QUESTION: Sir John, since when did the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Government of the Philippines started fighting? Is there any attempt to resolve it peacefully?
ANSWER: The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is a political organization whose aim is secession from the Philippines and the establishment of an Islamic state covering Sulu, Mindanao and Palawan. It started in 1968 under the able leadership of Professior Nur Misuari. Armed conflict with the Philippine Government resulted to a Tripoli Agreement of 1976. At present, there is an ongoing ceasefire and peace talks between GRP and MNLF.
Signed on 23 December 1976
THE TRIPOLI AGREEMENT
Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro National Liberation Front with the Participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference.
In the Name of God, the Omnipotent, the Merciful.
In accordance with the Resolution No. 4 Para. 5 adopted by the Council of Ministers of the Islamic conference in its Fourth Session held in Benghazi, Libyan Arab Republic during the month of Safar 1393 H. corresponding to March 1973, calling for the formation of Quadripartite Ministerial Commission representing the Libyan Arab Republic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Somalia, to enter into discussions with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines concerning the situation of the Muslims in the South of the Philippines.
And in accordance with the Resolution No. (18) adopted by the Islamic conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in Jumada Alakhir 1393 H. corresponding to June 1974 A.D. which recommends the searching for a just and peaceful political solution to the problem of the Muslims in the South of the Philippines through the negotiations.
And in accordance with the Resolution No. 12/7/S adopted by the Islamic conference held in Istanbul in Jumada El-Ula 1396 H. corresponding to May 1976 A.D. empowering the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission and the Secretary General of the Islamic Conference to take the necessary steps for the resumption of negotiations.
And following the task undertaken by the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission and the Secretary General of the Islamic Conference and the discussions held with H.E. President Marcos, President of the Republic of the Philippines.
And in realization of the contents of Para. 6 of the Joint Communiqué issued in Tripoli on the 25th Zulgeda 1396 H. corresponding to 17th November 1976 A.D. following the official visit paid by the delegation of the Government of the Philippines headed by the First Lady of the Philippines, Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos, to the Libyan Arab Republic and which calls for the resumption of negotiations between the two parties concerned in Tripoli on the 15th of December 1976 A.D.
Negotiations were held in the City of Tripoli during the period between 24th Zulhija 1396 H. to Second to Moharram 1397 H. corresponding to the period from 15th to 23rd December 1976 A.D. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presided over by Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Libyan Arab Republic, and comprising of the Delegations of:
1. Government of the Republic of the Philippines, led by Honorable Carmelo Z. Barbero, Undersecretary of National Defense for Civilian Relations.
2. Moro National Liberation Front, led by Mr. Nur Misuari Chief of the Front.
And with the participation of the representatives of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission:
The Libyan Arab Republic - represented by Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - H.E. Salah Abdalla El-Fadl, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Libyan Arab Republic.
The Republic of Senegal - Mr. Abubakar Othman Si, Representative of the Republic of Senegal and Charge d’Affairs of Senegal in Cairo.
Democratic Republic of Somalia, Libyan Arab Republic.
With the aid of H.E. Dr. Amadou Karim Gaye, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference, and a delegation from the Secretariat General of the Conference composed of Mr. Qasim Zuheri, Assistant Secretary General, and Mr. Aref Ben Musa, Director of Political Department.
During these negotiations which were marked by a spirit of conciliation and understanding, it has been agreed on the following:
First: The establishment of Autonomy in the Southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.
Second: The areas of the autonomy for the Muslims in the Southern Philippines shall comprise the following:
4. Zamboanga del Sur
5. Zamboanga del Norte
6. North Cotabato
8. Sultan Kudarat
9. Lanao del Norte
10. Lanao del Sur
11. Davao del Sur
12. South COtabato
1. Foreign Policy shall be of the competence of the Central Government of the Philippines.
2. The National Defense Affairs shall be the concern of the Central Authority provided that the arrangements for the joining of the forces of the Moro National Liberation Front with the Philippine Armed Forces be discussed later.
3. In the areas of the autonomy, the Muslims shall have the right to set up their own Courts which implement the Islamic Shari’ah laws. The Muslims shall be represented in all Courts including the Supreme Court. The representation of the Muslims in the Supreme Court shall be upon the recommendation from the authorities of the Autonomy and the Supreme Court. Decrees will be issued by the President of the Republic of their appointments taking into consideration all necessary qualifications of the candidates.
4. Authorities of the autonomy in the South of the Philippines shall have the right to set up schools, colleges and universities, provided that matters pertaining to the relationship between these educational and scientific organs and the general education system in the state shall be subject of discussion later on.
5. The Muslims shall have their own administrative system in compliance with the objectives of the autonomy and its institutions. The relationship between this administrative system and the Central administrative system to be discussed later.
6. The authorities of the autonomy in the South of the Philippines shall have their own economic and financial system. The relationship between this system and the Central economic and financial system of the State shall be discussed later.
7. The authorities of the autonomy in the South of the Philippines shall enjoy the right of representation and participation in the Central Government and in all other organs of the State. The number of representatives and ways of participation shall be fixed later.
8. Special Regional Security Forces are to be set up in the area of the Autonomy for the Muslims in the South of the Philippines. The relationship between these forces and the Central security forces shall be fixed later.
9. A Legislative Assembly and an Executive Council shall be formed in the areas of the Autonomy for the Muslims. The setting up of the Legislative Assembly shall be constituted through a direct election, and the formation of the Executive Council shall take place through appointments by the Legislative Assembly. A decree for their formation shall be enacted by the President of the Republic respectively. The number of members of each assembly shall be determined later on.
10. Mines and mineral resources fall within the competence of the Central Government, and a reasonable percentage deriving from the revenues of the mines and minerals be fixed for the benefit of the areas of the autonomy.
11. A Mixed Committee shall be composed of representatives of the Central Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front. The Mixed Committee shall meet in Tripoli during the period from the Fifth of February to a date not later than the Third of March 1977. The task of said Committee shall be charged to study in detail the points left for discussion in order to reach a solution thereof in conformity with the provisions of this agreement.
12. Cease-fire shall be declared immediately after the signature of this agreement, provided that its coming into effect should not exceed the 20th January 1977. A Joint Committee shall be composed of the two parties with the help of the Organization of the Islamic Conference represented by the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission to supervise the implementation of the cease-fire.
The said Joint Committee shall also be charged with supervising the following:
12.1. A complete amnesty in the areas of the autonomy and the renunciation of all legal claims and codes resulting from events which took place in the South of the Philippines.
12.2. The release of all the political prisoners who had relations with the events in the South of the Philippines.
12.3. The return of all refugees who have abandoned their areas in the South of the Philippines.
12.4. To guarantee the freedom of movements and meetings.
13. A joint meeting be held in Jeddah during the first week of the month of March 1977 to initial what has been concluded by the Committee referred to in Para. 11.
14. The final agreement concerning the setting up of the autonomy referred to in the first and second paragraphs shall be signed in the City of Manila, Republic of the Philippines, between the Government of the Philippines and Moro National Liberation Front, and the Islamic Conference represented by the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference.
15. Immediately after the signature of the Agreement in Manila, 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.
16. The Government of the Philippines shall take all necessary constitutional processes for the implementation of the entire Agreement.
Fourth: This Agreement shall come into force with effect from the date of its signature.
Done in the City of Tripoli on 2nd Muharram 1397 H. corresponding to 23rd December 1976 A.D. in three original copies in Arabic, English, French languages, all equal in legal power.
For the Government of the Republic of the Philippines:
Hon. Carmelo Z. Barbero
Undersecretary of National Defense for Civilian Relations
For the Moro National Liberation Front:
Professor Nur Misuari
Chairman of the Front
Dr. Ali Abdusaalam Treki
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Libyan Arab Republic and Chairman of the Negotiations
Dr. Amadou Karim Gaye
Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference