10th of 18 parts
Rudy B. Rodil
(This is a revised version of the book “KALINAW MINDANAW: The Story of the GRP-MNLF Peace Process, 1975-1996” published in 2000)
Part X: MNLF Reaction
Lengthy excerpts from Nur Misuari’s address at the 8th Islamic Foreign Ministers’ Conference in May 1977 in Tripoli expresses the MNLF position with respect to the series of events so far after the signing of the Tripoli Agreement. Following is what he said about the plebiscite. It is best left intact and unedited.
“The Philippine government, because of lack of good faith, has betrayed the MNLF and our people as well as the Islamic conference. Through its unilateral and highly reprehensible act, it has succeeded in abrogating the Tripoli Agreement as well as the Khadaffi-Marcos understanding of 18-19 March 1977, which he had officially endorsed.
“Nowhere in the Tripoli Agreement is referendum-plebiscite mentioned. The real import of Paragraph 16, Article III of the Tripoli Agreement is to make it mandatory on the part of the Philippine government to rectify and overcome all existing constitutional impediment to conform to the letter and spirit of the Tripoli Agreement. The intention of the parties was positive. By no means was it envisaged that anyone can have the right to undo the Tripoli Agreement after it had been formally signed and announced to the whole world.
“As a matter of fact in the Khadaffi-Marcos understanding of 18-19 March which the Philippine authorities officially declared as an official agreement, it was clarified and agreed that, instead of referendum-plebiscite, consultation with the people shall be undertaken not by the Philippine government but by the autonomous region to determine solely the ‘administrative arrangements’ the people would like to have. Hence, the April 17 referendum-plebiscite, organized and conducted before the Provisional Autonomous Government had been set up to the satisfaction of the two parties as well as the Islamic Conference.
“Marcos was still in the process of constituting the so-called preparatory committee to prepare the organization of the Provisional Autonomous Government when the referendum-plebiscite was held. The MNLF was invited but since it was premature, not to say of the fact that the invitations was sent directly to individual leaders of the MNLF without the prior knowledge of the MNLF chairman or the Central Committee of the MNLF, we therefore refused to accept such invitation.
“From the first time the plan to hold referendum-plebiscite was aired by Marcos, the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the MNLF immediately lodged formal protest with President Marcos charging that such act contradicted the letter and spirit of the Tripoli Agreement.
“And on the eve of the 17 April 1977 referendum-plebiscite, the Chairman of the MNLF sent President Marcos an urgent cablegram reiterating the MNLF opposition to such referendum-plebiscite and taking the Philippine government to task for whatever adverse consequences may arise from such illegal act. Besides we categorically refused to be bound by the result of such unlawful manipulation. The Quadripartite Ministerial Commission and the Secretary General of the Islamic Conference likewise cable Marcos expressing their opposition to such referendum-plebiscite and making reservation over its result. We understand, too, His Excellency Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil, in his capacity as Chairman of the 7th Islamic Conference formally made reservation on the result of the so-called referendum-plebiscite. The brotherly Northern Yemen Republic also made their formal reservation on the matter.
“But Marcos was obstinate and bullheaded. He went ahead with his plan, thereby sowing more confusion and upsetting all the existing understanding with us.”
After the April 1977 talks in Manila, Ahmadu Karim Gaye, Secretary General of the Islamic conference, accused the government of insincerity and delaying tactics; he claimed that the Muslims in the South were being exterminated and called for wider intervention, including taking the issue to the United Nations. At the 8th ICFM meeting at Tripoli in May 1977, he again accused the Marcos government of “lack of concern in reaching a final settlement.”
The 11-point resolution of Islamic Conference on the Philippines deplored the Philippine government’s “negative attitude” in shirking its international responsibilities and obligations under the Tripoli agreement. And besides holding the Philippine government responsible for the post-Tripoli breakdown in the negotiations, it also called on the Islamic countries to support the MNLF “in all ways and means to achieve the demands of the Muslims” in Mindanaw. It continued to recognize the MNLF as the legitimate representative of the Moro people and entrusted the IC General Secretary with the task of consulting Islamic states to provide “emergency assistance” to them.
OIC Grants Observer Status to MNLF
Not coincidentally, the 1977 Islamic Conference also passed Resolution No. 2/8-P “granting, as an exceptional measure, the status of observer to the Moro National Liberation Front” with a provision that the admission of the MNLF as an observer in the OIC “should not be considered a precedent.” Misuari was also permitted to address the delegates.
It should be noted that this was the first time that the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) acknowledged the Moro National Liberation Front as “the legal representative of the Moslems’ movement in South Philippines”. At the Ninth Islamic Conference the following year, Resolution No. 20 9-P again “considers” the MNLF “as the legitimate representative of Moslems in the Southern Philippines”; the same is repeated in the Tenth Islamic Conference. In the 15th and 16th Conferences in 1984 and 1986, the phrase had graduated to “sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people”.
OIC, Others Urge Renewal of Negotiation
In another meeting in May 1978 at Dakar, Senegal, the OIC not only expressed concern that negotiations with the MNLF be renewed but at the same time deplored the Philippine government’s “acts of massacre” of the Moro people and its “massive use of heavy artillery and aviation,” all of which continue to happen as a result of the suspension of the peace negotiations. As in the past, the Quadripartite Committee was again tasked with the role of mediator, at the same time that the MNLF status as the legitimate representative of the Moro people was re-affirmed. Misuari was again allowed to address both the plenary session and the political committee of the Islamic Conference.
But when the heads of state of Malaysia and Indonesia called upon President Marcos, in the same month of the IC meeting in Dakar, to resume peace talks in accordance with the Tripoli Agreement – in as much as the Moro rebellion poses one of the most serious internal security problems in the ASEAN region, he (Marcos) reiterated his government’s willingness to sit down again with the MNLF leaders. As a matter of fact, he said, “we’ve been asking the MNLF to sit down with us repeatedly since the violation of the ceasefire.” But considering the reported split in the MNLF leadership, specifically that between Nur Misuari and Hashim Salamat, Marcos pointed out that this government did not know which MNLF leader to talk to.
Marcos Creates Two Autonomous Regions
On July 25, 1979, President Marcos issued PD 1618 creating the autonomous regions (Sangguniang Pampook and Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook) of Regions IX and XII. There was without doubt general dissatisfaction within the OIC over the Philippine government’s implementation of the Tripoli Agreement. Perhaps this was one factor for Saudi Arabia’s decision to temporarily cut off its oil supply to the Philippines at the time; Iran’s complete stoppage of its oil shipment to the country.
OIC Advises MNLF Leaders to Close Ranks
It was not until 1980 that the 11th Islamic Conference referred to the split in the Moro leadership in its Resolution No. 22/11-P. It decided, among others, “to urge the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front to close ranks.” Earlier in the same resolution, it also sought “to request the member states to assert the appropriate economic, social and political pressure on the government of the Philippines to induce it to implement the Tripoli Agreement.”
MNLF Reverts to Independence
In its final declaration, the 11th ICFM “affirmed support for the struggle of the Bangsamoro people under the leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front with a view of achieving self-determination.” In his frustration over President Marcos’ insistence on his own style of implementing the Tripoli Agreement, Nur Misuari officially declared the decision of the MNLF to revert to the original objective of independence. In 1983, the ICFM resolution mentioned a meeting by the Quadripartite Ministerial Committee on December 8, 1982 which “calls upon the Moro Front to reconsider its decision to demand complete independence rather than the implementation of the Tripoli agreement.”
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate.)
Tomorrow: Chapter 5. In the Wake of EDSA: The Jeddah Accord and the 1987 Constitution