“The Tripoli Agreement was succeeding. We had peace” – Marcos

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 June) – The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 that was signed by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government (GPH) under then President Ferdinand Marcos, “was succeeding” and “we had peace,” but it fell by the wayside with the change in government in 1986,” Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said.

“The Tripoli Agreement was succeeding. We had peace. We stopped fighting with the MNLF. 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,” Marcos told a press conference here Saturday afternoon at the Park Inn hotel.

"We had peace," Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., said of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 signed under his father's administration. Marcos was in Davao City Saturday, June 13. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
“We had peace,” Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., said of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 signed under his father’s administration. Marcos was in Davao City Saturday, June 13. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

The Tripoli Agreement was signed in Tripoli, Libya by MNLF chair Nur Misuari and Defense Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero on December 23, 1976, a month after the senator’s mother, then First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, visited Tripoli to meet with its leader, Muammar Qaddafi.

The agreement provided for the creation of an autonomous region comprising 13 provinces and the cities therein – nine at that time – in Mindanao and Palawan: 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 – 15 province and 15 cities of that out of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.

It was during the visit of Mrs. Marcos in November 1976 when the agenda for the December 1976 peace talks was made.

Then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who was kept out of the loop about the Tripoli visit by Mrs. Marcos and his undersecretary, and who saw a copy of the Tripoli Agreement only after it was signed, described peace pact 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.”

Senator Marcos said that after the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1976, “fighting was reduced.”

“We had established two autonomous regions,” he said.

Two instead of one

The MNLF had in fact protested the creation by his father, President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, of two autonomous regions instead of just one as the Tripoli Agreement provided.

The late President had earlier declared martial law (in 1972) and used his martial law powers to legislate the creation of the two regions.

Marcos’ son and namesake, said that the peace agreement with the MNLF, under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation and Libya’s head of state, “was succeeding.”

“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,” Senator Marcos said.

Inviting Imelda

Early this month, former Senator Santanina Rasul urged the senator to invite his mother, to his Committee’s last public hearing on June 9, to shed light on the Tripoli Agreement that granted the revolutionary group autonomy over several provinces and cities in Mindanao and Palawan.

Rausl, the lone Moro woman elected to the Senate (1987 to 1992; 1992 to 1995), said the senator “should secure the legacy of his father: autonomy for the Muslim” and should

invite his mother to the hearing “and ask her why she supported the peace negotiations which led to the grant of autonomy.”

MindaNews asked Marcos after the press conference to comment on Rasul’s proposal to invite his mother to talk about the Tripoli Agreement but he said, “wala na ‘yan eh.”

“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,” he said.

The Tripoli Agreement is the basis for the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF. The MNLF, to this day, has repeatedly said the government has not fully implemented the 1996 FPA.

The House of Representatives’ substitute bill to the BBL, HB 5811 or the “Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonmous Region” contains two references to the areas of autonomy under the Tripoli Agreement, in its opt-in provisions.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, told Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat during the latter’s interpellation on Wednesday, that the opt-in provisions would be deleted.

Marcos also said the opt-in provisions would be deleted.

“Mother agreement”

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement is considered the “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 Pangampong.

“It is no longer the mother agreement,” Marcos said at the press conference.

When People Power in February 1986 toppled down the Marcos dictatorship, the Aquino administration that took over — the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s mother, Corazon – revived peace talks with the MNLF.

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 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 Malacanang, between Misuari and the government peace panel chair’s Manuel Yan, a retired ambassador who had earlier retired as general.

It was also under Ramos when the peace talks with the MILF, by then a far bigger force than the MNLF, started. Ramos 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.

Torres would later explain to this reporter that he met with Jaafar to ask if the MILF would want to join in what was going to be signed soon by the MNLF.

The formal peace talks with the MILF would begin in 1997, continued until the Estrada administration waged an “all-out war” against the MILF and was revived under the Arroyo administration who waged an “all-out peace.”

Back to Tripoli

The Arroyo administration through peace panel chair Jesus Dureza and the MILF’s peace panel chair then, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (now MILF chair) signed its “Agreement on Peace” in Tripoli, Libya on June 22, 2001.

The parties then agreed to negotiate on three aspects: security, rehabilitation and ancestral domain.

The 2001 Tripoli Agreement cited the 1997 ceasefire agreement as well as the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and 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 Arroyo administration also initialed a peace deal with the MILF – the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) — but its formal signing on August 5, 2008 was called off following the issuance of a temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court, barring the government peace panel from signing the document.

The MOA-AD was later declared unconstitutional by a vote of 8-7. But the Supreme Court also acknowledged that it is “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.

“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,” it said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /