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leader looks for united
front By Andre Vltchek
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
is a nationalist political organization that has
been waging an armed struggle against the
Philippine state since its establishment in 1969.
It struggles for the independence of Bangsamoro.
As defined by the MNLF, the territory of
Bangsamoro covers Sulu, Mindanao, and Palawan -
otherwise known as MINSUPALA, encompassing some of
the poorest areas of the Philippines.
Unlike its Islamic offshoot, the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the MNLF is not a
religious organization, and it styles its ideology
as egalitarianism. A racially and religiously
inclusive organization, MNLF calls for
independence and social justice for
the most exploited and
marginalized people of the Philippines - a country
where according to a 2011 survey some 20.5% of
families, or about 4.1 million, go hungry, while
51%, or some 10.4 million families, consider
MNLF Central Committee
member Commander Haji Ibrahim "Bambi", aged 67,
met the author for an interview in January 2013 at
an undisclosed location in Sabah, Malaysia.
Andre Vltchek: Peace
process, peace agreements, broken peace
agreements, and more process - it appears a
never-ending saga. You are facing the Armed Forces
of the Philippines (AFP), one of the most brutal
and corrupt armies in the world, which is
determinedly supported by the former colonizers of
the Philippines, the United States, Spain, and
indeed Europe. Do you have any chance to win the
war and consequently the independence for your
It will not be easy. We would all have to unite:
MNLF, MILF, and the Marxist groups. MILF would
have to agree to join the constitutional process
and agree to negotiate, something they are
refusing to do. We all have to sit down and talk.
The United States, Europe, and the entire
West would then have to join our effort to
implement, and then support, a real peace
The peace process is in danger,
because most of the terms agreed on during the
Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and later the Jeddah
Accord in 1987 were never implemented. The
government is now busy dealing with the MILF. On
top of it, the peace process would have to go
through the constitutional procedure, within the
government of the Philippines. It would have to go
through the Senate and through Congress. And the
fact that there are more Christians than Muslims
in both institutions, even in the Mindanao local
senate, would further complicate things.
Once I attended a meeting sponsored by one
of the EU countries. There were also
representatives of Colombia there, of Indonesia,
as well as three people from the US, probably CIA.
I told them, "American brothers, you are not our
enemies, are you? You were preaching to us about
freedom for so many years and decades. But when
you are here, you are not seeking peace, instead
you are siding with the Philippines government
against the will of the people."
AV: What exactly is
the United States trying to achieve by supporting
the Philippine regime?
The US goal is to control the entire Pacific. It
wants to prevent China from playing any
significant role in this part of the world.
The US is playing a very dangerous game by
training the Philippine military, justifying it by
the "search" for Abu Sayyaf fighters. All this is
against the Philippine Constitution - the US
military is not allowed to operate on the
territory of the Philippines. But conducting
joined exercises like "Balikatan" is supposed to
give "legitimacy" to illegal military acts.
Rebels sailing to a
conflict zone (photo by Andre Vltchek).
AV: What are you called by
CB: In the past,
they used to call us Maoists or Communists. We are
not on that terrorist list of theirs. But they
consider us their main enemies.
is on their terrorist list, of course. But the CIA
created Abu Sayyaf during the government of Fidel
Ramos [president 1992-98], to undermine the MNLF.
Both the US and Philippine governments needed more
bombs to explode, more weapons to be used, in
order to have their military budgets approved. It
is also no secret that during the wave of
kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf, 80-90% of the ransom
money used to go directly to the military leaders.
The government and the US say to the MNLF:
"Oh, you can't control your own people - look at
Abu Sayyaf!" They say no peace can be reached if
we can't control Abu Sayyaf. It is undeniable that
some Abu Sayyaf fighters are former members of
MNLF, including Commander Nur.
they refuse to say and acknowledge is that we hate
Abu Sayyaf! We have nothing to do with them. All
over Mindanao, people are distancing themselves
from them, seeing them as clients of the US
forces. Abu Sayyaf has such a bad image! The MNLF
even fought Abu Sayyaf. Once they kidnapped a
female medic from our ranks. We attacked their
camp and freed the medic.
AV: Is the US using
propaganda to justify its presence in the
CB: Yes, the
propaganda is used all over the Philippines. The
US is always portrayed as liberators, as good
guys. People are flooded with movies, books, and
shows... Douglas MacArthur is presented as
liberator, and people actually believe it, after
all those years and decades of propaganda.
And then the story of liberating us from
the Japanese! Of course, old people in the
Philippines were not used to the character of the
Japanese when they occupied the country - like
bowing. There were cultural misunderstandings, and
even crimes committed by the Japanese. But
Japanese invaders never performed mass slaughter
of the Philippine civilians, while the US did.
What is guarded as some secret is that the US was
much more brutal than Japan in this part of the
world, and that brutality was occurring even
before the Japanese occupation. Just recall the
heard, from Philippine academics, that the US is
igniting the conflict between several regional
players in Southeast Asia and China over the
Spratly Islands. It apparently found exceptionally
willing collaborators in the latest Philippine
again: the US wants to have full control over the
Pacific. For that it needs countries like the
Philippines - client states. We provoked the
problem of the Spratly islands. Our government
dares to play this game because it knows that it
has US behind it. It is worth mentioning
that the Spratlys were historically part of the
Sulu Sultanate. The islands are called, in the
local language, "Manangkayan", or "Giant Clam".
Sulu sultans were extremely close to China. There
are graveyards of Chinese people all over Sulu.
Chinese emissaries were living right next to the
sultan's palace. China was the closest ally of
Sulu before the Spanish conquerors arrived. What
followed, you know: things were turned upside down
and the Spaniards massacred around 10,000 Chinese
people in one go, just because they did not want
to abandon their culture, to change their name.
But in the Philippines, very little is
known about the history of the region.