Mar 022013

Moro Movement: Learn from the Past

“I have written off my generation. My concern is the next generation,” stirring words from former Bulletin columnist and political analyst Al Tillah, 65.

In a sharing with YMP officers at Greenbelt, Makati City, Tillah in an effort to encourage the Muslim youth to be more pro-active, narrated the Moro youth struggle in the 1960s. Tillah, who once ran for Senate, is a veteran observer of Philippine and Moro events and has written over 200 columns on Muslims in the Philippines for the Manila Bulletin, a major daily. He relates that during his college days at the University of the Philippines, there were only 20 Muslims, famous of who were Nur Misuari, Macapanton Abbas, Abu Mualam and Desdemona. The UP Muslim Student Association was for mere “camarederie” until the Corregidor massacre of Moro soldiers in 1968. A senior student then, Tillah said “nobody took the initiative (in the metropolis) to talk about it; even the professionals.”

Their core group, including Arthur Lim (former IBP president) organized a group called MADRAS or Sulu Peace Movement, which focused on the issue of Tausug recruits killed in the “Jabidah fiasco” (an incident which inspired the organization of the Moro National Liberation Front, headed by Nur Misuari; Because these Moro soldiers allegedly defied orders to attack Sabah under the Marcos regime, soldiers shot the 16 young soldiers). For the first time, Tillah said, Muslim students and professionals from Cotabato and non-Muslims from Sulu “joined and signed a manifesto” to condemn the massacre (only one survived from the shooting of military officers). Some of the victims of the Jabidah incident were highschool mates of Tillah.

Tillah was pessimistic with national governments (NG) efforts to address the Mindanao conflict. Describing the NG as “machiavellian,” Tillah says “It (NG) hasn’t changed since the Marcos time. The national government has a vested interest and will always divide the Muslims,” referring to the MNLF leadership, whose one faction is heading the autonomous region and the other’s leader, Nur Misuari detained on charges of rebellion. “They (government) will always look for weak ones (our leaders) to use as conduits.” He warned the YMP of the possibility of being “used by enterprising people.”

“The outbreak of the war in the SOuth divided us (the Muslims), and not united us,” he further said. The traditional (leaders) were against the progressives, as an instance. Many professionals didn’t know what the MNLF was fighting for, Tillah observed. In his interviews with Misuari, who was then organizing the MNLF in Saudi Arabia, Tillah asked the question – Ano ang puno’t dulo ng struggle (What is the objective of the struggle). Misuari answered – identity, self-determination.

Looking back on the peace accords since the Tripoli GRP-MNLF agreement in 1976, “maraming gains and setbacks,” Tillah said. “Only time will judge – whether the peace process was successful and that autonomy was the best,” Tillah posed as questions.

He said the role of students and youths especially from well-based political families was that they could be “used” by such movements. “I pinned my hopes on the MNLF,” Tillah said. But what happened after was the division of the MNLF to the Misuari group, the Council of 15 now heading the ARMM and other factions. Tillah likened the situation to a “power grab” from the Misuari leadership. “Have they (new the new leadership) shown any principled leadership?” Tillah proposes that the Misuari issue be addressed headfront – “How can we talk of unity when the symbol of unity (that is Nur Misuari) is incarcerated?” He questioned Misuari’s lack of access to media – “Why is Erap given the chance to speak out and why not Nut?”

Seeing that “autonomy experiments have miserably failed,” Tillah related to YMP his recommendations to the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Philippine Muslim Leaders Forum (PMLF) headed by Rep. Gerry Salapuddin (Basilan).The USIP’s head officials were consulting leaders on the possibility of US aid in the GRP-MILF peace talks. Tillah recommended the following:

– the need for young Muslims leaders trainings to be institutionalized (to prepare for post-peace process management)

– capacity buildings to prepare managers for the bureaucracy

– prepare managers and enterpreneaurs for the private sector

He advised the youth to “know their direction” whether it be to support the present unitary government or a federal or Islamic state, the latter he says the United State may “understand” since the US is also a federal state.

The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on November 16th 2003


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