Editorial: Far Zamboanga-A A +A
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
IN THE year of Petty Officer 3 Jose Audrey Banares’ birth, Nur Misuari was the thirty-something firebrand of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
This week, their lives overlapped.
But while Misuari remained alive, Banares arrived home yesterday in a box. The 39-year-old Cebuano, father of a three-month-old baby, was among the six who died while fighting MNLF forces who wanted to march last Monday to the Zamboanga City Hall, and there raise the MNLF flag.
Misuari, now in his early seventies, continues to chase the dream of an autonomous Bangsamoro republic. He has been complaining—more loudly since July this year—about the government’s peace talks and impending agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the MNLF’s largest breakaway group.
And yet Misuari had his chance.
Nearly two decades ago, the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos appointed Misuari as chairman of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development.
He was eventually elected regional governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Misuari and his supporters believe that instead of pursuing an agreement with the MILF, the government should devote its energy and resources to enforcing an agreement reached in 1996 between government and the MNLF—at least the main faction of it that Misuari leads.
Of course, the ARMM’s troubles—including the fact that two of its five provinces appear in the list of the country’s poorest—are not entirely of Misuari’s doing. The dream of Moro independence is at least a century old. It dates back to the Spanish colonial administration’s decision to cede Mindanao to the Americans, even if Spain had never managed to bring Mindanao into its fold.
For more than three centuries, the Moro people had governed themselves before the hunt for spice drove Spain to our shores.
And yet, once the American Occupation had started, the Moro people and indigenous cultural communities found themselves having to yield ancestral lands to a homesteading program for migrants from the Visayas and Luzon.
It is easy, from the relative safety of Cebu, to distance ourselves from what’s happening in Zamboanga. But it’s really not that far, despite what an old folk song said. The death of Petty Officer 3 Banares drives that point home.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 11, 2013.