MindaNews features new Bangsamoro “torchbearers”

CHEERS TO MindaNews for its report on recent developments in the Bangsamoro region. Posted on September 3 and 4, the two-part special report called attention to the new generation of leaders at the helm of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). 

“The torch of the Bangsamoro struggle has been passed. And the bearers are ready, not just as the sons and daughters of their parents but as the sons and daughters of the Bangsamoro. Their weapons are no longer guns, their battlefield is the Bangsamoro Parliament,” Carolyn Arguillas wrote in the first part of the report

In the eighty-member BTA, MindaNews spotlighted some 14 such “torchbearers” whose parents were revolutionary leaders, field commanders, and peace negotiators before the BTA’s formation. Arguillas gathered insights from six of them in separate in-person and online interviews: 

  • Abdulkarim Tan Misuari, 47, Vice Chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), son of MNLF co-founder Nur Misuari;
  • Nurredha Ibrahim Misuari, 27, MNLF National Identification Committee Head, daughter of Nur Misuari by his third wife Tarhata Ibrahim;
  • Abdullah Biston Hashim, 35, son of Salamat Hashim, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) founder
  • Omar Yasser Crisostomo Sema, 50, legal counsel to the MNLF under his father Muslimin Sema, former MNLF Secretary General 
  • Albakil Dasani Jikiri, 42, BARMM Deputy Chief Minister for Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, son of Yusop Jikiri, former MNLF chair
  • Hamid Malik of Sulu, 27, nurse, son of Habier Malik, MNLF Commander during the 2013 Zamboanga Siege

Coming full-circle

Screengrab from RTV Malacañang’s live stream of the newly appointed MPs’ oath-taking.
Screengrab from RTV Malacañang’s live stream of the newly appointed MPs’ oath-taking.

Aside from their desire to be of service, Arguillas showed the complexity in the backgrounds of the six. Some were born and lived abroad, moving from country to country while their parents were in exile. For security reasons, some had to use their mothers’ surnames at school or were forced to stop schooling altogether. 

The report highlights their new roles as Members of Parliament (MPs) as a full-circle moment. Their fathers were once brothers-in-arms in the struggle for the Bangsamoro right to self-determination, despite the internal issues which later created factions that divided the community of freedom-fighters. Significantly, the dividing lines did not deter the solidarity that bound their struggle for a common cause. 

Misuari’s son, Abdulkarim, recalled telling his father “We should participate,” upon learning of the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which provided for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2018. The MNLF founder had previously snubbed invitations from the Aquino and Duterte administrations to nominate members to the BTA and its predecessor, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). This time the son insisted, calling the BTA “the platform that is available” to serve the Bangsamoro people.

Jikiri saw the BTA as a way for the MNLF factions to reconcile. The article noted how an August 18 meeting between the groups manifested this reconciliation, as elders in the Bangsamoro struggle along with their younger fellow MPs resolved to “work together, preferably no longer as factions but as MNLF, as Bangsamoro.” 

The future of the Bangsamoro

The concluding half of the report looked to the future of the Bangsamoro. For 27-year-old Nurredha Misuari, the creation of the BTA parliament was a landmark opportunity to ensure lasting peace and prosperity for the next generation. This was truly a joyous moment that she did not even think possible a few years ago. 

Arguillas’ sole woman interviewee sees herself as a women’s representative: “I can be the voice of those young women on the ground.” She also proposed financial literacy caravans to teach women how to manage family finances. Misuari holds a degree in Business Administration, major in Financial Management, from the University of Immaculate Conception in Davao City where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2019. 

Each of Arguillas’ interviewees envision different ways through which they could contribute to the future of the region. 

Sema looks ahead to 2025 and the first regional elections as a signpost for the Bangsamoro. A lawyer by profession, he stressed that he did not see himself in the BTA as the son of Muslimin Sema, but as but as one of the authors of the BOL. For him, the 2025 election must show that the Bangsamoro “no longer have to wage war for the pursuit of our aspirations…”

Malik, a 27-year-old nurse, sees himself forming a Medical Reserve Corps. He served as a contract tracer in Davao City at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Amidst these plans and aspirations for the future, Arguillas asked her interviewees if they felt any pressure, as children of revolutionary leaders who must now continue the struggle in an entirely new arena. For Misuari, the pressure is palpable—but only because they understand the importance of their undertaking. “We are talking about lives, we are talking about the future of our people, the survival of our culture of Islam in our bangsa…” 

The peace-building process and issues surrounding it should be given more attention by national media—which sadly presents the Bangsamoro with a narrow regional focus. The huge leap toward peace can only flourish if other Filipinos become more aware of its significance. Other regional communities should see the Bangsamoro as a national story, one that prospers and flourishes for the benefit not just of the Bangsamoro but of all Filipinos.

The national perspective must follow Arguillas’ lead and present these faces and personalities as heralds of a new era not just in Mindanao. National news should break out of the NCR’s parochial scope and make more Filipinos aware of the triumph of peace. Indeed, they may have old names but they are “new blood” invigorating Bangsamoro and they deserve to be cheered by the rest of the country.