1st of three (3) series
16 years. Yes, 16 long years of peaceful crusade embarked on by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) just to attain viable and lasting peace in their Bangsamoro homeland. Perhaps it was the longest- running peace negotiation ever took place in Asia or in the entire world.
At the onset of the Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF) struggle under former University of the Philippines Professor Nurulaji Misuari as Chairman, the Front was aiming for an independent Bangsamoro Republic. In later years, however it shifted from independence to full autonomy for the Moro territory.
In the first article written on this column at Luwaran, the official website of the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the writer had described the ordeal of the Bangsamoro people as being “inside a deep dark tunnel” where no light whatsoever is present. This condition was brought about by centuries of oppression, exploitations and colonization by foreign powers.
Despite the exit of the three (3) major invaders; the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese the Moros remained as such and continued up to the succeeding Philippine Republics. While in darkness, the dreamed daylight of hope was a far-fetched possibility until by grace of the Almighty Allah the Moros are beginning to smell victory and see the light after 40 years of struggle to achieve their ultimate goal-PEACE.
THE TRIPOLI AGREEMENT
The nationalism-inspired war waged by the MNLF which waned after the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 cost severe damages not only to human lives, properties but also the economy. It displaced hundreds of thousands of Moro natives who languished in squalor conditions in areas or towns where they are safe from trouble and even more sought refuge in Sabah, Malaysia. The high cost of war and deaths of Filipino soldiers in Mindanao prompted then President Ferdinand Marcos to hastily send his wife Imelda as Special Envoy to Tripoli, Libya to have a dialogue with the late Libyan President Muammar Qhaddafi on the crisis in Mindanao.
After series of meetings and two rounds of official negotiations, the Tripoli Agreement was signed on December 23, 1976 between the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines at Tripoli, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook or LTP was created in Regions 9 based in Zamboangsa City and 12 in Cotabato City by virtue of the agreement. With a provision stating that the accord is subject to constitutional processes, the accord was shrouded with treachery by Marcos and did not solved the Mindanao problem. Misuari and his Front were ultimately betrayed. Reuben Canoy, a Mindanao Leader described it as “a mere scrap of paper”.
Henceforth, the crisis in Mindanao aggravated. The Moro people continued to suffer from political, economic and spiritual abuses because the country that time was under martial law. Human rights abuses were so prevalent that many Filipinos particularly militant activists in the Greater Manila Area went underground. When the grieving widow of former Senator Benigno Aquino,Jr. the late Corazon C. Aquino ascended to the presidential throne as duly elected president after Macros was ejected from office by people power and military coup in 1986, she restored democracy to the chaotic, cash strafed country and desperate, beleaguered people.
THE JAKARTA FINAL PEACE AGREEMENT
Many years later, former military general and West Point Military Academy graduate in the United States Fidel V. Ramos ascended to the presidency in 1992. Again, a peace process with the MNLF took place. After series of negotiations a breakthrough was arrived at on September 22, 1996 with the signing of the Final Peace Agreement.
The offshoot of the accord was the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under Republic Act # 9054 and the toothless Southern Philippines Council of Peace and Development (SPCPD) and the Special Zone of Peace and Development or SZOPAD and saw Misuari and his top henchmen at the helm of the ARMM. “The peace deal formally ended the armed struggle of the MNLF that lasted for about 30 years”(Jubair 1999).
Generally, the Moro people had a fervent hope that the signing of both the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 would brighten up their lives; peace and progress will take place in their homeland. Unfortunately, to their disappointment both the Tripoli Agreement and after 20 years, the Final Peace Agreement entered into by Misuari and the Ramos Government failed on its mandate. The ARMM as President Benigno Simon Aquino III or PNoy described it as a “failed experiment” regrettably became a milking cow for some unscrupulous government officials. (October 20, 2012)
(Erratum: In my previous column dated October 11, 2012, Referring to Misuari, this writer had mistakenly written this way ”He went to the extent of criticizing Malaysia for its part on the successful outcome of the peace talks without recalling that several decades back, the country was once his headquarters”. It should have been written . . . ”That Jampiras Island off Sandakan, Malaysia was once his headquarters”.)
To be continued…