselves.” This became the ground where the seed of the liberation front was sown.

Training as a Revolutionary

The Malaysian government of Tunku Abdul Rahman, on the other hand, responded to the incident by promising Muslim leaders, especially Sultan Haroun Al-Raschid Lucman, the Congressman from Lanao, that it would help train and provide arms to dedicated young Muslims. Nur Misuari, together with Abul Khayr Alonto, were part of the first batch of 90 young Muslims, composed of 67 Maranaos, 8 Maguindanaos, and 15 Tausug-Samal, recruited by MIM leaders and Lucman, who began military training in Pulao Pangkor, Malaysia, by Malaysian officers, in 1969.

In the midst of their military training, this group of 90 conducted political discussions and analysis of Moro history and aspirations of an independent state, among themselves. Thus was the conception of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). This group of 90 later became the hardcore of the Bangsa Moro Army (BMA), the military arm of the MNLF. Within this period of training, without the knowledge of Rashid Lucman and the MIM leaders who had recruited them, the group organized a seven-man Provisional Central Committee, electing Nur Misuari as Chairman and Abul Khayr Alonto as Vice Chairman. The other major portfolios were given to Otto Salahuddin of Basilan, Ali Wali of Zamboanga. Hashim Salamat was tasked to head the undivided Empire Province of Cotabato where a provincial committee was set up immediately.

Upon the arrival of the first batch of trained guerillas to the Philippines, Rashid Lucman, together with Matalam’s brother-in-law, Congressman Salipada Pendatum, formed the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO) in 1970. The BMLO considered itself to be the umbrella organization of all liberation forces. Rashid Lucman became the head of the Supreme Executive Council with Macapanton Abbas as secretary. Nur Misuari was appointed as head of the military committee for Sulu, Abul Khayr Alonto as the head for Ranao, and Udtog Matalam, Jr. for Cotabato.

But Lucman and Nur later parted ways. Lucman learned of the underground organization, the MNLF, and accused Nur and his people of betrayal. At this time, the MNLF had already consolidated networks with various militant Muslim organizations in the Philippines, and with Muammar Qaddhafy, President of Libya, and Tun Mustapha, Chief Minister of the Malaysian State of Sabah, as their primary benefactors.

In the wave of student activism that swept Manila in the early seventies, Muslims, led by Nur, staged demonstrations of their own to protest the “oppression and exploitation of the people of Mindanao by the Philippine colonial government.”

In Mindanao, the Philippine Constabulary was taking control of many towns because of growing violence. Schools were closed, farms abandoned, commerce stagnated, and refugees increased. The Christian-led Ilaga paramilitary group entered the scene, with their (Ilaga) operations concentrated in various Muslim villages in the municipalities of the two Cotabato provinces (North Cotabato and South Cotabato). One attack, at a mosque in Manili, left 65 men, women and children, dead and mutilated. A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report of the massacre drew the attention of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddhafy, prompting him to act immediately and give his unwavering support for the protection of the Bangsamoro people in whatever means.

On July 21, 1971 leaders from all sectors of Moro society published a manifesto demanding that the Philippine government take action to stop the attacks. The Philippine government called the manifesto a threat. In August, the residents of Buldon fortified their town after killing some Christian loggers. The Philippine army responded with a weeklong artillery bombardment. By September, the cycle of reprisals was uncontrollable. In October, fighting between the Barracudas (paramilitary group led by Muslims) and government troops left hundreds dead on both sides. In November, 40 Maranaw Muslims were summarily executed at a military checkpoint in Tacub. Muslims accused the Philippine government of genocide.

Attempting Nonviolent Struggle through Parliamentary Means

It was during this period when Nur Misuari left the University of the Philippines and accepted a teaching position in the Philippine Muslim College in Jolo. He also sought a seat in the 1971 Constitutional Convention, believing that Muslim aspirations could be achieved faster through a new constitution and attempting a nonviolent struggle through parliamentary means. The 1971 Constitutional Convention was tasked to amend and rewrite the 1935 Philippine Constitution. The original 1935 Constitution provided for a Congress with only a House of Representatives. It was amended in 1940 to include both a Senate and House of Representatives. The Constitution limited the President to a four-year term with a maximum of two consecutive terms in office.

The Province of Sulu was entitled to three delegates to the Constitutional Convention. When the votes were tallied in seven towns, Nur finished a poor fifth, having lost to well entrenched, traditional Sulu leaders, such as the Sangkulas, Abubakars, and Annis. But Nur impressed residents by coming out first in Jolo, the capital town.

A group of students and young professionals, calling themselves the Pahambuuk, which means “united” in Tausig, many of them were sons and daughters of prominent families, whom Nur gathered from various schools in Jolo for his campaign, protested the election, charging massive irregularities especially in the outer island. But the election protest ended nowhere. The corruption of the COMELEC and the power of the old politicos were too much for an idealist like Nur.

In disgust, Nur came to the conclusion that there was no way the system could be changed through parliamentary means. If Moro society were to be liberated from its colonial status, it would have to be through an armed struggle.

Formation of the Moro National Liberation Front

Nur Misuari called for a meeting of other Muslim leaders in Zamboanga City. The meeting discussed the situation of the Muslims in the Philippines vis-a-vis their problems with Philippine society and government and the status of the MIM. The meeting finally gave birth to the formal organization of the MNLF and the election of Nur Misuari as its Chairman. The leaders present also pledged before the Holy Qu’ran to engage in Jihad (Holy War) for Hulah, Bangsa and Agama (Homeland, Moro Nation and Islam), for all the Bangsamoro people and for the Independence of MinSuluPala (an acronym to denote Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan inclusive of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and all other islands).

In August 1972, Nur Misuari came to Luzon to get in touch with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Jose Maria Sison, Chairman of the CPP recalled: “(Nur) came only to declare that the CPP and New Peoples Army (NPA) should keep out of Mindanao.”

Soon after, Nur disappeared from view. His timing, as always, was remarkable. Two weeks later, Ferdinand Marcos, then President of the Philippines, declared martial law. “I went underground. I went among the people, but kept as invisible as possible,” recalled Nur. He began organizing his army. “I wanted to right the wrongs committed against my people, the historical injustices. I decided to work first for justice, then independence.”

One month after the declaration of Martial Law, the first organized Moro counteroffensive was launched in Marawi City. The MNLF, with Nur Misuari as Chairman, came out into the open, claimed leadership of the Moro secessionist movement, and led the Bangsamoro War in the 1970’s.

Campaign for International Brotherhood (“Ummah”)

Nur Misuari moved to Sabah, Malaysia, in early 1973, where he established the MNLF headquarters, and from there he directed much of the early fighting in the war theatre in Mindanao and Sulu. As a full-scale war continued to rage, in the spirit of brotherhood, Nur asked the support of the oil-rich Arab countries for the MNLF’s logistical needs for modern weapons in their quest for independence. As arms and ammunitions poured into Mindanao through the backdoor, young Muslims rushed to join the MNLF.

In March 1973, the issue of the Muslim Minority in the southern Philippines first officially appeared on the agenda of the Fourth Islamic Conference of Foreign Minister (ICFM) of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) held in Benghazi, Libya. The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world and ensures to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.

While the OIC maintained its pressure on the Philippine Government, it also recognized that the problem of the Muslim Minority in the southern Philippines “is internal to an independent sovereign state.’’ It further passed a resolution requesting Indonesia and Malaysia to open their good offices, within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asians Nations (ASEAN), to help find a solution to the problem. The Quadripartite Ministerial Committee (QMC), composed of Libya, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Somalia, was also constituted in the 4th ICFM, with a mandate to help the GRP and the MNLF arrive at a just, durable and comprehensive political settlement.

In December 1973, upon the instruction of Chairman Nur Misuari, Hashim Salamat left Mindanao and proceeded to Tripoli, Libya, via Sabah, for consultations and to assume a new assignment in the MNLF Foreign Affairs. Amelil “Ronnie” Malaguiok succeeded Hashim Salamat as Chairman of the Kutawato Revolutionary Committee (KRC).

The following year (1974) the MNLF gathered strength and broad support from Philippine Muslims. Fighting escalated into large-scale conventional warfare with the financial and arms support of Libya. The AFP created two integrated commands – the Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM) for the Cotabato-Lanao areas, and the Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), for the Zamboanga peninsula and the Sulu archipelago. SOUTHCOM unleashed its full force on MNLF rebels, who had taken control of Jolo, in the biggest battle of the war. In mainland Mindanao, CEMCOM attacked the MNLF forces in Cotabato.

Abroad, the MNLF gained official recognition from Muslim countries as the representative of the Moro people. Nur Misuari’s reputation as the Leader and Chairman of the MNLF was strengthened. The 5th ICFM in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia urged the Philippine government ‘‘to find a political and peaceful solution through negotiations,’’ officially acknowledged that the solution to the Mindanao problem was not to impinge on the territorial integrity of the Philippines and for the first time mentioned the MNLF.

The Muslim secessionist conflict reached its peak in 1974. An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 were killed in the armed conflict between the government and the MNLF in the 1970s. Estimates of armed men actively fighting have ranged from 5,000 to 30,000. One rebel estimated that about 55 percent of the Moro population supported the MNLF, 15 percent supported the government, and the remainder was neutral. During these years, approximately 75 percent of the Philippine army, which had grown four-fold to become 250,000-strong, was deployed in Mindanao. Since then, the death toll had risen.

The year that followed (1975) saw the Mindanao war reaching a stalemate. Nur Misuari left Sabah and joined Hashim Salamat in Libya where they, together with the other MNLF leaders, officially organized the expanded MNLF Central Committee. Nur Misuari was reelected Chairman and Abulkhayr Alonto was chosen, in absentia, as Vice Chairman. Hashim Salamat became the Chairman for Foreign Affairs. Abebakrin Lucman was named Secretary General, and Abdurasad Asani as the Chairman of the Committee on Information.

Pursuing Diplomacy and the Peace Process

In the same year, representatives from the MNLF, led by Nur Misuari, held their first meeting with the Philippine Government in Jeddah, through the “good office” of the OIC. Known as the Jeddah Peace Talks, this event paved the way for the presentation of demands and proposals from the two parties (GRP and MNLF) in finding a solution to the problem in Mindanao.

On July 12-15, 1975, at the 6th ICFM held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia approved the MNLF Nine-Point Agenda, and according to Resolution No. 10, “shall serve as a basis to solve the problem,” in accordance with Resolution No. 18 of the Fourth Islamic Conference of Kuala Lumpur. The Nine Points were: (1) self-government; (2) affairs of internal security; (3) defense and foreign policy; (4) administrative system; (5) system of courts; (6) system of education; (7) establishment of Islamic life and society; (8) financial and economic affairs; and (9) participation in central government and all organs of state. The OIC also gave formal recognition to the MNLF, under the leadership of Nur Misuari.

On December 23, 1976, the Tripoli Agreement was signed by Nur Misuari and Defense Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero. Entitled Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front With the Participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference, it established autonomy for the Muslims in 13 provinces and nine cities in the southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.