Lessons from the Ramos-Misuari agreement

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It is important to learn the lessons of the past to avoid repeating them. Particularly for the Moro people, there are many lessons to be learned from the Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF) capitulation to the Ramos regime through MNLF chair Nur Misuari’s signing of the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 (the Ramos-Misuari agreement). Through this agreement, the MNLF was formally subsumed under the constitution and power of the reactionary state and was eventually gobbled up by the rotten system.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) must constantly hold fast to the lessons of history especially as it enters a critical stage in its negotiations with the Aquino regime, particularly after its signing of the Framework Agreement last October. Although it serves merely as a framework for a final peace agreement, the Framework Agreement already possesses the same basic flaws contained in the Ramos-Misuari agreement of 1996. If these are not rectified, there is danger that the Framework Agreement will be used as a framework for the surrender of the Moro struggle for national self-determination.

The MILF attained prestige as the representative of the Moro people mainly for its repudiation of the Ramos-Misuari agreement and the preceding capitulationist Tripoli Agreement of 1976 between the MNLF and the Marcos regime and for bannering armed struggle. It is but fitting to reflect on these lessons because it is not only the MILF’s future and integrity as a revolutionary force that are at stake but the aspirations of the Moro people as a whole.

The MNLF’s final agreement of surrender to the Ramos regime in 1996 was the result of relentless pressure from the US to forge an accord that would put an end to the Moro people’s armed resistance. The US used as its instruments the reactionary members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (then known as the Organization of Islamic Conference) to push the MNLF to abandon its goal of seceding from the puppet republic and accept autonomy. Both the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 under the Marcos dictatorship and the Ramos-Misuari final peace agreement give token recognition to the Moro people’s aspiration for self-determination. In essence, however, both agreements nullify this aspiration because they call for autonomy for the Moro people under an exploitative and oppressive state.

The Ramos-Misuari agreement stipulated that whatever new entity is established in the Moro people’s homeland should comply with the laws of the reactionary state. The contents of the agreement first had to be legislated by the reactionary Congress before they could take effect. It was the reactionary Congress that served as the ultimate guarantee that no provision of the agreement would run counter to the ruling classes’ power and interests.

The Ramos-Misuari agreement already contained the formula for rendering the MNLF irrelevant. Aside from subjecting the MNLF to the GPH constitution, the Ramos-Misuari agreement stipulated the annihilation of the MNLF’s armed capability and the integration of thousands of its fighters into the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Since the disintegration of the MNLF’s armed force, it has lost its political strength and significance, making it easy for the GPH to disregard, reverse or distort whatever agreement it has with the MNLF.

And so both Misuari and the MNLF’s political demise became a logical conclusion. Actually, a significant portion of the Ramos-Misuari deal had yet to be legislated, especially parts pertaining to promised financial assistance and the mineral sharing agreement. Up till the MNLF and GPH’s latest talks in March, the reactionary Congress had not enacted a law to regulate mineral mining and revenue sharing in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The MNLF was in a ridiculous bind, as it no longer had any formal role in the ARMM after Misuari’s term as governor was cut short in 2002. On this point alone, the MNLF was in no position to negotiate.

In short, aside from a ceasefire, the dissolution of the MNLF’s armed force and a watered-down version of autonomy, no other pertinent part of the 1996 agreement has been implemented. From being a revolutionary leader, Misuari had become a traditional politician in the ARMM, the bogus autonomous region set up in a part of the Moro people’s ancestral land.

On the other hand, US imperialism and the reactionary state achieved their objectives: the liquidation of the MNLF as a revolutionary and fighting movement, the continued rule of traditional and reactionary clans and warlords in league with the reactionary ruling classes at the national level, the unimpeded dominance of the semicolonial and semifeudal policies and measures of the central puppet state, the perpetuation of the Moro people’s oppression and the ever worsening expropriation of the Moro people’s resources, and the continued exacerbation of problems and conflicts in Moroland.

The entire Ramos-Misuari agreement was superseded at the stroke of a pen when the MILF and the GPH signed the Framework Agreement last October. Misuari raised hell against the MNLF’s abandonment, and even warned of renewed conflict in Mindanao. But MalacaƱang merely shrugged off Misuari’s rantings.

It is important to note that long before the MNLF’s armed force was disbanded, the ruling state had subjected it to prolonged ceasefires to deprive it of military initiative and render it passive. Before the final Ramos-Misuari agreement, the MNLF signed a formal ceasefire agreement in 1993. But as early as 1986, when Corazon Aquino’s regime opened peace negotiations with the MNLF anew, the latter had already been put on the defensive politically and militarily. The Tripoli Agreement also called for a ceasefire, although its effectivity was short-lived. Dismantling the MNLF’s armed force was therefore merely the last stage in the protracted process of weakening it.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF in 1976 after the Tripoli Agreement was signed. Even then, the MILF was able to grasp the bankruptcy of autonomy under a fascist dictatorship. The MILF’s prestige rose and its leadership of the Moro struggle established when it took on the role of continuing the Moro armed struggle for self-determination after the MNLF’s formal surrender to the Ramos regime in 1996. The formal alliance between the MILF and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was likewise forged in February 1999 on the basis of the MILF’s struggle for the Moro people’s liberation and self-determination and its cooperation with the national-democratic revolutionary forces against a common enemy.

There are so many similarities between the Ramos-Misuari Final Peace Agreement of 1996 and the MILF-GPH Framework Agreement in terms of circumstance and content, because the sinister and deceptive US imperialists and the puppet regime have but one objective — the suppression of the Moro people’s armed resistance.

NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos has urgently called on the MILF to learn lessons from the MNLF’s experience and not easily relinquish its military strength at the whim of the reactionary government and of US imperialism. Ka Oris said this is the only way the MILF could continue to preserve and defend the interests of its organization and the entire Moro people. Above all else, it must hold in high regard the aspirations of the long-suffering Moro people.

Aside from the very stark lessons from the MNLF experience, a clear indication of the dangers that lie ahead for the interests of the Moro people with the MILF entering into the Framework Agreement is the Aquino regime’s recent announcement of its intention to open parts of Liguasan Marsh and the Sulu Sea to the exploration of big oil companies.

There are up to a trillion dollars worth of oil, gas and mineral reserves in the Moro people’s ancestral lands. Then and now, big foreign and local businessmen have had their eye on these resources. The ruling regime has had the gall to auction off the Moro people’s natural wealth even before a final agreement with the MILF could be concluded. This is just one of the very good reasons why the MILF should proceed with extreme caution.