Almonte: Cory resuscitated Muslim insurgency


First of Two Parts

For most journalists of my generation, Jose Almonte –ex-President Fidel Ramos’ most trusted confidante, even his ideologue, some say–was a shadowy figure, the former president’s top spook.

He was the strategist behind such historic moves as the formation of the RAM during the Marcos dictatorship, the “Big Bird” project that would have hoodwinked the strongman in surrendering his Swiss accounts right after Cory Aquino assumed power, Ramos’ unexpected victory helped by the infamous “Sulo Hotel” operations in the 1992 elections, and the breaking of the PLDT monopoly during Ramos’ watch.

What isn’t too widely known, though, is that he is one of the very few persons I know who have managed to reach the heights of power, yet with a kind of thinking I share. This is that the country’s “core problem,” as he puts it, is the fact that the nation has been ruled by oligarchs who have controlled the government apparatus for their own personal agenda.

He is a believer of the “strong-republic” view, that only through strong government institutions, independent of the elites, and not through any single strong leader would our nation finally develop.

The nation owes “Joal” not only for his deeds, but for planting the seed of that strong-republic view in our consciousness, and now for enlightening us on the significant aspects of our modern history.

Almonte’s book Endless Journey: A Memoir, “as told to,” and excellently written by my esteemed colleague and friend from way back, Marites Danguilan Vitug, is a must-read for every Filipino who cares about the future of our country.

Because it is the burning issue of the day, though, I quote at length Almonte’s report on how the Muslim insurgency unfolded starting in the late 1980s:

Is it in the genes? Cory in 1986, Ninoy in 2011.

Is it in the genes? Cory in 1986, PNoy in 2011.

Start of Almonte’s account
A problem loomed as President Cory Aquino announced her intent to bring back the MNLF to the negotiating table. Misuari had been away from the Philippines for about a decade as an exile in Saudi Arabia and Libya. He left after the peak of the MNLF battles with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the early 1970s.

From then on, clashes with the military had been sporadic. The MNLF was in its death throes. Marcos had already neutralized Misuari and his forces, including the Muslim community that supported him, spending so much money and at the cost of so many lives. Support for Misuari even in Saudi Arabia and Libya was not as robust as it used to be.

Eduardo Ermita, who rose to become Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFP after the People Power Revolution, Fidel V. Ramos, who was appointed defense secretary and I, met with President Cory to impart a single message: her idea of reviving Misuari and the MNLF would cause the country troubles.

The President felt it was her obligation to her husband to talk to Misuari because that was supposedly Ninoy’s promise to him: if he became president, he would talk to Misuari and reach some kind of understanding.

We told the President that it would hurt the government. It was best to leave the situation as it was. Anyway, the Muslim community in the south no longer looked up to Misuari as their leader. She was convinced. “You have a point,” she said, “but talk to my brother-in-law.” She was referring to Agapito “Butz” Aquino, whom she designated as her special emissary to the MNLF. Butz was a businessman who became one of the leaders of the anti-Marcos protests after the assassination of his brother in 1983 and who allied himself with Norberto “Bert” Gonzales, an activist with close ties with the MNLF. In fact, he trained with them in Malaysia in the 1970s. Bert’s group of social democrats entered into an alliance with the MNLF as part of their strategy to resist Marcos.

Cover of Almonte's book

Cover of Almonte’s book

Our meetings with Butz were spread over a few days. On the second day, we were joined by Bert. He showed us video clips of the MNLF members with their firearms, projecting the MNLF as a strong group to contend with. He let us know that he had deep contacts with them. This worried me.

Ramos was very firm and explained the foolhardiness of resuscitating the MNLF, citing the facts on the ground. I followed up and told Bert, “Look, I don’t think you can impress me with those things. It’s the political side that we have to resolve.”

Seeing that he was facing a wall, Bert waxed personal. “When we were in the anti-Marcos struggle, Nur helped us escape.” Then he went into the details of how it happened.

“Alright, I understand that.” I said. “Do you know that if we continue the fighting, one helicopter will cost us $5 million? In just three days of fighting, we will be wasting billions of pesos. That’s going to be the cost of reviving Misuari.”

Butz Aquino did not budge. He and Bert proceeded with their trip to Saudi Arabia to hold initial talks with Misuari.

Months later [in September 1986], President Cory met with Misuari in Jolo [the MNLF leaders’ hometown]and they agreed to extend the truce that she announced when she assumed power… She asked me to be present [in her meeting with Misuari]. I stayed on the sidelines as she and Misuari talked in the convent of the Carmelite nuns. The President told me that this was her commitment to her husband…

Sadly, true to our fears, Misuari continued the attacks. And we suffered casualties, on both sides—again.

The reasons for deciding to talk to Misuari seemed very personal – honoring a dead man’s word and paying a debt of gratitude—when protecting people’s lives should have been paramount. That was why the MNLF rebellion unfolded the way it did.

End of Almonte’s account. Postcript
A month after Cory’s meeting with the MNLF, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which broke away from it in 1977, launched a series of attacks on government installations in their strongholds in Maguindanao. It sent a message to Aquino that the MNLF might have control over Sulu, which was, after all, the homeland of the Tausugs who dominated that organization. The MNLF, though, was powerless in the bigger area of Maguindanao at the center of the Mindanao mainland, where the Maguindanaon MILF was based. There won’t be peace as they were totally excluded from the peace talks.

Cory sent another relative to talk with the MILF, and discussed arrangements for a ceasefire.

On Jan 19, 1987, Cory met with then MILF vice chairman (now chairman) Murad Ibrahim in Cotabato, accompanied by 100 heavily armed bodyguards. “We presented her with a flower as a symbol of peace. We are pinning very high hopes on her,” he was quoted by the media.

“Aquino gives us hope, “ Murad would say 24 years later, and after the MILF grew from a rag-tag guerrilla group of about 2,000 to an estimated 30,000 uniformed regulars with modern firearms, among them, the 50-mm Barrett sniper rifle that killed our commandos in a turkey shoot in Mamasapano.

Murad was referring, of course, to Cory’s son he met not in Philippine territory but in a neutral foreign land, Tokyo, in a signal that the MILF had become another state.

What irony of history. Aquino resuscitated the Muslim insurgency. Her son strengthened it and even gave it steroids. He would be surrendering Philippine territory to that insurgency if we do not stop him.
FB: Bobi Tiglao


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  1. asmadul lintasan on

    we all believed in filipinos in term of education.thier problems since the beginning goes beyond thier knowledge,that is:corruption & selfistness..because of corruption,filipino presidents sell soveriegnty to foriegn land grabber,and because of selfistness filipino presidents disregard their citezens even if they know the root cause of war in mindanao.

  2. Apo ni sugod on

    On another note sir, sir, pray tell us why the death march ended in camp servillano Aquino? And bamban, tarlac
    is proud to say that bamban is the birthplace of the kamikaze?
    That’s collaboration and treason, isn’t it?

  3. thanks was/is people like u who has awakened d Filipinos and d sentiments of our kababayans to all d malpractices of the Aquino family and generations….and many others.we continue to monitor such unpatriotic practices and blatant disregard for our kababayans welfare,from your exposes..our heartfelt gratitude sir.cheers!

  4. Even BBL will be approved, still there will be no peace in Mindanao. For my own opinion it will continue on and on. MILF is only representing one group. If we want peace in Mindanao each and every group in Mindanao shall be represented. I don’t understand what is the reason for President Ninoy to have BBL approved before his tenure ends. There is no logic for it. As I observed we are the one negotiating with the MILF.

    • ask Reyes and Ferrer with their bunch of traitors we Filipino shunned.To the Milf those group of so called govt peace panels/negotiators are buddies.craving for the coveted illusive Nobel Price….but hallucinating at the expense and death of our 44Saf heroes and other security forces. Now we have d Milf Ibqal threatening the Congress and the Senate Milf will not accept ay watered down BBL.Shamless Filipino traitors befriending d terrorists…for their devilish sly plot ..

  5. Amnata Pundit on


    • the MILF at the time of Ramos the insurgency in Mindanao got worse with Janjalani recruiting for a new group he formed, abu sayaf,inspired by Osama bin ladin.Ramos,after several negotiations, had to give them something in the hope that they would live in their territory, and rule themselves without raging war towards their neighbors but he did not know the capacity of bin laden,little known at the time. Unforeseen circumstances, and that was a friendly gesture so we could all live in peace.Same with arroyo, they had talks, negotiations and in doing so you give a little so theywould leave the rest of the country alone Had cory did not negotiate to give them more power in the first place they were already reduced in size. It would not come to this.

  6. Point your forefinger to your head and say in Spanish – – Aqui No, meaning PNoy’s head has no brain. Unfortunately, the “YELLOW MOBS” who voted the Aquinos to power (Cory and her son PNoy) are similarly brainless. Read how Cory fooled the Hacienda Luisita farmers, how their guards massacred the farmers, how the demonstrators were massacred at Mendiola, how Cory declared Tingting Cojuangco innocent when she was apprehended at the airport with her suitcase stuffed with US dollars – she was charged for dollar salting but Cory cleared her. So the Aquinos are not immnaculately clean contrary to their portrayal of themselves. Alis na kayo ABnoy – tama na – sobra na.

  7. We have long been deceived by the Aquino family. They are not what many Filipinos thought they are. It is now time to wake up! Tell them that we are done with their hypocricies!

  8. Excellent column. Thanks for all of the information. It helps to understand what is prodding Aquino to do such silly things.

  9. lleuxquiocho on

    peoples’ lives are paramount? that’s why they decimate peasants in Hacienda Luisita?

  10. Di ba ang mga lahi ni ABNOY ay mga traydor ng bayang piulipino.Lolo niya sa ama ay nagng kasabwat ng mga hapon.Ang ninuno naman nya sa ina ay nanloko sa bayan sa pagkabili ng hacienda luisita.Isama ang istoryo ngayon ni Mr. Tiglao ukol sa mag ina sa naging epekto ng kapayapaan sa mindanao.Salot sa pilipinas ang lahi ng retarded na Abnoy na yan.

  11. Melchor Vergara on

    if there is a gene for treachery, it should be named in honor of the aquinos

  12. vagoneto rieles on

    Going by General Almonte’s account, the Bangsamoro idea and the ARMM that preceded it is, and has always been, an exclusive “Aquino” endeavor, (father, mother, son and uncle), all along. So, afterall, it wasn’t about peace with the MNLF and their clones, (they keep replicating themselves under different monograms, it’s hard to keep track). Rather, it was about a legacy. How could a whole country and people, unbeknownst to them, be held hostage to an amorphous peace plan..a legacy that has neither worked nor shown any promise of doing so, over some twenty years now? This revelation of General Almonte is likely to be the final nail on the coffin of the BBL.
    ”Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished”…(a bit of Hamlet is quite appropriate here.).

  13. We are in crisis. The nation is bleeding. Our people are in misery. Those who have been given the responsibility to defend and protect the people and the state must exercise that constitutional obligation now. Our spiritual leaders must likewise lead in the national transformation process and fulfill their moral responsibility to their flock to end all forms of injustice, violence and inequity. The nation needs all right thinking people to put an end to Noynoy’s madness and insanity. Only the lazy in mind and spirit would even ask what do we do after. That question has been answered many times before and we only need to stand up and do a little discomfort to our lazy ass. NOYNOY AND THE REST MUST GO. OUST THEM ALL NOW!

  14. Those 15 million plus people who voted Penoy as president, out of sympathy for the death of Cory Cojuangco-Aquino must come together, bang their heads against the wall, until they are doomed! That’s the least they can do for this country, which has been suffering for voting an autistic person as president. MABUTI NGA SA INYO!! Lalo na kayong mga madre na parang mga gagang nag-iiyak pa upang kumbinsihin si Noynoy na tumakbong presidente, dahil “anak ni Cory”… Ganun lang! Mga buwisit!!!

  15. MNLF was trashed by the AFP during the time of Marcos and was already a spent force after heavy battle losses and defeats and was only able to save its remaining rag tag forces by way of the Tripoli agreement. Cory was the one who rescitated this group from its comatose state when she initiated talks with Nur Misuari. That is a fact. We should have learned from the past mistakes. The same thing is happening with her son through his fascination with a limping MILF that was already crushed by Erap. I can only wonder if this family really is a savior of this country or a curse that we have to bear and endure. And for how long?

  16. Ecclesiastes on

    With the advent of the cursed MADONNA aquino presidencies of mother and son brought about by the insidious planned martyrdom of the blabber ex-senator ninoy aquino by his own yellow cohorts, the country was plunged into the cauldron of ROAD TO PERDITION of pain and suffering. What this country badly needs is an exorcism to expurgate the demons brought about by this curse and restore harmony to this pitiful country of ours…..

  17. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What else is there to talk about. Action is the better antidote. God bless the Philippines.

  18. Thank you Mr Tiglao. I have been following your article since I found you in Manila Times. I left the Philippines since 1983 and visited four times since then. I found your writings very enlightening. The way I look at it, the Philippines is in downward spiral. I hope that Noynoy will be last of the Aquino clan to lead this country. I am ashamed of them, Cory and the son.

  19. Very clear from Almonte’s account who caused this problem. And now the son will insure it for incompetence and stubbornness! Kawawang Pilipinas!

  20. Alejo Rosete on

    Bangsa Moro?

    President BS Aquino’s “SANCTUARY” when he is no longer

    What a “Nobel Prize”! A separate State from the Philippines
    before he steps down.

  21. sonny dela cruz on

    So, the BBL is a payback because President Aquino’s father had an obligation to Misuari to fulfill, at the expense of the country and the life of every Filipino. Very interesting. PNP and the Military, please WAKE-UP!

    • Dominador D. Canastra on

      Maybe it was also an obligation of Corry and Ninoy to Malaysia and the British. It was from Malaysia that Ninoy launched his anti-Marcos attacks for the latter’s CORRECT attempt to disrupt the British – Malaysian control of Sabah.

  22. It is history repeating itself for the Aquinos. Ninoy’s death is Cory’s presidency. Cory’s death is Penoy’s presidency. let us pray to God it will end with Penoy, hence he is single and has no wife and children that may become president as a result of Penoy’s death. Same as Ninoy made a promise to Misuari, Cory commits to Misuari. Cory commits to Murad and Penoy try to uphold at all cost to the detriment of the republic.

  23. Nur Misuari was the creation of Marcos to justify his martial law.
    Fidel Ramos’ peace agreement and arming the muslims was his biggest blunder. Ironically Ramos is a product of the best military school in the world. Arming the enemies is the solution for a lasting peace. What a Big, Big Blunder.

    • I supposed you have not read Mr. Tiglao’s article on how Malaysia started the Mindanao insurgency. Go to the archives then for a more better view.

  24. What an informative analysis and very timely writing that should be read by patriotic Pinoys.The Yellows must be seeing in anger now .

  25. Papaano mapipigilan ito?NTC boss is mr,Gonzales,ang kasabwat ng MILF!kailangan ng 3rd group para mapigil ang dalawang grupo na may kaugnayan sa MILF!
    Aquino at elite ang nagplaplano na wag umulad at lumaya sa kahirapan ang pilipinas upang patuloy nilang makontrol ang yaman ng pinas!
    Communist at Muslim rebel ay sariling katha nila upang ang ang mga pangsarili nila interest, ay wag mawala, inabandona na nila ang communist dahil,mawawala na ang hacienda luisita
    ngayon ay ang MILF naman ang ginagamit nila!