Senator Rasul to Senator Marcos: invite your mother to talk about Tripoli Agreement

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/06 June) –   Former Senator Santanina Rasul is urging Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., to invite his mother, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, to his June 9 public hearing at the Senate Committee on Local Government, to shed light on the Tripoli Agreement signed in 1976 between the Philippine government under his father, then President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari, that granted the revolutionary group autonomy over several provinces and cities in Mindanao.

Senator Marcos, chair of the committee deliberating on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before it is sent to the plenary, “should secure the legacy of his father: autonomy for the Muslim,” said Rasul, the lone Moro woman elected to the Senate (1987 to 1992; 1992 to 1995).

The Basic Law is the proposed enabling act of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, 2014, that would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Rasul said Marcos “should invite his mother, First Lady Imelda Marcos to the hearing and ask her why she supported the peace negotiations which led to the grant of autonomy.”

Former Senator Santanina Rasul, in a file photo taken on May 11, 2014 during a press conference in the House of Representatives’ South Wing Annex, on the day the Ad Hoc Committee was supposed to have voted on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  Rasul read her statement urging legislators to “pass a BBL which remains true to the peace agreements, that promised genuine autonomy in lieu of independence.” MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
Former Senator Santanina Rasul, in a file photo taken on May 11, 2015 during a press conference in the House of Representatives’ South Wing Annex, on the day the Ad Hoc Committee was supposed to have voted on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Rasul read her statement urging legislators to “pass a BBL which remains true to the peace agreements, that promised genuine autonomy in lieu of independence.” MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Mrs. Marcos, now Representative of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte, was First Lady and Minister of Human Settlements while the country was under martial law (1972 to 1986) and was sent on diplomatic missions such as this visit to Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi in November 1976 that eventually led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement a month later, on December 23.

Then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who was kept out of the loop and who saw a copy of the document only after it was signed, described the 1976 Tripoli Agreement in his 2012 book, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A memoir,” as an “illegal and unconstitutional act… a shameless and abject surrender …. an unmitigated and unpardonable sellout… an act of perfidy and betrayal.”

In his privilege speech last week, Senator Marcos rejected the draft BBL in its present form and substance, claiming this “will not bring us any closer to peace (but) will lead us to perdition.”

In a May 24 interview with DZBB, Senator Marcos said he would seek the removal of the opt-in provision for areas contiguous to the Bangsamoro, particularly the version of the House of Representatives as approved by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that cited the areas of autonomy mentioned by the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, as it could lead to a “creeping expansion” in the future. The House version allows for an opt-in for those contiguous areas that are within the “areas of the autonomy” listed in the Tripoli Agreement, and only on its fifth and tenth year.

“Areas of the autonomy”

The “areas of the autonomy” in the House version of the opt-in provision is based on the list of areas named in the Tripoli Agreement – then 13 provinces and nine cities: Basilan, Davao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur – all in Mindanao – and Palawan and its cities therein. With the creation of new provinces and conversion of towns into cities, that autonomy area now comprises 16 provinces and 16 cities out of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.

Mrs. Marcos’ knowledge on what transpired during the negotiations. including how the list of “areas of the autonomy” was reached, can help enlighten the Senate Committee chaired by her son.

At the time of Mrs. Marcos’ visit in Tripoli in 1976, the war in the Moro areas was still raging and the “situation of Muslims in the Philippines” had been the subject of resolutions of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or OIC (now Cooperation) since March 1972 or six months before his father declared martial law.

The Philippines was not only facing a major crisis in how the oil-rich OIC (now composed of 57 member-nations) perceived its treatment of Muslims in the Philippines, it was also facing a major oil crisis then.

OIC formula

The MNLF, which had clashed with government forces since its founding shortly after the Jabidah Massacre of 1968, demanded independence from the Philippines but the OIC, also hounded by threats of secession in some countries, did not support that move.

The OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in 1974 laid down the formula to resolve the conflict: it urged the Philippine government to “find a political and peaceful solution through negotiation with Muslim leaders, particularly with the representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front in order to arrive at a just solution to the plight of the Filipino Muslims within the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.”

In July 1975, the OIC’s Foreign Ministers’ Conference passed a resolution approving the plan of the Ministerial Committee of the Four, which was tasked to handle the Moro issue, and said it is the “fundamental basis for any settlement of the problem, in such manner as would be in keeping with Muslim objectives of autonomy within the territorial integrity of the Philippines.”

Mrs. Marcos played a crucial role in pushing for the 1976 peace agreement after the failed negotiations in 1975.

In fact, the document of the Tripoli Agreement itself, signed on December 23, 1976 by Defense Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero for the Philippine government and Nur Misuari for the MNLF, cites Mrs. Marcos, who led a delegation to Libya in November and had an audience with then Qaddafi twice in their four-day stay there. Mrs. Marcos would return to Libya in early 1977 with Enrile and then Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos.

Enrile recalled in his book that he was asked to leave Libya the day after he tried to explain to Qaddafi that the agreement was unconstitutional. He said Qaddafi told him: “Mr. Secretary, we are not concerned about constitutions here! We are talking about war! Constitutions do not matter and operate during a state of war! The Muslim problem in your country requires a political solution!”

The Tripoli Agreement is considered the “mother agreement” on autonomy but which the MNLF said was unilaterally implemented by President Marcos who, using his legislative powers under martial law, created two instead of one autonomous region.

Observer status

The Tripoli Agreement provided that the final agreement concerning the setting up of the autonomy be signed in the City of Manila by the two parties and the OIC which will be represented by the Secretary-General, and immediately thereafter, a “provisional government shall be established in the areas of the autonomy to be appointed by the President of the Philippines; and be charged with the task of preparing for the elections of the Legislative Assembly in the territories of the Autonomy; and administer the areas in accordance with the provisions of this agreement until a Government is formed by the elected Legislative Assembly.”

The MNLF protested Marcos’ “unilateral” implementation, leading to a failed agreement.

But in May 1997, following the collapse of the talks that would have discussed the details of implementing the peace agreement, the OIC in Resolution 2/8-P granted “as an exceptional measure,” the status of “observer” to the MNLF in consideration of the “need to implement all measures likely to strengthen and support the action of Moro National Liberation Front in order to better ensure the protection of the Islamic Community in South Philippines.”

Misuari remained in exile while his vice chair, Salamat Hashim, left the MNLF to set up what initially was referred to as “new MNLF” but was later renamed as MILF.

The Final Peace Agreement would be signed in 1996 under the administration of Presient Fidel Ramos, after negotiations held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 1992. Ramos had mysteriously left in February 1992, at the height of the campaign period to visit Qaddafi and, according to his 1996 book, “Break Not The Peace: The Story of the GRP-MNLF Peace Negotiations 1992-1996,” to discuss the “possibilities of a renewed peace settlement” with Qaddafi’s support.

To this day, however, the MNLF complains the 1996 agreement has not been fully implemented.

The peace process with the MILF, which Ramos started in 1997, collapsed in 2000 when his predecessor, Joseph Estrada, waged an “all-out war” against the MILF. The peace process was resumed in January 2001 when Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the Presidency from ousted President Estrada. She vowed an “all-out peace,” sought the Malaysian government to facilitate and in March that year the peace process was re-started in Kuala Lumpur. In June 2001, the Tripoli Agreement on Peace was signed by the government peace panel under Jesus Dureza and the MILF peace panel chaired by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, then vice chair for military affairs and chief of staff of the of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

The OIC, which brokered the GRP-MNLF peace process and which has been an observer in the GPH-MILF peace process since March 2012, has been exerting efforts to bring the MILF and MNLF together into what is now called the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF).

In April this year, OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani met separately and later, jointly, with leaders of the MNLF and the MILF at the Seda hotel in Davao City on how best to move forward in harmonizing the tracks of the peace agreements they signed separately with the Philippine government.

Madani invited the MNLF and MILF leaders to the Conference of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Kuwait, where the BCF again met.

Common grounds

In December 2013, the OIC’s CFM urged the OIC Secretary-General to “find common grounds” between MNLF and MILF and “develop a mechanism to ensure that the gains of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement are preserved and the (GPH-MILF) Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes are fully implemented with the end goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

In the House of Representatives, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law approved on May 20, its substitute bill, HB 5811 or the “Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” that has been the subject of interpellations at the plenary since June 2. Committee chair Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has remained optimistic that before Congress adjourns sine die on June 11, they would be able to pass the bill.

Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Pangalian Balindong told MindaNews on Thursday that he doubts they could meet the June 11. As of Thursday, only five out of 33 representatives who want to interpellate the sponsors, have finished their interpellation.

The substitute bill, if carried by the majority in its present form, along with the amendments introduced by the Committees on Ways and Means, and Appropriations, is “less than ARMM,” a comparison done by the Cotabato City-based Bangsamoro Study Group, of the provisions in the substitute bill, the draft BBL, the CAB and the laws governing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that the Bangsamoro seeks to replace, shows.

In a privilege speech last week, the senator rejected the draft in its present form and substance, claiming this “will not bring us any closer to peace (but) will lead us to perdition.”

Tripoli visit

In her talk with Qaddafi in November 1976, Mrs. Marcos had said the MNLF’s claimed membership of 5,000 was “hardly representative of 2 million Muslim Filipino,” a two-part video of that visit posted on youtube, showed.

The narrator said Mrs. Marcos had scheduled to leave even if the panel she brought headed by Barbero, would not be able to sign the Joint Communique on the peace negotiations that would be held the following month.

Mrs. Marcos, the narrator said, “would not accept any provision in the Joint communiqué that would legitimize the MNLF and would open to territorial dismemberment as the Libyan negotiating panel had wished.”

Qaddafi invited Mrs. Marcos and her party to his residence a second time, asked her to extend her stay while the impasse on the Joint Communique was being reseolved and personally “worked out the phraseology” of the Communique.

He also asked to speak to President Marcos by phone and told the latter “not to worry” because Mrs. Marcos’ visit would be “very successful.”

Mrs. Marcos not only got a promise of a peace agreement, she also managed to set up diplomatic relations with Libya and got the commitment of Qaddafi to help the Philippines in its oil needs in exchange for sugar, coconut oil, hardwood, managerial and manpower for Libya’s construction industry, medical personnel and development workers.

Convincing Qaddafi

In the book “Nur Misuari: An Authorized Biography,” also published in 2012, author Tom Stern, wrote excerpts from his interview with Mrs. Marcos, on how she convinced Qaddafi to help.

The book quotes Mrs. Marcos as saying, “I flirted and complained to him. ‘Oh, Colonel Khaddafy, our country is so poor and has no oil” and the Libyan leader said ‘”I will make sure you have oil.”

“And I said,” Mrs. Marcos added, “Oh, Colonel Khaddafy, we need peace in our country. Can you help?” and after the Libyan leader said yes, she “put on a pleading face, and said, ‘Oh, Colonel Khaddafy, my people are so poor. Can you give them jobs?’ And he gave orders to employ Filipinos in Libya, with good jobs.”

Mrs. Marcos continued: “Later, Ferdinand’s (President Marcos’) men worked out the details of the peace agreement with Misuari, and other men planned how to implement his orders. But I am the one who made Peace with Misuari.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)