Marcos, Misuari, & Gadhafi
“Fear history,” declared Andres Bonifacio, “for it respects no secrets.” Ferdinand Marcos feared history, which explains why he left diaries to confound historians. A keen student of history, he used the lessons of the past to hold on to power longer than any Philippine president before or after him. His shadow continues to haunt us 24 years after his death, and 27 years after he was tricked into taking a flight to Hawaii instead of to Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
If Marcos’ diary is his version of the past, written to look good to historians and history, what is its value? A critical historian weighs a biased diary against all other extant evidence. William Henry Scott and Renato Constantino taught us, by example, that a sliver of truth can be extracted from the most prejudiced and self-serving source.
The 1976 Tripoli Agreement was fast-tracked because Marcos was both the executive and legislative branches of government, plus his beautiful wife charmed Moammar Gadhafi into moving the negotiation forward when it stalled. Marcos wrote:
“December 21, 1976 Tuesday 3.00 a.m. I have just talked to President Ghaddafy, Dr. Ali Al Treki and UnderSecretary Barbero by long distance telephone for about fifty minutes from 2 am to 2.50 am.
“Dr. Treki, Libya’s Foreign Minister is again the voice of the MNLF. He insists that the Special Muslim Regional Government should include not only the ten provinces of the present Regions IX and XII which are Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Norte, Lanao Norte, Lanao Sur, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat but also the provinces of Davao Sur and Cotabato Sur inhabited by Christians and are not a historical part of the Muslim region.
“[Treki] claimed he has done all he can to get concessions for us from the Special Committee of Four of the Islamic Conference which is now in Tripoli composed of the representatives of Senegal, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Libya… Barbero, talking to me in Ilocano, said that Dr. Treki is calling all the shots and except for perhaps Saudi Arabia guides the members by the nose.
“Pres. Ghaddafy cannot speak English too well and we could not hold a sustained debate beyond amenities. So I had Barbero point out in the map to him how contiguous the present Regions IX and XII are, and how the three other provinces of Davao Sur, Cotabato Sur and Palawan are not. Barbero says he seems to have been convinced by me but ‘the small one’ (deyiday bassit) is holding out.
“Treki talked to me a second time and when we were talking of my proposal that we hold a referendum on the three additional provinces he suggested that a referendum be held in all of Mindanao and Palawan. However, when I accepted this with too much alacrity, he withdrew it or rather avoided it by claiming a referendum would mean a delay in a ceasefire. … Treki threatened that if we do not accept their proposal that would be the end of the conference, there would be no further conferences before the Islamic conference where they would have to report failure. But Barbero recommends a recess if we cannot agree on this proposal now.
“Actually, if we were inclined to be mischievous we could agree to the proposal and the Christians would outvote the Muslims in this region. Barbero feels the threats are by Treki to compel compliance with his wishes. I directed that Barbero offer [this] as a compromise:
“We accept the proposals of the Committee of Four subject to the constitutional processes of the Philippines.
“That should satisfy their obsession for a settlement in principle.”
On Dec. 22, 1976, Gadhafi asked Imelda to return to Libya to hasten the negotiation, but Marcos explained it took 16 hours to fly from Manila to Libya. Marcos was wary that if Imelda, his personal representative, met with Nur Misuari, it would confer belligerent status on the Moro National Liberation Front. By phone Imelda convinced Gadhafi to accept Marcos’ proposal and submit the question of autonomy to the constitutional process of the Philippines. Thus, the agreement was concluded in time for Christmas.
Yet Marcos was unhappy with the “badly written” text of the agreement: “It has grievous grammatical errors—hardheaded sensitive Arabs! It is not even a consistent statement of principles. It occasionally breaks into inconsistent details.” He had misgivings about Treki who changed “some of the provisions of the agreement when we were not looking.” He added: “I hope these are only instances of oversight not malicious attempts at foisting a humiliating and one-sided agreement on us.”
Marcos told Carmelo Barbero to befriend Misuari so that they could deal directly with him without going through the Libyans. He added: “It is my intention to organize a Commission on Muslim Affairs and appoint [Misuari] one of the commissioners or if necessary give him cabinet rank without portfolio to handle the aid coming from Muslim countries & want his cooperation.”
Marcos concluded: “By and large we have given them what we were ready to give in the first place, without the intervention of Ghadafy. He and Minister Ali Al Treki must be congratulating themselves as they got the autonomy they have always wanted. However, it is the kind of limited autonomy we were or I was going to give the regions anyway. Probably, though, we should give the Muslim region autonomy of this kind first, to make it look all the more like a concession to them. Then I will grant it to the rest of the country. This should make them happier.”
Christmas 1976 was merry, indeed.
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