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The MNLF Uprising in Zamboanga City, Philippines in September 2013 (Suppressed as of Oct. 9,2013)

Updated on March 3, 2014

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Map from Wikipedia)

Objective of the Zamboanga City uprising

The last two weeks, a “breakaway” group of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) lead by Nur Misuari took civilian hostages in Zamboanga City, a premier urban area in Mindanao.

The MNLF breakaway group consisting of at least 30 personnel in military uniform and with heavy arms lead by Ustadz Habier Malik, also engaged policemen and military personnel of the Philippine army, air force and navy in combat.

This episode that started in September 9 in the history of Zamboanga City is not yet over as of this writing (Sept. 22,2013). The exchange of fire between government troops and MNLF breakaways has resulted in “humanitarian crisis,” in the words of Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Her agency is responsible for feeding, providing evacuation centers, providing medicines and comfort (including counseling) of civilians who have abandoned their homes for safety from bombs and bullets fired by both sides of the clashing forces. Over a hundred thousand have evacuated to schools, and in a sports stadium in the city. Several houses have been burned.

The casualties among civilians, Philippine army personnel, MNLF soldiers are still escalating.

Early on, President Aquino III and Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have encamped in Zamboanga City to supervise the government efforts to protect the civilian population and to repulse the uprising. The President is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Roxas is director-general of Philippine National Police (PNP).

What are the issues at stake in this MNLF uprising?

First, is it an uprising? It is an uprising in the sense the MNLF breakaway group has attacked the Philippine military camp in Zamboanga City and the Philippine National Police. The Military is primarily responsible for the defense of the country; the police takes take of crimes. This breakaway group has taken hostages used as human shield.

The presence of hostages make it hard for the army and police to subdue the breakaway group. They do not want to catch any hostage by friendly fire. However, there are now casualties among the hostages many of whom had been liberated.


Who is responsible for this uprising? Nur Misuari so far has said that he is not directly in command of the breakaway group. He says that he did not give the command to its leader or its troops to stage this uprising. He makes it appear that Malik is directly responsible.

However, as clashes in the battle area progressed last week, Misuari said he wrote a letter to the United Nations (UN) to send observers of the conflict who could also serve as mediators to restore peace.

What could be made of this act of writing such a letter? Short of making this letter public it can be presumed that the UN would mediate between the MNLF and Philippine government lead by President Aquino III. There is an implication that UN should recognize the belligerency of MNLF as the Malik group has not acquired a status of belligerency. Earlier, Misuari wrote the UN declaring independence of Mindanao. The Zamboanga City uprising would result in benefits for Misuari if UN came over and followed Misuari's proposal.

It can be presumed that Misuari is aware of these implications as he is a lawyer. He graduated law from the College of Law of the University of the Philippines in 1970s.


MNLF have acquired credentials of belligerency. In the earlier armed conflict with government troops during the dictatorship of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Marcos agreed to negotiations with the MNLF led by Misuari in the presence of an especial envoy from Libya then under Gaddafi. The constituencies of Misuari and Gaddafi are Muslims. Gaddafi was known as supplier of arms to Misuari. Marcos thought that the involvement of Gaddafi would bring ceasefire and peace in Mindanao. At that time Misuari was the only recognized political Muslim leader in Mindanao. An agreement between Marcos, Misuari and the Gaddafi envoy called Tripoli Agreement of 1976 was signed in Libya, with Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos representing Pres. Marcos.This document was pro-autonomy for Muslim Mindanao that resulted in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). In 1996 elections were held for officials of ARMM. .

Misuari was governor of ARMM in 1996 to 2001 when another election was held. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not support Misuari. .

Some ten years ago, Misuari staged what looked like sedition. He was captured, jailed, and charged of rebellion. His case was tried while he was in jail. Eventually he was released for insufficiency of evidence against him. Misuari resumed his leadership of MNLF. For more information on Misuari access yahoo, ARMM, Nur Misuari.

Desperate move

Allowing Gaddafi to intervene was a desperate move by Marcos. He had a hard time stabilizing his dictatorship he did not want an armed rebellion in Mindanao. The intervention by Libya credited MNLF with belligerency. It will be recalled that in the American Civil War, the Union warned foreign powers not to intervene; that if Britain or France recognized the South the Union would go to war with them. Doing trade with the South was also prohibited by the North. By diplomatic means, the Union was able to stop Britain in supplying ships to the South.

The MNLF should have been treated as a domestic issue of the Philippines.

Another Muslim group

Meanwhile a breakaway group from MNLF prospered, the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) with its own leadership and army.

About two years ago, Gaddafi was ousted as dictator of Libya. Does the new regime in Libya honor and support the Tripoli Agreement? It appears that the new regime has not been asked and in the present conflict involving a MNLF group, Libya has remained silent.

In its aim to pursue peace in Mindanao, the administration of President Aquino III has negotiated with the MILF. Some peace protocols have been signed with the MILF leadership. Among major issues to be resolved is: can the MILF maintain an army separate from the Philippine Armed Forces under the 1987 constitution of the Philippines? It appears that this issue and others are nearing resolution.

Out in the cold

Misuari claims that he and his MNLF have been left out in the cold; not included in the negotiation table together with MILF. He claims that the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 is still in force. This appears to be the context of the MNLF breakaway group uprising in Zamboanga City. This uprising appears to be a move to force the hand of President Aquino III to include MNLF in its negotiations with MILF.

By his exclusion of MNLF in the negotiations, Pres. Aquino III unilaterally withdrew the status of belligerency from MNLF. That status is what Misuari is asserting by force.

Go signal

From the present actions and pronouncements of the Aquino III administration, peace negotiations with MILF will proceed without the MNLF in the negotiation panel. President Aquino III has given instructions to gather evidences that would pin more responsibility on Misuari for the present Zamboanga City uprising and file appropriate charges.

The President has declared that Misuari has a place in a peaceful Mindanao. He only has to abide by the democratic process. The same holds true to other Muslim constituents, he says.

The armed conflict appears to be coming to an end with the Philippine Armed Forces and PNP being victorious over the MNLF breakaway group.

Early today it was reported that President Aquino III flew back to Manila confident that the uprising in Zamboanga City will soon be under control.

New entries as of October 10,2013

About two days ago battles in Zamboanga City stopped. The city had been cleared of MNLF breakaway groups. Most of the MNLF soldiers involved in the attack had been captured. Some were killed in battle. Still others had escaped.

However, some of the evacuees had not yet returned to their localities. One reason is that their houses had been burned. Another reason is that they still doubt their safety. Still another reason is lack of food. They are being fed at the evacuation centers.

Nur Misuari, Malik and 60 others are now charged with rebellion. Warrant of arrests will be issued shortly, announced Leila de Lima, Secretary of Justice. This news was flashed on television tonight.


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