Three agreements were inked between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation—the 1976 Tripoli Agreement; the 1987 Jeddah Accord; and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

MNLF architects of the Tripoli Agreement

The Tripoli Agreement was reached on December 23, 1976 with the participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).  Its key provisions include the establishment of an autonomous region in the Southern Philippines “within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines” (Tripoli Agreement, para. 1).  The region shall comprise the following thirteen (13) provinces: Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, North Cotabato; Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, and Palawan; and all the cities and villages situated in abovementioned areas (Tripoli Agreement, para. 2).  The Tripoli Agreement also provided for shari’a law courts (Tripoli Agreement, para. 3.3) and special regional security forces (Tripoli Agreement, para. 3.8).

The Tripoli Agreement marked a downgrading of the MNLF’s over-all objective from independence to regional autonomy.  The failure a year later of negotiations on the agreement’s implementation led to frustration, major disagreements, and an eventual split within the organization. In truth, the Marcos government outmaneuvered the MNLF by issuing proclamations in March 1977 creating two regional governments, reducing by three the 13 provinces covered by the Tripoli Agreement, and subjecting the new arrangement to a plebiscite in April 1977 (HDN 2005).   Santos (2010a) reports that when the talks collapsed, MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari wanted to revert to an armed struggle for independence while his vice-chairman, Salamat Hashim, favored pursuing the peace talks to gain autonomy under the Tripoli Agreement.  Hashim eventually led a break-away group in 1977 which got constituted as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1984.  The MNLF, meanwhile, continued its armed struggle during the remainder of the Marcos regime.

Nur Misuari and Hashim Salamat

The MILF gained strength while the MNLF lost strength and sustained further fragmentation.  In 1982, the Maranao-based MNLF Reformist Group led by Dimas Pundato emerged.  Pundato and his associates were eventually coopted into the government Office of Muslim Affairs (Santos 2010a).  The MNLF however did not lose its diplomatic status among the Islamic states. Nonetheless, the ouster of the dictator Marcos and the assumption by Corazon Aquino of the presidency in 1986 led to a ceasefire and the Jeddah Accord of January 3, 1987, which deviated from the Tripoli Agreement by entertaining an MNLF proposal to grant full autonomy to 23 provinces in Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Palawan ‘subject to democratic processes’ (GRP-MNLF 1987).  The colatilla was understood to mean a plebiscite participated in by all Filipinos of voting age in the said 23 provinces.  And if the plebiscite was held at that date, this would mean certain defeat for MNLF aspirations for the 23 provinces.

The relevant passages from the 1987 Jeddah Accord are reproduced below.  The second paragraph illustrates the validity of the MNLF proposal to suspend pertinent provisions of the draft constitution in the scheduled plebiscite.  The failure of President Aquino to issue the appropriate executive order was more an effort to get the Constitution ratified as soon as possible to consolidate her administration’s political position against military rebels rather than a rebuff of the MNLF.

The two panels agreed to continue discussion of the proposal for the grant of full autonomy to Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan subject to democratic processes.

In the meantime, the MNLF panel proposed that President Corazon C. Aquino will issue an executive order suspending pertinent provisions of the draft constitution on the grant of autonomy to Muslim Mindanao in the scheduled plebiscite on February 2, 1987, to allow the MNLF to undertake democratic consultations with the people of Mindanao and its islands, and that the Philippine Government panel shall present this proposal to President Aquino for her approval (GRP-MNLF 1987).

The post-Marcos Constitution was ratified in February 1987 and provided for an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) ‘within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines’ (Article X, Sections 15-21).  The MNLF rejected this new approach as violative of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and unsuccessfully called for the suspension of the plebiscite.  When the plebiscite was held in 1989, only four of the 13 provinces—Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi—voted to join the ARMM.  It was a diminutive regional autonomous government.

President Fidel ramos

A new round of peace negotiations, brokered by Indonesia, between the MNLF and the GRP was undertaken during the administration of President Fidel Ramos resulting in the Jakarta Accord of September 2, 1996, or the so-called Final Peace Agreement (FPA).  Ramos was described as a president who wanted to resolve all internal conflicts so he can attend to the more important agenda of making the Philippines a newly-industrializing country (NIC) (Vitug and Gloria 2000).  He actually managed to make peace with the MNLF and the military rebels.  However, he failed to win over the MILF and the communist insurgents.

The FPA was supposed to be an agreement to implement the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.  However, it again fell short of the full implementation of the Tripoli Agreement.  Instead of the provisional government that the MNLF had pushed for—which the Philippine government could not accommodate under the 1987 charter—it proposed a transitional implementing structure to be introduced in two phases.  Phase 1 consisted of a three-year extendible transitional Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) under the Office of the President, to give the MNLF the necessary exposure and experience over a now 14-province Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD).  Phase 1 also included the integration of MNLF fighters into the AFP and PNP (FPA 1996, I.1).  Phase 2 involved the crafting of a new organic act for the ARMM and the provision of a plebiscite in the affected areas to determine the extent of the (new) autonomous region.

However, President Ramos did not only rely on the formal parameters of the 1996 FPA.  He offered an alliance between the MNLF and the ruling party to give the former control over the existing ARMM. Eventually, Misuari run unopposed got elected as the first regional governor of the ARMM in 1996, barely a week after the FPA was signed. He also became SPCPD chairman.  A regional assembly was also elected with 121 members, the majority of whom were affiliated with the MNLF (Gonzalez 2011).

ARMM Governor Parouk Hussin

The group was at the helm of the regional government of the ARMM for two consecutive terms, from 1996 to 2005.  After Misuari was removed, Alvarez Isnaji served as OIC governor in 2001.  Parouk Hussin, MNLF foreign minister, followed for a full three year term from 2002 to 2005.  Some MNLF leaders have successfully run for local government positions.  They include Muslimin Sema who became mayor of Cotabato City.  However, sooner rather than later, some found it harder to run a government than to rebel against it.

  1. bongmendoza says:

    Reblogged this on bong mendoza's blog.

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