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Looking Back

A Tripoli Agreement inside story

/ 10:47 PM October 01, 2013

Nur Misuari’s mayhem in Zamboanga City resulted in some commentary about his place in Philippine history, as well as the ups and downs of his own story. Longevity is often a liability in history especially for those who start out right and end badly like Emilio Aguinaldo. Another example is Juan Ponce Enrile who entered history as martial law administrator. He redeemed himself during the Edsa 1986 People Power revolution, but fell from favor and history during the administration of Corazon Aquino. Elected to the Senate on the catchy slogan “gusto ko happy ka!” Enrile’s last high point was presiding over the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Today he is charged with plunder. Life, according to a Filipino saying, is like a wheel—sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. The problem is that when you are down, the wheel stops spinning.

Misuari’s mayhem in Zamboanga also reminds us of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front that led to a ceasefire and autonomy in Mindanao. The agreement can be found online, but the background of the events and personalities involved are sourced somewhere else. In his diaries Ferdinand Marcos provided us with the engaging inside story:

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“November 12, 1976. Friday. Imelda left for Libya with an overnight stopover at Rome. Her plane took off at 10 p.m. It’s a DC-8 PAL that carried about 60 members of her entourage including an economic mission headed by Sec. Vicente Paterno.

“She goes to the lion’s den to charm Col. Kadaffi into finally terminating aid and support for Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front, establishing diplomatic relations between our two countries and possibly channeling economic investment or economic aid to the Philippines specially for Muslims.

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“I attach September 21, 1973 backgrounder on the Kadaffi aid to rebels which lists Philippine rebels receiving 30 million Libyan pounds over a period of two years. Under the rate of exchange then, this would have been equivalent to about 100 million US dollars, which is stupendous.

“While I believe that Kadaffi has decided the investment is fruitless and the flow of arms into our southern backdoor through Sabah has stopped except in trickles, it is necessary to close the main source of funding and supply of the MNLF and formally end the fighting.

“I also believe Col. Kadaffi is looking for a graceful way out of an untenable situation. So he invited Imelda and me. We must give him that graceful way out. So I sent Imelda.

“November 16, 1976. I have talked by telephone to Imelda who is now in Libya. She has had a long two and a half hour conference with Col. Kadaffi whom she apparently convinced to visit the Philippines in January and to think of himself as a world leader because he is young, his country is rich, and it is the age of the Arabs.

“November 17, 1976. The Libyans are, as I expected, proving difficult to deal with on the question of the MNLF. As of 9.30 a.m. our time, they have been meeting for the whole day up to 2.00 a.m on the joint communique. And all because [Libyan Foreign] Minister Ali Treki wants to include a paragraph of the Philippines complying with the 7th Islamic Conference resolution on the MNLF. This is offensive and disgraceful. It is unacceptable. I have asked them to appeal directly to Col. Kadaffi who sees the First Lady at 9.30 a.m. Libya time.

“I talked to Col. Kadaffi at 5.45 p.m. while I was at Green No. 2 and through the telephone outlet at the Golf Driving Range at the Park. He sounded almost boisterous, spoke English with an accent. But I felt he is some kind of a gay.”

Imelda Marcos’ visit to Libya and Col. Moammar Gadhafi (spelled Khadaffi in other publicatons; Marcos spelled it a number of ways in his diary) brought representatives of the Philippine government and of the MNLF to the bargaining table. But the task of drafting an agreement was left to Carmelo Z. Barbero, defense undersecretary for civilian relations, who was in constant telephone communication with Marcos in Manila, receiving instructions in Ilocano so that if the line was bugged by the Libyans they wouldn’t be understood. Marcos noted:

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“December 20, 1976 Monday 6.20 a.m. I have been up since Usec Barbero called up from Tripoli to tell me they have agreed on all the points that I cleared before he left except for the area. Misuari, supported by Al Treki, insist on all of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan to be organized into one region. But they are willing to submit this to a referendum.

“I have directed that tomorrow Tripoli time (today here) he should call me up at 10.00 a.m. Tripoli and 4.00 p.m. Manila Time (six hours time difference) he should call me up so that I can think about it and possibly talk to Col Kadaffi who has been keeping tab of the conference every day by telephone.

“I am presently inclined to accept the proposal provided we keep out the provinces that decide, by referendum, to stay out of the regional aggrupation. Because I am sure that the people of Palawan, the three Davaos, the two Surigaos, the two Agusans, Southern Cotabato, Bukidnon, the two Misamis, possibly Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte and others will want to be kept out of the Muslim region.”

While it is interesting to read Marcos’ account of the negotiations, one can only wonder what Gadhafi’s account would be like if it were extant.

(Conclusion on Friday)

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, History, Looking Back, Nur Misuari, opinion, Tripoli Agreement, Zamboanga City
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