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An ARMMful

Why did the MNLF-Misuari faction pick Zamboanga City as their staging ground?

Jullie Yap DazaThe military can have their guesses, but ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, 41, a graduate of AMA in computer science, married (his wife is a congresswoman), with five children, says it’s because Nur Misuari has a house in the city. To non-Mindanaoans, the answer is probably more obvious: Zamboanga City is the jewel of the South, second only to Cebu City (“queen of the South”), mainly in terms of recall as a tourist destination, a city bustling with trade and commerce, plus something that Cebu does not have, i.e., a happy blend of Muslim and Christian cultures.

While Zamboanga City is not now part of ARMM, the Bangsamoro Framework that is a work in progress does not rule out the city’s joining the Bangsamoro later, should a plebiscite so decide.

Has the 21-day occupation of Zamboanga hurriedly made up the minds of its citizens, even if a plebiscite won’t be seeing the light of day till 2015?

Gov. Hataman, a “classmate” of President Aquino when they were in the House of Representatives, stops short of calling ARMM a failure but concedes that it’s a “problem of governance” and “little or no infrastructure” to be proud of. Back when Misuari was its first governor, ARMM’s budget was P550 million. Today’s ARMM, with a population of 3 million, has P20 billion in its coffers, 50 percent of it (still) earmarked for salaries.

It’s interesting to listen to the governor talk about the personalities, other than Mayor Beng Climaco, involved in the three-week-old fight. A certain Daniel Xavier, he told Bulong Pulungan, was seen moving around the city, presumably recruiting people, “one month before the crisis.” Described as looking “like an American,” Xavier was reported to be from Negros, with an estafa charge pending against him. The Malik said to be Misuari’s protégé is in his 50s, and lived in Jeddah for a time.

Where are Misuari, Malik, Xavier? If you can believe military intelligence, the first two are probably in Sulu. The third man got Bulong very curious, like the proverbial man who walks into a bar.