At the end of the day, Nur Misuari can be a 'softie.' NO! NO! That's not meant to malign the MNLF founder and legendary Tausug warrior but merely to say that he is human and appreciates, like many of us, respect and a minimum of courtesy.
That was actually my reaction after reading a news report in today's Freeman that said, "The stance of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari against the framework agreement may soon soften as a result of the Aquino administration's "talks" with the leader of the former rebel group."
It reminded me of a story that no less than current DND Secretary Voltz Gazmin likes to tell of the 1986 historic meeting between the late President Cory Aquino and the legenderary warrior -- or an incident just before the meeting, when she broke protocol and flew to Sulu to sue for peace with the MNLF. Voltz Gazmin, who was then CG, Presidential Security Group, tells the story often enough to highlight the courageous streak in the late president but which also gave us an insight into Misuari's innate Tausug character.
Voltz Gazmin recounted that the event was due to take place right in MNLF lair and as commanding general of the presidential security command, he was naturally apprehensive for the security of the chief executive. The life of the president was in his hands. He remarked that the president felt almost no fear and trusted that she would be able to achieve what she had set out to do. But he did not trust the MNLF, Misuari or not Misuari, to get anywhere near the president especially in Sulu where he would be severely outnumbered if things went wrong. But one thing he did say was that from the onset of the meeting between Cory and Misuari, the Tausug rebel exuded a very courteous demeanour towards the president, almost humble, perhaps, honoured and impressed that the president, a woman to boot, would have the courage to show up in "enemy country."
After a brief but courteous exchange, and just as the serious part of the discussions was about to begin, Mrs Aquino did the most unexpected thing -- which had not been planned at all; she ordered everyone out of the conference room except for a note taker. She decided that she was going to speak to Nur Misuari one-on-one. Voltz was naturally caught off guard. He was adamant that he did not want to leave the president alone with the rebel Tausug Misuari and insisted to be present with the president. But the president refused Gazmin's remonstrances. She was determined that they should be left alone to discuss the process of peace. She tried to reassure the PSG chief that everything would be alright and ordered him to leave.
With his heart trepidating, he left and waited outside the conference room. After nearly an hour, the president called for staff and the commander of the PSG. Alongside a meek-looking Nur Misuari, the president announced that they had come to an agreement to go forward to settle matters towards peace. According to Gazmin, he was left speechless. He saw Nur Misuari almost appearing like a lamb, acting with great deference to the president, in other words, respectful.
Cory Aquino left an indelible image of courage and fortitude in General Voltz Gazmin. But unknown to him, he left me personally with the appreciation that Nur Misuari, despite the rhetorics, is a reasonable man, a fierce but also gentle Tausug warrior. And that was what the MNLF commander was like when I finally met him for the first time back in the 90s.
By Anne de Bretagne
For The Philippine Sabah Claim Forum
24 October 2012
LINK TO NEWS ITEM: P-Noy sends ally to talk to Misuari
PHOTO from Presidential Museum and Library.