THE Moro National Liberation Front lambasted Liberal Party presidential bet Manuel Roxas II for being ignorant of history, after the administration candidate said during Sunday's presidential debate that the 2013 siege of Zamboanga was caused by "Muslim invaders."

"What is his right to become president [when] he does not even know the history of his own country?" said MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza.

"I'm not a Muslim, but...Mindanao is the land of the Muslims. How can they be invaders in their own land?" Cerveza said.

The Muslims could no more be called invaders than the Filipinos who fought the Americans when they occupied the Philippines, Cerveza said.

"If he does not know how to answer the question, he better keep his mouth shut so he won't commit a blunder. He should not demonstrate his ignorance of history," the MNLF spokesman added.

Roxas also drew fire from the former head of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos for the same remark.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, former NCMF chairman Mehol Sadain said Roxas, while referring to the Zamboanga siege, made it appear that all Muslims were invaders.

"Is that how Roxas looks at all Muslims in the Philippines? As invaders? Is that why they pulverized Rio Hondo, Campo Muslim, Simariki, and other areas including Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina during the Zamboanga siege because these are strongholds of Muslim invaders?" Sadain said.

"Since when did Muslims become invaders in their own land?" he added.

Roxas' remark drew flak online, with some Facebook users likening him to Donald Trump, who is seeking the presidency in the US under a platform of imposing a complete ban on Muslims from entering America.

The Liberal Party standard bearer was apparently referring to the Nur Misuari-led faction in the MNLF that attempted to take control of Zamboanga City in 2013.

A day after the debate, Roxas said he meant no disrespect to Muslims.

"There was no malice on my part. Those who try to put malice to what I said, those who try to spin what I said-maybe they're the ones who should explain," he said, adding that he was just giving an accurate accounting of the siege that was led by an MNLF branch.

"I am not insulting Muslims or Islam as a religion. I am just stating the facts," Roxas added.

In 2010, Muslim legal scholars issued a fatwa against Roxas, along with former President Joseph Estrada and Senator Franklin Drilon, declaring them "enemies of Islam" and making it forbidden (haram) to vote for them.

The religious edict was issued by the Bangsamoro Supreme Council of Ulama, stemming from the politicians' opposition to the 2008 memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which was eventually junked by the Supreme Court.

Before his "Muslim invaders" comment, Roxas was conferred the honorary title of datu by the Federation of the Royal Sultanate of Lanao, a group of 16 royal houses formed in 2010, for his support to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Source: the Standard