GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 June) – Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. barely knew what he said at his press conference in Davao City last Saturday afternoon at the Park Inn hotel. But he pretended to; he proposed bold legislative alternative to the establishment of the Bangsamoro based on pretentions. Don’t take him seriously for what he said; but be alarmed for the disaster he is up to.
What he told reporters at his press conference (MindaNews, June 14, 2015: “The Tripoli Agreement was succeeding. We had peace” – Marcos), clearly exposing his ignorance – feigned or real amounting to dissembling – were alarming especially considering his key role in steering SB 2408 and all-knowing pretense to find the solution to the Mindanao Problem by scuttling Draft BBL (SB No, 2408) and writing a “better substitute bill”.
What did he tell the reporters?
First: “The Tripoli Agreement was succeeding. We had peace. We stopped fighting with the MNLF.”
He was talking about the Tripoli Agreement signed on December 23, 1976 and the Moro rebellion that started during the martial law regime of his father, President Ferdinand E. Marcos, with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). There was a truce after the signing of the agreement. Was it succeeding when his father was ousted in February 1986?
He referred to the successes as  “fighting was reduced”; “We had established two autonomous regions.”
Of , fighting stopped when the ceasefire agreement took effect in January 1977. But it soon resumed after the following March when the Government-MNLF Mixed Committee failed to finalize the substantive provisions (Part Three of the Agreement) which were to be “discussed”, “fixed” or “determined later”. There were no massive encounters like those from February 27, 1973 until the signing of the Tripoli Agreement. Call that, “reduced”. In number of incidents, yes; but not in destructiveness!
Of , President Marcos established RAG (Regional Autonomous Government) IX and RAG XII – each composed of five provinces, the same provinces composing them as administrative regions. In the plebiscite – rejected by the MNLF and the OIC – to establish the RAGs, Palawan and Puerto Princesa of Region IV voted against joining RAG IX; and, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and General Santos City of Region XI also did the same against joining RAG XII – according to “instructions from the top”.
There was peace. But unlike in the parts of Mindanao outside the RAGs, the peace was fragile. For instance, travel on Cotabato City-Davao City and Cotabato City-General Santos City roads within the RAG areas was unsafe after 4 p.m. The CHDFs (Civilian Home Defense Forces) in Christian municipalities were on the alert 24 hours a day, especially at nights.
Did the RAGs progress to prove the “Tripoli Agreement was succeeding”? Space would not allow a detailed discussion. Let it suffice to say that the ARMM took over from the RAGs. If the RAGs had been progressive could the Moros be still this behind under ARMM in social, economic and political phases of life?
Marcos, the son, would not accept the historic failure of Marcos, the father. As quoted by MindaNews, the son said: “So we had already started (succeeding). It was not finished. Well we had a semblance of peace. We had a structure that could have brought us peace. But again, as I said, it was ignored when the change of government came in 1986 and fighting erupted again.” (Bold, italics ours)
Re- the bold, italics:
- One: He said it: “peace” was just “a semblance”. So success must have only been a semblance, too.
- Two: As said earlier, the “fighting erupted again” in March 1977 but not under the new government after February 1986. There was no military-MNLF fighting even if the renewed peace negotiation under President Corazon C. Aquino failed and MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari left the country again.
- Three: There was a sort of civilian-military “structure”. Marcos, the dictator, and First Lady Imelda were the only civilians supreme over the military. In the local governments, the military was supreme – of course, by the order of the dictator.
How did the “structure” work?
The military and the government jointly implemented an anti-insurgency program. Moro rebels were enticed with “rewards and perks” to “rejoin” or “return to” the folds of the law – the rewards or perks varying according to the ranks of the rebels. Their arms were “bought”; they were given monthly allowances or positions in the government.
The program just brought a “semblance” peace. When the allowances became irregular or dried up, the “returnee” or “rejoinee” went back to the rebel-controlled territories to later join new batches of surrendering rebels called “returnees” and “rejoinees”. By media count, the number of “surrenderees” published could exceed the military estimates of the number of rebels.
Many peace-loving Moros envied the “good life” of the “rejoinees” or “returnees”. “Mabuti na lang mag-rebelde (It’s better to be a rebel)”, they said. There must be truth to the loose talks that peace-loving Moros became rebels to later avail of the “rewards” and “perks” of the program as “rejoinees” or “returnees”.
Second: “But in 1986, it was ignored so that some of the agreements that were finalized in the Tripoli Agreement were not implemented. It fell by the wayside.” How true is this?
He dissembled. As “peace”, he said, was a “semblance” and, by inference, so, too, was “success”, there was no substantial agreement (Third Part, Items 1 to 10) in the Tripoli Agreement that had been finalized before 1986. The Mixed Committee failed to do so in its February-March 1977 meeting in Tripoli. The April 20, 1977 Manila Peace Talk between the Philippine Panel composed of Cabinet Members and the OIC-MNLF Panel led by the OIC Secretary-General also failed.
Third: “The Tripoli Agreement, for all intents and purposes, has been abrogated so it has no bearing now in what we’re doing in the BBL. It is no longer the mother agreement.”
Marcos is blind to the interrelation of events. MindaNews, without comments, showed the interrelation of negotiations with MNLF and MILF back to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement as the “mother agreement”.
- The 1976 Tripoli Agreement is considered “mother agreement” on autonomy for the Moro people as this was the first time autonomy was granted to a revolutionary group that fought for independence, over parts of Mindanao and Palawan that used to be under the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur’s Pat a Pagampong.
- After the People Power in February 1986 had toppled the Marcos dictatorship, President Corazon C. Aquino (mother of the present President Simeon Aquino III) on taking over the reins of government revived peace talks with the MNLF based on the Tripoli Agreement.
- Against the advice of her security sector, the country’s first female President traveled to Sulu on September 5, 1986 to meet with Misuari, who was then newly-arrived from exile in Jeddah, to discuss the resumption of the peace talks that had collapsed under the Marcos dictatorship. The talks resumed shortly but did not produce a peace agreement.
- It was under President Ramos when the Final Peace Agreement was signed on September 2, 1996 in Malacañang, between Misuari and the government peace panel chair, retired Gen. Manuel T. Yan, also a retired ambassador. The FPA, by its Paragraph 153, is deemed “the full implementation of the Tripoli Agreement”.
- President Ramos started the peace talks with the MILF when he sent his Executive Secretary Ruben Torres to meet with MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazaali Jaafar in Cagayan de Oro on August 2, 1996.
- The formal peace talks with the MILF, begun in 1997, continued until President Estrada waged an “all-out war” against the MILF. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revived it with her “all-out peace” policy.
- Arroyo’s peace panel chair Jesus Dureza and the MILF’s peace panel chair then, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (now MILF chair) signed the “Agreement on Peace” in Tripoli, Libya on June 22, 2001.The three aspects of the negotiation – security, rehabilitation and ancestral domain – agreed in the 2001 Tripoli Agreement are essentially contained in Part Three of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
- By citing the 1997 ceasefire agreement, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, the Jakarta Accord of 1996 between the Philippine government and the MNLF, and a resolution of the OIC urging the government and the MILF to “promptly put an end to armed hostilities and to pursue peace talks towards finding a peaceful resolution to the existing problem in Mindanao,” the 2001 Tripoli Agreement recalled peace efforts starting from the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
- The Arroyo peace panel initialed a peace deal with the MILF, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), based on the 2001 Tripoli Agreement which, as stated above, essentially adopted Part Three of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
- The Supreme Court restrained Government from signing the MOA-AD on August 5, 2008 and later declared it unconstitutional by a vote of 8-7.
But, the Court, instead of voiding the MOA-AD as the petitioners had prayed for, acknowledged it as “a significant part” of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace signed by the government and the MILF in 2001. By inference, the Court also acknowledged the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
Then the Court suggested: “Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.”
That Court’s action led to the negotiations that eventually materialized into Draft BBL. Significantly, the constitution-centered opposition now that imperils the enactment of the Draft BBL into the Basic Law or Organic Act of Bangsamoro reflect the long impasse in the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement due to conflicting interpretations of its Paragraph 16: “The Government of the Philippines shall take all necessary constitutional processes for the implementation of the entire Agreement.”
Significantly, too, the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution did not ignore the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. Sections 15 to 21 of Article X reflect Part Three of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and are guidelines in the interpretation of Paragraph 16.
It appears that the present Congress – not only Senator Marcos – sees Draft BBL in isolation of the long historical roots of the Moro Problems and from the series of peace negotiations to settle it with the “Muslims of the southern Philippines” and their Islamic (OIC) patrons starting before the signing of the Tripoli Agreement. This is disturbing.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]