The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are still engaged in talks for the final implementation of the September 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA), some sixteen (16) years after FPA’s inking.  The FPA was signed to formally end twenty four (24) of armed hostilities between the two parties.  The relative weakness of the MNLF and the preferences of its foreign supporters in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) brought it to the negotiating table.    The MNLF, specially its Chairman Nurallaji Misuari, signed on with the FPA largely because of political side-payments.  The 1996 peace agreement was initially deemed a success with the absence of large-scale warfare, the incorporation of the MNLF leadership into a regional government (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), release of local and foreign funds for the region’s development, and the integration of many MNLF fighters into the military and police forces.  However, as the shortcomings of Misuari and his comrades as administrators became known, the political stock of the MNLF plummeted.  Misuari was removed as ARMM head in 2001 and his ouster ignited a failed MNLF mini-rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga.  He was soon imprisoned and the MNLF lodged in political limbo for a number of years.  In the process, implementing the 1996 FPA took to the back-burner as the importance of a rival organization, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rises.  Only when a peace deal with the MILF collapsed in 2008 did the Philippine government turn its attention back to the 1996 FPA.  On the agenda were the same issues—amendment of the organic act creating the regional government and suitable formulas for revenue sharing (especially from minerals)—in previous talks.  While Marvic Leonen, the chief peace negotiator of the government of President Benigno Aquino III vowed that GPH-MNLF talks will be finalized during Aquino’s term, it remains to be seen if that will come to pass. 

A Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was recently signed this month to serve as basis for subsequent negotiations between the two parties.  Already, the said agreement drew complaints from the leader of the rival Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)  Misuari who warned there will be violence if his group was ignored in the accord’s finalization.  To put things in perspective, this blog post examines the peace process between the government and the MNLF.   It focuses on the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement signed by both sides on September 2, 1996.

It is asserted that the imbalance of power against the MNLF forced it to make concession after concession to the Philippine government since the 1976 Tripoli Agreement brokered by Libya’s Moummar Qaddafi.  Ultimately, the political strength of an insurgent group is a function of its military strength.  It cannot win in the negotiating table what it cannot gain in the battlefields.  In the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the MNLF settled for autonomy in the Southern Philippines and gave up its original goal of establishing a separate Bangsamoro state. Rubbing salt on open wounds, Marcos duplicitously established two regional governments which excluded three provinces named in the Tripoli Agreement.

Libya’s Qaddafi

After Marcos fell, the MNLF agreed to a ceasefire in 1986 with government troops without getting anything substantial from government.   Faced with the popularity of President Corazon Aquino, it protested but had to accept a dimunitive autonomous regional government in 1989-90.  The MNLF signed a final peace agreement (FPA) with the Philippine government in September 1996.  A clinical analysis of the FPA indicates that it was a one-sided agreement against the MNLF, reflective of the asymmetry of power against the MNLF.  However, the FPA was deemed a success given the absence of large-scale armed conflict, the incorporation of Misuari and other top MNLF leaders into the autonomous regional government and the integration of MNLF fighters into the government’s armed services.

After Misuari churlishly launched a mini-rebellion in 2001, the MNLF got divided into factions and Misuari’s MNLF faction went into political limbo as he was imprisoned.  His political fortunes got revived when a peace deal between the government and the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fell through.  Misuari was released and talks on the final implementation of the 1996 FPA were initiated by the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles vowed that these implementation talks will be completed within the term of President Benigno Aquino III (2010-2016).  With the unchanged relative inferiority of the MNLF vis-à-vis government, it remains to be seen what gains it could get from these talks.  And now, the MILF seems to be the flavor of the month. The political challenge for the MNLF and Misuari is to complete its own talks with government without the use of threatening language or acts.

  1. bongmendoza says:

    Reblogged this on bong mendoza's blog.

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