OPEN LETTER TO THE MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT, THE MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT, AND THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT
By CESAR TORRES
June 03, 2008
Dear Mr. Alibasa, Dear Abul, Abul:
Please allow me to comment on the
position of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that the
Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) “is a machinery of
corruption and deception” and that it “…is designed to destroy
whoever occupies it” to prolong “…the agony and suffering of the
At the outset, let me clarify my three
addresses to you above. It illustrates my uncertainty and confusion
in how to relate to you – a representative and a spokesman of the
MILF – and to the Moro peoples who believe without any doubt in the
legitimacy of their just struggle for dignity and self respect.
I am not even comfortable in
addressing you in English as "Dear Mr. Alibasa" or "Dear Abul" or
just plain "Abul" because you might misconstrue it as being
condescending and showing a lack of respect.
But here I am, trying to communicate
to you in a language imposed on us by the fluke of history. And it
is so hard to shake off centuries of cultural interaction and
domination by superior forces on us, for instance. Or we in these
7,107 islands which millions of us refer to as the homeland, some as
Pilipinas, some as Perlas ng Silangan, in my case sometimes, as
Bangsa Kasuko-an, in the case of Mr. Satur Respicio whose fraternity
brothers belong to the ruling class in Sulu and Tawi as "Bangsa
We who continue to suffer the
long-drawn consequences of the Battle of Granada in 1492 between a
fading regime of the Muslim Moors under Boabdil and the ascendant
"Christian" kingdom of Ferdinand and Isabella. So long ago, so far
away, and yet here you are ready to sacrifice your lives for
something that we had nothing to do about.
Of course, millions of us who were
never subjected to the domination of the Spaniards and the Americans
do not refer to ourselves as "Filipinos", especially those who trace
their roots to the heroic and tragic martyrs of Bud Dajo and Bud
Bagsak in Sulu or those inhabiting the shores of Lake Ranao.
But, I repeat that is history. Many
Mujaheddins and Jihadists would like to undo the bloody encounters
in Europe and other parts of the world, between the Muslims and the
Christians. They would like to reverse the defeat of the Great
Salaludin and his Warriors in the hands of the mysterious Knights
Templar who were decimated by their fellow Catholics or Christians.
In our homeland, some of us are
harking back to the days when Islam had already established its
foothold in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
It is with infinite sadness that many
of us contemplate the misery of our people in Bangsa Kasuko-an. But
you and I are aware that it is not just our Muslim brothers and
sisters who are so destitute and impoverished, such as those shown
by Howie Severino's colleagues in GMA, the people in that miserable
island in Tawi Tawi. The children are not going to school. One very
young girl was crying with frustration, embarrassment, anger and
self-pity because she could not read nor write. The people who get
sick just wait to die in pain and in misery. They do not have
medical assistance. And if they can take a motorboat to another
island in a six-hour two-way trip, they do not have any money to buy
Cortal or Aspirin. They use seawater for cooking for lack of fresh
water in the island.
Here in University town of Berkeley, I
have seen, with many others, the movies of Datu Mangansakan of young
and college-age Muslim youth, still laboring to learn in the
Of course, the pagpag-eating and
garbage-subsisting humanoids in Payatas and in other shanty areas in
Metro Manila are not Muslims. The impoverished and tubercular
mothers singing haunting, and heart-rending lullabies of "Tahan na
bunso, darating na si Tatay, mayroon dalang pagpag at basura na
makakain natin pag mainit na at maalis natin ang u-od..." to her
dying child who is barely able to whimper with hunger and bodily
pains, while wracked with incessant coughing in their quaint and
picturesque and fairy tale houses made of cardboard are not Muslims.
After an arduous day of scavenging or even stealing for saleable
garbage, those going home to their cavernous homes under the bridges
or those macabre beings sleeping in the graveyards are not Muslims.
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Most of our lowly domestic helpers who
are being brutalized by their "Ma'am" in Muslim countries, and those
"flying" from the high rise buildings in Hongkong, or those in
Singapore, in Japan, in Europe, and Italy are not Muslims.
Muslims, Christians, Atheists,
Agnostics, Animists – we have so much that we are wishing for our
people in the homeland. Some of us try to do what we can within the
limits of our capabilities. Not out of cultural or material
superiority because we are as impoverished as most of us – excluding
the Arroyos and the super rich in the homeland – or condescension
but out of a very sincere compassion for normal human beings devoid
of any religious tint.
Mr. Cayetano Santiago, a non-Muslim
from Bulacan and a long time resident of Arizona, provided P35,000.
A Christian Tausug, Mr. Alex Kho, added P10,000. A Putri from
Cotabato now in Penang, added another P10,000. Alumni of the
University of the Philippines from as far as Canada and here in
California contributed to the amount. Coordinating the initial
efforts was provided by a non-Muslim from Bulacan who had to take
off from her work in the NEDA so that she could go to Patikul
(perhaps to see also how her “friend” was doing in the Marines in
But it was Ms. Susie Abenojar Barbieri,
originally from Pangasinan, married to a Frenchman, who became a
"beggar" among the expatriate community in Seoul where she was
teaching English in the international community. Tirelessly, day and
day out, she would smilingly solicit from almost everyone to
contribute to a fund so that the high school youth in the war torn
Patikul National High School in Sulu can have school chairs. The
information we got was that the Muslim youth in the high school were
still coming to school despite the lack of chairs. The girls were
writing on their notebooks on their lap because if there were
dilapidated chairs, there were no arm rests. The boys would lean on
the walls of the rooms for the entire class hours.
So this group with one Muslim Putri in
Penang, whom I refer to as the gentle, lovely, and beautiful face of
Islam, Putri Ayesah Abubakar, contributed to a fund named "Silya
Para sa Patikul". Ms. Barbieri pledged 600 chairs to the high
school, including school desks, and even a toilet.
Labor was provided by the Parents
Teachers Association, the kids themselves, the community, and the
Marines in Patikul.
To raise funds, his mestiso French son
and his friends were baking cakes and selling them to their
From among the Tausugs, the Buranons,
the Maranaos, and the Maguindanaos, all over the world, and there
are many of them in America, it was only Mr. Alex Kho and Putri
Ayesah Abubakar who contributed to this "Silya Para sa Patikul
Project." A great portion of the amount was contributed by the
people in Korea, especially from Ms. Barbieri's French community.
Of course, during the turnover
ceremony three months ago, she was invited to go to Patikul. I was
not sure that she should go. You know how it is over there. We even
requested five honorable members of the Senate if Ms. Abenojar would
be safe in Patikul. Their staff pretended that they did not received
In any case, Sultan Ibno Turabin of
Basilan and his friend, I don't know if he is a Christian, an
Atheist, or a Buddhist, Mr. Bobby Tanchoco, boarded a boat paying
third class fare from Zamboanga to Jolo, and accompanied Ms.
Barbieri to Jolo, then to Patikul. All was well. With Sultan Ibno
Turabin accompanying her to Patikul, there was no doubt that should
anything happen to her, a rido to end all ridos in Patikul was
written in the stars.
But because of the centuries old
killings between the believers of two systems of belief which
started in a far away land, an institution for gaining knowledge and
skills so that the young Muslims can face the challenges of this
society and the world, a public, government high school has no
chairs, no desks, perhaps no books, no laboratory equipment, no
toilet. The teachers are probably not receiving their salaries on
And yet the tragic, sad, hilarious,
funny, contemptible irony of it all is that the weapons of the MNLF,
the MILF, the Abu Sayyaf, the government soldiers are very expensive
and would cost a lot of money. And yet there are no chairs for the
Senator Aquilino Pimentel whom I wish
can become President of Bangsa Kasuko-an because he is at least from
Mindanao, is proposing a "Federal System" for the 7,107 islands
constituting our archipelago.
Frankly, I wish that Bangsa Moro shall
become an independent sovereign state. If I have to apply for a visa
to go to Simunul or Bongao which I have visited before with fond
memories, then let it be so.
But again the tragedy is that even the
leaders of the Moros exploit their own people.
I have read Maritess Danguilan Vitug's
"Under a Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao". Of course, this does
not make me an expert on the very complex situation concerning the
relationship between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in the
homeland. But in this book, there is a very extensive discussion on
UP Professor Nur Misuari and the MNLF.
I wonder. Was it due to the inherent
nature of the ARMM as a well-camouflaged instrument of oppressing
the Muslims that resulted in the organizational and administrative
ineffectiveness of the ARRM? Or if we look inward, we might find
I am wondering also why the two Fronts
– the MNLF and the MILF – cannot join forces and present a United
Front to their real and imagined oppressors.
Perhaps another Front can join them,
the National Democratic Front.
If an agreement can be forged, not for
the interest of the idealistic but possibly misguided and
napapagiwanan ng kasaysayan leaders of the three Fronts, a lasting
peace in the 7,107 islands in the homeland is still possible in our
Then instead of using the money to buy
high powered and expensive weapons to end life, we can use the money
so that our people can have a better and longer life.
So that the youth in the Patikul
National High School and other government high schools can have
Salaam Mr. Alibasa.