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Daily Tribune : Monitoring the ramparts (2)

News & Interviews
17 December 2021

By Juan Ponce Enrile Sr. | Daily Tribune

Hence, the initial uprising in Marawi City by Sakar Basman sparked a blaze of violence of the MNLF in Mindanao. It brought about a trail of blood, suffering, and destruction in its wake.

We found our soldiers huddled in foxholes with their families. I was rankled seeing the precarious and miserable plight of our soldiers and their families. We talked to them and comforted them.

We assured them that we would send reinforcement to them. Brig. Gen. Ramos left them with some provisions and money.

After a few hours with them, we walked back to the wharf in the same formation. We left for the island of Siasi in the north. There was another military camp there.

We arrived in Siasi early in the morning. It was our fourth day on the trip. Again, we followed the same formation as in Bongao. We went through the center of the town across to the Military camp.

We wanted to show the people of Siasi who were Tausugs and rabid sympathizers of Nur Misuari that we had no hesitation going through their town. The military camp in Siasi was much bigger than the one in Bongao.

We stayed in that military camp for just a short time. We just checked the condition of the soldiers and their families. They were in high spirits.

From Siasi, we sailed northward to Jolo, the capital town of Sulu province. We arrived there just before lunchtime. In Jolo, we stayed on board. Local and military officials and the people met us at the wharf. We held an impromptu meeting.

I delivered a strong speech deliberately addressed to the secessionist rebels. I accused the rebels of starting the bloodshed in the South with the clandestine assistance of foreign powers. At the end of my speech, I said: “The Marcos regime wants no bloodshed. It does not wish to spill the blood of Filipinos. But, if any person or group of persons desires to spill blood, so be it. The Armed Forces of the Philippines are ready to meet force with force. The responsibility for any blood spilled shall be in the hands of those who provoked bloodshed.”

When we left Jolo, we proceeded to Zamboanga City. We passed through the then City of Basilan in Zamboanga del Norte. Now it is a separate province of the country. We arrived in Zamboanga City late in the morning of our fifth day. From there we left the navy ship and took a propeller driven aircraft to Manila.

When I arrived in Manila, I reported my findings to President Marcos. I informed him about the secessionist rebels — their weak and ill-equipped organization. I suggested to him that we adopt a forceful, aggressive and harder military policy against the MNLF rebels. Hit them while they were still weak and unprepared. Nip them in the bud. Finish them off once and for all.

But the President, as much as possible, shunned violence. He preferred persuasion, negotiation, and compromise. He was reluctant to shed blood, especially of Filipinos. His attitude was a noble trait for a leader. But it was also a chancy choice.

Apart from his dislike for violence, President Marcos wanted to avoid antagonizing the Arab world, especially the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. He was the principal sponsor and financier of the Moro National Liberation Front. Nur Misuari was very close to the Libyan ruling class. He resided in Libya for several years.

And more importantly, we were so dependent on the Arab world for our oil and gas supply. We could not buy our oil and gas supply from Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Their oil and gas were expensive. That was a major dilemma for President Marcos.

Our hesitation and failure to act decisively in the early stage of the MNLF secession war gave the MNLF rebels the needed time to gain strength in manpower and armaments. As a consequence, our inaction prolonged the conflict in Mindanao.

Hence, the initial uprising in Marawi City by Sakar Basman sparked a blaze of violence of the MNLF in Mindanao. It brought about a trail of blood, suffering, and destruction in its wake. And it cost us tremendous losses in lives, resources, infrastructures, and valuable time during the Marcos years to subdue it.

It flared up again after President Marcos left the presidency because of ineptness, lack of foresight and will, and wrong policies of some political leaders that followed him.

It was finally and deftly handled, controlled, and stabilized in Marawi City, the same city where it started, by the Duterte regime in our time.