MANILA - Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari declared independence during a recent gathering by the separatist group in Talipao, Sulu.
Misuari, a former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, declared independence for Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, and even North Borneo or Sabah, which is controlled by Malaysia.
Misuari called it "peaceful revolution."
"To the Philippine government, I think the message is quite clear: we don't like to become a part of the Philippines anymore. I know these people are just too happy to see us go. They don't like dealing with us anymore," he said.
Malacañang, in response, urged Misuari to give peace a chance in Mindanao.
"We're very committed to the peace process. If that is mischief in his view, he's certainly misguided. We are for peace in Muslim Mindanao. That's the thrust of this administration: to ensure that there will be peace in Mindanao so that the peace dividends can flow to the people in Mindanao," Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Dean Julkipli Wadi of the University of the Philippines Institute for Islamic Studies said, while he is bothered by Misuari's statements, the apparent lack of MNLF troop movement means that the situation is not yet too severe.
He said Misuari feels left out in the MNLF's non-inclusion in the Bangsamoro peace framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Misuari's MNLF had a peace agreement of its own with the government in 1996.
"Ang dating kasi, parang ginamit mo yung isa [MNLF], tapos nung nagsawa ka, lumipat ka naman dun sa isang grupo [MILF] at basta mo nalang iniwan," Wadi said.
Political analyst Clarita Carlos, meanwhile, said the MNLF should not be ignored and the government should try to talk again to the group.
Misuari was arrested in 2001 when he led a rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga that led to the deaths of around 100 people.
"He has made many declarations in the past, but this is one of the more serious ones," Carlos said. "There is a real need to talk to Misuari, he's still part of the Bangsamoro."
Wadi and Carlos said the government should expand peace talks in Mindanao and include other Moro groups.
They said this is the only way to stop violence from breaking out again in the southern Philippines.