The Fruit of Misuari’s Capitulation

Sep. 05, 2006

In 1976, Nur Misuari capitulated to the national government when he signed the Tripoli Agreement that severely constricted the Moro National Liberation Fronts position. This capitulation was sealed in 1996 when Misuari signed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Ramos administration. As the events the past weeks have shown, Misuari is now convinced what a mistake his capitulation had been. It is tragic enough that it took him 25 years to realize that; doubly tragic is the fact that his former trusted comrades pushed this capitulation a step further by conniving with the government against Misuari, apparently convinced with (or deluded by) the belief that Misuari is the reason why Muslim Mindanao is in perpetual unrest.


Nur Misuari has come full circle. In 1976, his Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) suffered a major split because of his capitulation to the government when he signed the Tripoli Agreement. That agreement bound the MNLF to the Philippine Constitution, thus seriously constricting the fronts position. Thus, the agreements much-vaunted identification of 13 areas in Mindanao, including Palawan, as part of the autonomous region that was to be handed over to the MNLF was, at best, a promise (there had to be a plebiscite in order to achieve this) and, at worst, a deception (no Christian-dominated area would agree to be included in a region ruled by the MNLF).

Salamat Hashim, then the vice chairman of the MNLF, broke away from Misuari because he believed that Misuari had, indeed, capitulated and that he had ceased to represent the true aspirations of the Moro people. Hashim opposed the idea of negotiating with the government under the framework of the Constitution. He also called as impractical the inclusion in the Tripoli Agreement areas that were no longer dominated by Moros. This serious disagreement led to the break-up between Hashim and Misuari and, subsequently, the creation of Hashims Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The capitulation of Misuari was sealed in 1996 when he signed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Ramos administration. This agreement was supposedly the implementation of the Tripoli Agreement. The FPA, like the Tripoli Agreement, bound the MNLF to the Philippine Constitution. It also identified areas that are potential members of the autonomous region; their membership could only be achieved through a plebiscite, which, as it turned out, proved problematic to the MNLF.

Misuaris signing of the FPA was severely criticized. Among those who found the agreement spurious was Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and once a comrade of Misuaris in the underground Kabataang Makabayan. Sison wrote in 1996, less than two months before the FPA was signed on September 2, 1996: Ramos has coax(ed) Nur Misuari into a blatant and complete capitulation and blatant betrayal of the Moro peoples struggle for national self-determination under the fleeting guise of becoming the taskmaster of the SPCPD (Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development) and with the bait of 20 billion pesos, which is merely a promise.

Two humiliating terms

Sison identified at least two humiliating terms that were agreed in the 8th GRP-MNLF Mixed Committee Meeting prior to the FPA and which were later integrated into the FPA. One, in Phase One of the implementation of the Tripoli Agreement, the SPCPD and the Consultative Assembly are established to run for three years from 1996 to 1999. Their powers and functions are derivative and extension of the powers of the presidential office of Ramos. Their operational funds also come from the funds of the Office of the President. In brief, the SPCPD and the assembly are mere factotums of Ramos. While the SPCPD is a presidential peace and development agency, the local government units and ARMM remain intact as politico-administrative organs.

Two, in Phase Two, the ARMM Organic Act may be amended or repealed by Congress. The new act of Congress is submitted to a plebiscite and the provinces and cities choose either to join or not the autonomous region in 1998. Upon the establishment of the Regular Autonomous Regional Government, expectedly in the four provinces and two cities now covered by the ARMM plus possibly one more province carved out from some municipalities, the MNLF shall dismantle the Bangsa Moro Army and hire out a portion of it to the Regional Command of the Philippine National Police (also given the fancy name of Special Regional Security Forces).

Thus, from a political and military standpoint, the MNLF was severely emasculated and it was made highly susceptible to the machinations of the government that were meant to thwart genuine autonomy. It was, in short, a capitulation, as the MNLF surrendered to the government every vestige of political and military might it had.

As such, Sison wrote, the FPA is no solution but is an aggravation of the problems in Mindanao. It does not allow any autonomy that is satisfactory to the Moro community and is stirring up unrest in Moro, non-Moro and mixed communities. The US-Ramos regime can gloat over its success in causing the complete capitulation of Nur Misuari. But the basic problems of the Filipino people, including the Moro people, remain unsolved.

I brought out from the archives Sisons and Hashims position on the GRP-MNLF accord to emphasize one point: that Misuaris fall from grace was not caused solely by his incompetence as governor of the ARMM.

Generous funds

Even before Misuari was elected governor, the ARMM had been beset with problems. In 1996, a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) pointed out that the ARMM had received the past six years generous funds (with each province getting as much as P1 billion a year) but had nothing to show for it. The region remained the poorest in the country, where social services are the worst. And millions of funds remained unaccounted for.

The problems besetting ARMM are so monumental that they are bound to challenge even the most efficient administrator. When he takes over the autonomous region this month, Misuari will find his hands full with a legacy of patronage and graft bequeathed by his two predecessors, the report said.

Two more PCIJ reports within that period revealed the culture of corruption and nepotism and patronage under the regimes of Zacaria Candao, the first ARMM governor, and Liningding Pangandaman, Misuaris predecessor. Interestingly, both politicians were — and still are — allied with Lakas-NUCD, the same party that conspired with Malacaang in ousting Misuari from the MNLF and the SPCPD.

In short, it is not entirely correct to say that the billions that had been poured into the ARMM since 1990 disappeared during Misuaris watch and that the absence of development in the ARMM was solely his fault. Misuaris inherent defect as a poor administrator was worsened by the fact that his hands had been tied (the ARMM, for example, was at the mercy of the national government as far as funds was concerned) and that the FPA was crafted in such a way that not even the best political strategist can successfully maneuver from within.

Saves face

As the events the past week have shown, Misuari was convinced that he has been had. The truth is, by capitulating with the national government, he painted himself into a corner. To save face, he had no choice but put up a fight or at least give the impression that he was putting up a fight.

In an interview with me sometime in late August this year, Misuari already made up his mind about the FPA. Asked what he thought the FPA has done for the Moro people, he replied: The peace agreement has finally crystallized one thing — that indeed the government is not that interested in hearing us out.

Was he sorry then that he talked with the government? No. As a matter of fact, we need this, this crystallization, so we wont be mesmerized again by their false promises. If ever I regretted anything, it is that we spent too much time. But I think we have emerged wiser. The government betrayed us. They have never unlearned their treacherous tendencies. We thought when they betrayed us during the time of Marcos that that was enough. Then they repeated it during the time of Aquino. Again and again and again. And I tell you this is probably the worst betrayal, under the regime of Arroyo.

Given all those betrayals, when will you ever learn? We have always learned. Its just that we are a very patient people.

It is tragic that it took Misuari 25 years to realize what a mistake his capitulation had been. Whats even more tragic is that some people within the MNLF who were part of this capitulation (such as Parouk Hussin, Muslimin Sema, etc.) are allowing themselves to be used once again by the national government, apparently convinced with (or deluded by) the notion that the problem was Nur Misuari, not the fact that the elite — composed of bureaucrats, traditional politicians, some sectors in the Church, and Big Business — will never allow genuine autonomy for the Moros because this elite that controls the government will never, ever give up its interests in Muslim Mindanao. (

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