A nation is reborn in the Moro. Though centuries older than the Filipino nation in the North, it is long-lost in the debris and fame of the past. It last reasserted its identity decades after the entry of America. But it was not to claim past glory, rather, it was to unshackle the gory image put on it by colonialism.
In conclusion, I say "thank you" to all of them.
It was widely believed forty years ago that people came to the
Philippines in several migratory waves through land bridges that once linked
the present islands of this country with mainland Asia. They walked dry-shod
into this archipelago with their beasts of burden over these land bridges at a
time, which pre-historians referred to as the Pleistocene or Great Ice Age.
During this period, the waters of the ocean stood 156 feet below the present
levels, thereby allowing many necks of land to protrude above the surface and
form land masses or bridges which enabled the first man to cross into what
would later be called the Philippines.
Centuries after this period the great flood took place. The polar ice thaw increased the volume of ocean waters, causing them to rise to the present levels. Subsequently, all the land bridges were inundated and disappeared from view, and all succeeding migrations were made possible only by the use of boats.
The wave migration theory was first advanced by Spanish friars who speculated on the origins of the Filipinos and the Moros. However, in some of their writings they were inclined to consider the latter as a separate race. In 1882, Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austrian Filipinist, also subscribed to this theory that there were three waves of Malay migrants who came to our islands. But it was Prof. H. Otley Beyer, at one time head of the Anthropology Department at the University of the Philippines, who made this theory very popular and accepted for several decades. Beyer's long years of archaeological research dwelt on retrieving facts of past cultures in the islands mainly from artefacts, bones and other remains. His findings shed light on the cultural, political, economic existence and even the beliefs of peoples.
It was admitted, therefore, as a scholarly theory that there were three waves of migration of peoples towards the archipelago, including Mindanao and Sulu, each wave comprising several or scattered minor movements. The theory held that the first to arrive via the land bridges were the aborigines or first inhabitants. Estimated to have come as early as 21,000 or 22,000 years ago, they were dark-skinned, kinky-haired, short-statured, and primitive in styles. Among this group was the "Java Man," who came first, and was followed by the "little people": Negritos or ''Aetas,'' Australoid Sakai, and Proto-Malays.
Among the next group, after the Great Ice Age, from 3,000 BC onward, were people of the Indonesian stock, who came in two migratory waves by sea from South Asia and settled in the country. They came by dugout canoes or plank-built boats. These Indonesians, taller in height and lighter in skin, introduced bronze and the rice terraces.
The third migrants, who came centuries after the Indonesians, were the brown-skinned, medium-height Malays. They were expert navigators, potters, weavers, blacksmiths and bold adventurers. Most of the Filipinos and Moros today are descended from this group. However, in the case of the latter, it is believed that they first came to Mindanao and Sulu not later than the first century before Prophet Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him).
Additional research on the subject in the last forty years casts doubt on the Beyer's assumption. Geologists, archaeologists, linguists, and prehistorians, in their respective fields, all disagree in one or some of his theory. The main objection to his work is that it was flawed by inadequate evidence, dubious methodology and pure speculation.
One of those who dissented was Dr. Fritjof Voss, a German scientist, who studied the geology of the Philippines. He said the Philippines was never a part of mainland Asia as proven in 1964-67 when a scientific study was made on the thickness of the earth's crust. It was discovered that the 35-kilometer thick crust below China does not stretch to the Philippines. On the contrary, the Philippines sits along a great earth fault line reaching downward to deep trenches underneath.
In 1975, a young Filipino anthropologist, F. Landa Jocano, also criticized Beyer's theory, particularly on the issue of the Negritos as the first inhabitants of the Philippines. He argued that the fossil remains of ancient men whom Beyer tagged Negritos could in no way be conclusively identified as such. He even charged Western colonizers of deliberately fragmenting the population into ethnic groups to advance their colonial interests.'
Newer theories may arise in the future in the attempt to explain this Philippine phenomenon, but seen in the practical side of the lives of the people their value is negligible. For theories, in essence, are largely speculations, or at best, analyses of relation of facts to one another and, therefore, are yet to be proven or confirmed by further studies. What may be heretical today may be revered tomorrow, or vice versa.
The Pre-Islamic Moro social structure had three classes: the datus or chiefs, the commoners or citizens and the slaves. The word datu was both a political function and social status and extended to the incumbent ruler and all members of the ruling elite. Generally, the right to rule hinged on direct descent from the ruling class. In some instances, like exceptional bravery or victory in war, a commoner could become a datu, or in the case of the slave, could buy off his liberty by paying a stipulated amount. The system was not as rigid as that of the caste system of India where no one was allowed to leave the caste into which he was born.
The realm of the datu was more or less equal to that of a village or the Spanish barrio today. However, there was no common term for this political unit for the Moros spoke at least thirteen languages or dialects, most of which were mutually unintelligible. Some say this political unit was called banua4. But this term is clearly Visayan, and therefore, leaves the claim in doubt. Among the Moro dialects and languages, only the Tausog exhibited a commonality with Visayan. Both belong to the central branch of the Australoid language being spoken in this country. In its political connotation, banua means natural environment or a country, a homeland. The banua covered island to island, including the seas thereat, as well as the vegetation. Sometimes one datu allied himself with another to form a confederation of settlements for purposes of constituting a more formidable alliance against a rival datu or datus or for commercial purposes. Generally, datus were of equal status or footing. However, one could emerge superior to the other by force of arms, bravery in war or by physical prowess.
In the beginning, the prevalent method of settling conflicts was by use of force, but later on a code of laws evolved to provide for a more practical way of resolving disputes since warfare was a costly and losing enterprise, especially to the vanquished.
The economy was based primarily on agriculture, although weaving, pottery-making, blacksmithing and fishing were also prevalent. Lands were fertile and vast. However, cultivation was mainly along, the rivers, lakes, coastal areas, plains and valleys. The use of irrigation ditches was extensive. "Slash-and-burn" or swidden farming was popular in the uplands, especially in the dry season.. In commerce, the barter system was in use for money was not yet invented.
The foregoing sketch should be regarded only as an area of the bigger picture. Part of it has basis in history; the rest results from hypothesis about the complex process whereby our ancestors were subjected to or interacted, involving various components such as individuals, goods, ideas, and other factors.
There is evidence that as early as the last years of the fifteenth century, Islam was already gaining headway in many places in the Philippines. It was carried directly from or via Sulu or Mindanao by preachers, traders or voyagers from Borneo who settled among the inhabitants of the islands. In the words of one popular writer:
... It is hard to believe that Manila was once firmly under Muslim heel, Muslims controlled the seat of government, the wealth and the trade up and down the Pasig and around Bai lake and Batangas as well as the sea lanes to Mindanao and Borneo.
The Muslims were the ruling class in Luzon, the rich traders, cultural leaders and missionaries, the ones with the knowhow and the right connections, the literacy and what's more, the right religion.
Aside from Manila, then known as Selurong, Islam had already gained ground in Batangas, Pampanga, Cagayan, Mindoro, Palawan, Catanduanes, Bonbon, Cebu, Oton, Laguna and other districts. Preachers of Islam, all reportedly coming from Borneo, came to teach the natives the rudiments of the new religion. Such Islamic practices as circumcision, reading the Qur'an, avoidance of pork, and the use of Muslim names were already noted among the natives of these districts.
What is Metropolitan Manila today was formerly the bastion of Islam. Manila was ruled by Rajah Sulaiman Mahmud, jointly or assisted by Rajah Matanda, his uncle and Tondo under the rule of Rajah Lakandula. Manila was not only the commercial center but a powerful fort (cotta) was built near the mouth of the Pasig River in defense of the realm.
It was to the islamized natives of Manila that the word Moro was first applied by the Spaniards in 1570 to denote those who professed Islam. Indio first denoted the pagan natives, but was later to include even the christianized. It was only in later years, more specifically in 1578 and after, that the name Moro was generally applied to the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu.
The Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines a nation as, among other related meanings:
(1) a community of people composed of one or more nationalities and possessing a more or less defined territory and government; and
(2) a territorial division containing a body of people of one or more nationalities and usually characterized by a relatively large size and independent status.
The Moro-Spanish War
Indeed, the defeat of Rajah Sulaiman in Manila represented the first chapter in the long years of Moro-Spanish confrontations in the Philippines. The next and final chapter is what we are now about to start.
After the Brunei expedition, Spanish eyes focused on the Sulu sultanate, which was suspected to be in alliance with Brunei. In fact, the two royal houses were related by a series of intermarriages. In the same year, Spain put up a large expedition under the command of Capt. Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, who also commanded the
Brunei campaign, to attack Sulu. Sultan Buddiman Pangiran, then the reigning sultan, resisted the invasion and although the attack was partly successful on the part of the Spaniards but its implication was far-reaching. This was the virtual declaration of war by Spain against the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. As a matter of fact, this was the official beginning of the Moro-Spanish War which was to drag on and remain undecided for 320 long years or until the Spaniards were ejected from the Philippines by the Americans in 1898.
For the Spanish Crown, the war was to subdue a pagan people, to curb "Piracy," to stop the Moros from sealing alliances with other foreign European powers, and to forestall the entry of rivals into the field of the spice trade. Conversion to Catholicism was evidently not in the priority list, knowing too well that the Moros would prefer death to conversion. For the Moros, the war was in defense of Islam, people and homeland. It was a sacred obligation, with an assured place in heaven as a recompense.
The instructions of Gov. Gen. Francisco de Sande to Capt. Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa on the siege of Sulu in June 1578 and Mindanao in April 1596 were the following:
You shall order them Moros] that there be not among them anymore preachers of the doctrines of Mahoma (Muhammad) since it is evil and false and that of the Christian alone is good. And because we have been in these islands so short a time, the lord of Bindanao: [sic] has been deceived by the preachers of Borney, and the people have become Moros. You shall tell that our object is that he be converted to Christianity; and that he must allow us freely to preach the law of the Christian, and the natives must beallowed to go to hear the preaching and be converted, without receiving harm from the chiefs. And you shall try to ascertain who are the preachers of the sect of Mahoma, and shall burn or destroy the house where that accursed doctrine has been preached, and you shall see that it be not rebuilt.
Gov. Gen. Francisco de Sande gave similar instructions to Captain Gabriel de Rivera earlier on January 15, 1579.
Both the Figueroa and Rivera missions 'to Sulu and Maguindanao, respectively, did not accomplish significant successes. Figueroa merely made the Sulu sultan sue for temporary peace, while Rivera failed to establish contact with the chief of the Pulangi (River).
In the meantime, the Spanish government in Manila adopted an official policy to colonize Mindanao. For the purpose, the colonial government and Capt. Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa signed an agreement whereby the latter, in exchange for enormous material benefits and a position to be inherited by a son or heir, would pacify the island of Mindanao and establish a colony in the Pulangi at his own expense.
Accordingly, on April 1, 1596 Figueroa left for Mindanao with fifty war vessels, 214 Spaniards and 1,500 native allies. After three weeks of sea voyage, the fleet reached the mouth of the Pulangi or what the Spaniards called Rio Grande de Mindanao and they started cruising upstream which was tough and exhausting. The river current was swift. They landed at Tampakan, and immediately Figueroa lined up his troops in battle array and delivered a stirring speech:
Soldiers of Felipe! We stand upon the newest soil of Spain. To subdue this dark forest and rid the soil of the infidel Moslem is our aim. They submit as vassals and converts or fall before the Spanish blades. Forward to our duty for King and country."
Few moments later, the jungle shook with the fierce battle that followed. Leading the Maguindanao warriors were the brothers, Rajah Silongan and Datu Ubal. On the Spanish side was Figueroa, aided by Juan de Lara. Clad in body armor, Figueroa sallied forth and barely hat] he taken a few steps when his head was cleft in two by a kampilan, a long and straight-edged Moro cutlass, wielded by Datu Ubal. The loss of their leader demoralized the Spaniards and more so when Juan de Lara, the next in command, hurriedly left for Manila "to report."
The news spread like a prairie fire in Manila. The Spaniards were furious over the death of Figueroa, but the Jesuits were the most aggrieved for they had varied interests in the conquest of Mindanao. They branded the Moros "traitors."
In 1599, the Moros, aware that defensive war was the beginning of defeat, decided to bring the war over into the enemy territory and staged counterattacks. This was what hostile writers fondly called "Moro piracy." The reprisal scheme was to cripple the enemy power base, exact tribute, and to take advantage of the critical situation faced by Spain due to the threat posed by the Dutch.
Quite absurd was the charge of piracy. If there had been incidents of piracy against the natives prior to the start of the Moro-Spanish War in 1578, those were so small in number as to be negligible. However, whatever may have been said on this subject, the truth stands that it was Spain that started the confrontation and it was natural for the Moros to defend themselves and hit back, if and when possible. On the issue of piracy, the Spanish double-standard was bared: If she attacked the Moros she called it "holy war," but if the latter hit back it was "piracy."
The year-round raids conducted by the Moros engulfed the natives in the Spanish-held territories with fear, despair and anxiety. The raiders netted tens of thousands of prisoners, jewelry, precious ornaments, cannons, and other valuable materials. By this time, the Spaniards were already beginning to realize the high price of the bloody venture they had indulged in and if ever they thought of backing out, it was already too late. But the losses of the masters were easily dwarfed by those of the subjects, who were caught between oppression from their masters and attacks by their masters' foes. They were simply sandwiched between two evils.
In one of these raids, where a Jesuit priest, Melchor Hurtado, was captured in 1603 by Datu Buisan of Maguindanao, a very interesting dialogue took place between him and the datus of Leyte. Buisan asked the datus whether they and their people as well as. those of Panay, Mindoro, and Batangas, all Spanish subjects, had been protected by the Spaniards. Of course, the Leyte datus did not need to confirm what was obvious. He urged them that if they joined hands with the Maguindanaos, it would be easy to thwart off the Spanish yoke. As a result, Buisan and the datus entered into a blood compact and they became "ritual brothers."
In another raid in 1627, a Sulu fleet of more than thirty boats of various sizes and about 2,000 men personally led by Sultan Bungsu attacked the Spanish shipyard in Camarines. The garrison was overrun and the raiders captured artillery, guns, ammunition, iron and brass pieces, and 300 prisoners, including a Spanish lady named Dona Lucia. 11 The raiders, after divesting the garrison of all valuables, burned the shipyard.
Scourge of Spain
The crucial point in the history of the Moros came in 1619 when Sultan Dipatuan Muhammad Qudarat ascended the throne of the Maguindanao sultanate. During his reign, the sultanate achieved power and fame unparalleled in the entire history of Mindanao and Sulu. He was gifted with the exquisite qualities of a great leader. He was intelligent, religious, decisive, kind, and just. Holding Spain at bay for half a century and outlasting at least eight governor generals," he was regarded as "providentially created to punish the bad Spaniards." The natives in the Spanish-held territories were ready to do whatever Spain wanted them except "to take up arms against Qudarat." Spain considered him as the single greatest obstacle in the efforts to subjugate the whole of Mindanao. Qudarat's sphere of power and influence, aside from his traditional dominion over the whole of Cotabato, Lanao, Davao, Misamis', Bukidnon and Zamboanga, was so extensive that he was able to collect tributes from the seafaring inhabitants of the coast of Borneo and some areas of Basilan and the Visayas. During his time, the Maguindanao sultanate achieved its golden age.
In view of this awesome situation in the northern islands caused by the Moros under Sultan Qudarat, the Spanish Crown decided to shift the battle arena to Mindanao. Mindanao was ordered to be pacified at all cost. This was in response to the series of victories inflicted by the Moro raiders. In fewer than thirty years, no less than 20,000 persons were taken captive by the Moro marauders and sold to the markets of Batavia, Ternate, Amboina, Makassar, Java and Madras.
.The task of pacifying Mindanao fell on Gov. Gen. Hurtado de Corcuera in 1635. On March 13, 1637, Corcuera left Zamboanga and landed at Lamitan 13 and started the assault immediately. Initially he encountered minor oppositions, but as he and 800 soldiers kept pressing inland and towards the heavily fortified capital, fighting intensified, causing wanton sacrifice of lives. Qudarat himself was wounded and was on the verge of capture, but owing to some "magical powers" attributed to him he was able to slip past the ranks of the Spaniards. One of his wives, holding an infant, threw herself into a cliff to avoid becoming a captive. Lamitan was razed to the ground. Sultan Qudarat lost eight bronze cannons, 27 lantakas (small brass cannon) and 100 muskets, in addition to heavy casualties including 27 followers whose heads were propped up on spikes.
This brief victory of Spain over Qudarat became the origin of the Moro-Moro, a blood-and-thunder play in which the Christians always emerged victorious over the Moros. Since that time the play has become an integral part of all Filipino folk and religious festivals. Corcuera became an instant hero and his return to Manila amidst pompous and colorful preparations, occasioned unending jubilations over the Spanish victory.
The defeat of Qudarat at Lamitan did not weaken his resolve to drive out the Spaniards. To him, this was only temporary and no more than "a year's harvest." In the meantime, he took refuge at the Lake Lanao region, and it was here that he delivered his most famous speech, exhorting the Maranao datus and sultans to carry on the fight:
You men of the lake, forgetting your ancient liberty, have submitted to the Castillians. Submission is sheer stupidity.
You cannot realize to what your surrender binds you. You are selling yourselves to toil for the benefit of these foreigners.
Look at the regions that have already submitted to them. Note how abject is the state to which their people are reduced. Behold the condition of the Tagalogs and of the Visayas whose chiefs are trampled upon by the meanest Castillians. If you are no better in spirit than them, then you must expect similar treatment. You, like them, will be obliged to row the galleys. Just as they do, you will have to toil at the ship-building and labor without ceasing on the other public works. You can see for yourselves that you will experience the hardest treatment thus employed.
Be men, let me aid you to resist. All the strength of my sultanate, I promise you, shall be in your defence.
What matters if the Castillians at first are successful? That means only the loss of a year's harvest. Do you think that is too dear a price to pay for liberty?"
The exhortation found its mark and the lake Moros were back into fighting form and shortly after they attacked and succeeded in capturing the Spanish fort and set it ablaze. The garrison was evacuated and the Spaniards did not return until after two centuries.
Barely a year after his victory over Sultan Qudarat, Gov. Gen. Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera led the invasion of Sulu. On January 4, 1638, 500 Spaniards and 1,000 native allies landed in Sulu. Committed to defend Jolo, the Sulu capital, were warriors who numbered 4,000 including allies from Borneo and Makassar. The confrontation started immediately, and after more than three months of continued fighting, neither side could claim victory. Both suffered heavy losses. On the side of the attackers, five of their finest officers were slain, including an undetermined number of their men. In the end, the conclusion was a negotiated settlement. Sultan, Bongsu agreed to the truce, considering the hopeless situation facing his defenders. They were struck by epidemics, possibly cholera or dysentery.
Qudarat, after a decade, succeeded in 1637 to extend his political sway to almost the whole of Mindanao. This time, even the northern part including Caraga was under his sphere of influence. Sultan Qudarat declared jihad against Spain and invited the rulers of Brunei, Sulu, Ternate and Makassar to unite and join forces with his sultanate in defence of Islam. In response, all succeeding wars with Spain witnessed Borneans, Ternatans, Makassars, and Sulus rallying together for the cause. Thenceforth all expeditions against his sultanate ended in failure. Qudarat died of old age of 90 in 1671.
In the intervening years. from 1663 up to the next half a century, first, in the face of the Dutch victories in the Moluccas and the resultant threat to Manila and, second, by the Koxinga's impending invasion threat, the Spanish Crown found it most imperative to consolidate home defences. Spanish troops serving in the various Mindanao garrisons were recalled to Manila. The main fort in Zamboanga was also abandoned. And as a tactical move, they again negotiated treaties with the sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, obviously to neutralize the Moros while the dangers were still there.
Throughout this period, there was general peace in Mindanao and Sulu and the few remaining missions, such as Caraga and Dapitan, were left unmolested. The prevailing peace also allowed the Maguindanao and Sulu sultanates to consolidate their control over the areas they earlier held and to resume commercial activities with their Malay neighbors, as well as with the Dutch and the English.
The Bloodiest Period
After the twin threats of the Dutch and the Chinese had passed, the Spanish Crown decided to refortify Zamboanga in 1718. Spain also reoccupied other garrisons in Mindanao and Sulu and, upon the insistence of the Recollects, Labo in Palawan was also fortified. Alarmed by this development, the Moros designed new power realignments to meet the renewed Spanish threat head on.
Initially, the Spaniards were cautious, adopting a friendly approach in dealing with the Moros. The new policy was especially felt in matter of religion. The Spaniards abandoned conversion to Christianity as an imposed requirement and to merely asked the Moros to allow missionaries in their areas in exchange for commercial partnership. As expected, the policy did not bear good fruit. The Moros refused to trust the Spaniards. Not long after, hostilities resumed with even more fury and bloodshed.
In 1751, Spain passed a Royal Decree known as the "Privateer System- which marked the beginning of the bloodiest period in the history of the Moro-Spanish War. The decree provided for the encouragement and enlistment of private individuals to organize expeditions against the Moros. The incentives were tempting and rewarding. It stipulated the total extermination of the Moros, burning of everything combustible that they owned, and the desolation of all crops and farmlands. Criminals who enlisted were granted unconditional pardon and all enlistees were exempted from paying tribute and were entitled to four-fifth of the booty. Thousands enlisted for the mercenary expeditions. As anticipated, the results were quick, telling and bloody.
In the face of this threat of liquidation, the natural reaction of the Moros was to meet fire with fire. After decades of lull in the fighting, the Moros had not failed to toughen their war machines, oiled and ever-ready to move into action. Evidently, they had prepared for this day and had much in store for the Spaniards and their allies. Instead of waiting for the adversaries to invade their lands, they conducted foray after foray deep into enemy territory. No place, either in Luzon or in the Visayas, was exempt from the terrible attacks of these fearless raiders. llocos, Catanduanes, Batangas, Manila, lloilo, Mindoro, and everywhere were frequently attacked. Consequently watch-towers and belfries began to dot the coastal lines of the Spanish-held areas to keep a round-the-clock watch for approaching Moro "pirates," whose approach brought that terrible cry: Moros en la costa. Mothers frightened their children to sleep by the mere mention of the word Moro. The name became so dreaded that it evoked such offensive meanings as "pirate," "traitor" or "heathen." For a span of a decade during this period, no fewer than 50,000 captives were taken and many coastal towns were totally destroyed, their population greatly reduced.
Roughly the same degree of destruction on the Moros also took place from both the offensives and counter-offensives of the Spaniards. There were many tales of decimation of lives and property. Sometimes a whole Moro settlement would be depopulated.
On February 27, 1851, Spain launched a massive assault on Jolo, employing of a fleet of one corvette, one brigantine, three steamboats, two gunboats, nine transports, twenty-one barangays, and other boats of different sizes. The attacking force was composed of 142 officers, 2,876 men and about a thousand native volunteers. On the defenders' side were about 10,000 Moro warriors. As usual, Jolo was bombarded first and then the ground assault followed. In the ensuing fighting, the Spaniards reported 34 dead and the Moros 300. Jolo was razed to the ground. However, the Sulu sultan disputed this by saying that only 100 Moros died.
Decline of the Sultanate
More than any factor, the introduction of the steamboat in the Spanish navy was the greatest plus factor that turned the tide against the Moros. The Moro caracaos, 16 however swift, was no match to the Spanish steamship equipped with heavy artillery. Consequently, Spain was able to conduct bigger and more sustained operations against the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. The period witnessed the defeat of the Moros in Basilan, Malabang, and Jolo. One such reversal was scored in Balangingi, Basilan in 1845, against the Balangingi Samals, sometimes referred to by the Spaniards as the "fiercest pirates" of the Sulu seas. After a gallant but futile stand, the Balangingi Samals were routed after seventeen days of bloody combat, and the survivors, mostly women and children, were exiled to Luzon. Many of their descendants are still found in the town of Tomauini, Isabela, but what are left of them can still manage to recite the Islamic formula of faith: "There is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah."
In the meantime, the Sulu and Maguindanao sultanates were besieged by dynastic dissensions. In 1862, after the death of Pulalun, the throne was a toss-up between Jamalul Azam, son of Pulalun, and Datu Jamalul Kiram, a grandson of Sultan Shakirullah. Seeing the split, Spain, without the slightest of hesitation, issued a certificate of recognition to Kiram, though denominating him as the "feudal governor of Sulu and a subject of Spain." This was repeated in 1884, when Spain interfered in the power struggle between Ali ud-Din and Amirul Kiram, both contestants to the throne. Initially, Spain favored Amirul Kiram but later on also began making deal with the former. In the Maguindanao sultanate, the dynastic quarrel was equally disastrous. In about 1731, the reigning Sultan Bayan ul-Anwar was opposed by his younger brother, Jaafar Sadiq, who had earlier in 1710 fled to Tamontaka. Jaafar Sadiq had excellent relations with the Spaniards. He was credited with having allowed the Spaniards to build the first Catholic Church in Maguindanao which stills stands today. The Sultan had a son, Malinug, who by all indications would succeed his father and therefore could frustrate the ambition of the uncle. To shorten the story, a series of clashes ensued which culminated in the second week of March 1733, when Malinug with 700 warriors attacked his uncle's capital at Tamontaka and slew him.
In a bid to break all forms of resistance and to settle once and for all the issue of sovereignty over the Moros, Spain launched on February 21, 1876 what became known as the final Jolo campaign. Gov. Gen. Jose Malcampo personally led the campaign involving 9,000 troops, ten steamboats, eleven gunboats, and eleven transports. Public approval, especially on the issue of religious enmity, was carefully sought to support the campaign. In the forefront of this campaign were the friars of the various denominations: Recollects, Jesuits, Dominicans and Augustinians. 17 Together, they heralded: "The war in Jolo is now a just war, a holy war in the name of religion," or "War and war without quarters or rest for the wicked sons of the Qur'an; war to the death with blood and fire!"
As in the past, the action was preceded by intense bombardment and followed by infantry assaults from all directions. One cotta after another fell in intense and bloody fighting and was put to the torch. In the face of these assaults, the Sultan, warriors and retainers retired to the interior - to fight another day.
Onrush of Juramentado
The decline of the sultanate, its inability to provide centralized and effective defense of the state and religion, paved the way for the emergence of another form of resistance. The task became a matter of individual obligation. This practice was what hostile writers called the juramentado.
The term juramentado was derived from the Spanish verb juramentar, meaning "to swear an oath." It was sarcastically used by the Spaniards and their hirelings to refer to anyone committing suicide or running amuck. Others presented the image of a rushing Moro warrior with shaven hair, fiery eyes and plucked eyebrows, brandishing kris or kampilan to attack infidels until he was slain.
Actually this greatly maligned juramentado was a person who had chosen to fight in the Way of Allah in his individual capacity since, as stated above, the sultanate had ceased to put up an organized resistance against the Spaniards. He was what in the Moro viewpoint was called Sabilillah. The juramentado, after some initiation rituals and proper prayers and the resolve to die for the cause, acted out his part as a sacred duty and when he died in the course of his attack, he became shahid or "martyr" with paradise as his ultimate reward. As with any real Muslim warrior, the juramentado loved martyrdom more than life.
Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, Chapter Ill, verse 103, to those who fight in His path:
Think not of those who are slam in God's way as dead. Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; they rejoice in the bounty of God.
Speaking on this matter, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him!) said in one of his traditions:
In the last day wounds of those who have been wounded in the Way of Allah will be evident, and will drip with blood, but their smell will be perfume of musk.
The fire of Hell shall not touch the legs of him who shall be covered with the dust of battle in the road of God.
The Juramentado was the exact opposite of running amuck or Committing suicide. The juramentado was a volunteer of conscience, with a strong will to fight - and to die - and was rightly guided by the Islamic requirements to strive in the Way of Allah. It is a conscious undertaking and the one committing himself to the task had full certainty of the Almighty's promise of eternal bliss in paradise. In suicide or in running amuck, one becomes senseless and falls into a trance or into the trap of Satan. It is an almost unconscious action resulting from hopelessness. If hostile writers likened the juramentado to the second category, then they not only committed a grave offense against him and Islam but also against the rules of good scholarship.
Twilight of Spain
What must begin must end. In the closing years of the Spanish presence in Mindanao and Sulu, there were radical changes in the state of affairs in Mindanao and Sulu. In 1861, the Spaniards garrisoned Cotabato, which became the capital of Mindanao in 1871. But after a fire and earthquake hit Cotabato the following year, the capital was returned to Zamboanga. This time Sultan Muhammad Makakua, the incumbent sultan, was on the throne with the blessing of the Spanish Crown, but he had lost much of his territory. In Sulu, although Sultan Jamalul Kiram 11 was ruling with many of the previous powers intact, the chiefs at the second level were beginning to assert themselves in the affairs of the realm. At times, the sultan had a hard time promulgating major decisions without the concurrence of his chiefs.
At the decline of the Maguindanao sultanate, various minor sultanates sprang up in the Iranun areas, as well as along the Pulangi. The Iranuns of Malabang, Balabagan, and nearby areas now looked up to the Sultan of Ganassi in the Lanao region as their new master. In the Pulangi, many of these sub-sultanates pledged loyalty to the Sultan of Buayan. Sultan Marajanuddin, who was in turn succeeded in 1865 by his brother, Sultan Bayao of Kudarangan. In 1875, Datu Utto or Sultan Anwaruddin Utto, son of Sultan Marajanuddin, took over as Sultan of Buayan. Datu Utto was married to Rajah Putri, daughter of Sultan Qudaratullah Muhammad Jamalul Azam or simply Sultan Untong. So married, Datu Utto also maneuvered to be declared jointly as Sultan of Maguindanao. Openly, he was supporting the bid of his brother-in-law, Datu Mamaku, brother of Rajah Putri. to become the new Sultan of Maguindanao. But the Spaniards opposed his inclination vehemently. They saw in Datu Utto the making of a "second Qudarat." Datu Utto was able to unite the minor sultanates along the Pulangi, including those of Talayan. Buluan and Kabuntalan. Although he suffered many reversals from the hands of the Spaniards, he remained unconquered up to the coming of the Americans.
In 1888, Gov. Gen. Valeriano Weyler succeeded Gov.Gen. Emilio Terrero. Instead of pursuing the military campaign against Datu Utto, the new Governor trained his attention on the Iranuns and Maranaos. in January 1889, Spanish troops landed in Parang and Malabang. In April 1891, Spanish troops reoccupied Parang. Baras and Malabang and, after fierce clashes especially in the latter. decided in August to resume the campaign against the Maranaos. Thrown into action in this two-pronged attack were 1 , 242 officers and men. Fierce encounters followed. especially in the cotta commanded by Amai Pakpak. In September, the campaign was terminated without conquering the lake Moros.
In March 1894, even after Weyler had left for Manila, the 112 Spaniards pursued the campaign without letup. Pantar, near Marahui, (Marawi), was occupied. The datus of Taraca, Ramain, Maciu and Rumayan felt threatened and, consequently, they cooperated in fortifying their positions around the Agus river. Ambushes of Spanish soldiers and native allies became frequent and, at one time, 65 Spanish soldiers were killed, including one captain. The Spaniards retaliated by killing 35 Maranaos, including five datus. On June 24, about 500 Maranaos attacked 200 Spaniards, losing, however, 200 of their own men.
On March 10, 1895, this time under Gov. Gen. Ramon Blanco, the Spaniards decided to bring the war back to Marahui and, again, they encountered the same Amai Pakpak. In one of the cottas, 175 Moros perished including Amai Pakpak, his son, and 23 datus. The Spaniards lost eighteen soldiers, including two officers, and the wounded reached 197 soldiers, including 21 officers. In this bit of action, about 3,000 Spanish troops and native allies were involved.
In Sulu, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II tried to honor the peace agreement with the Spaniards. This contributed largely to the lack of widespread fighting in his realm, although he kept on procuring arms from Borneo. However, in 1895, the celebrated brothers, Datu Kalbi and Julkarnain, who figured prominently during the American regime, led about a thousand Moros in the attack of Jolo. After some bitter fighting the attack was contained.
This was the state of affairs during the last years of the Spanish presence in Mindanao and Sulu. If Spain was unsuccessful in completely putting down the Moros, it was not the result of faulty, planning or the lack of genuine interest. On the contrary, her entire firepower,. resources and manpower were all utilized to subjugate Mindanao and Sulu- and the Moros were still on their feet, not on their knees. As a fitting tribute to their gallantry and determination to resist even against formidable odds, history has appropriately referred to the Moros as the "unconquered."
Spain came to the Philippines not much for the Cross. In most instances, as the facts of her actuations were gradually exposed, religion was merely used to justify what otherwise was a satanic lust for worldly gain and glory. If she had firmly planted the Cross in the Philippines, she was no less successful in sowing the seed of hatred and animosity between the Moros and the Indios. Even if the 39 christianized natives absorbed the greater part of the misfortune that befell the entire inhabitants of Luzon and the Visayas, this was the consequence of collaboration, even if they did this against their wishes. The long list of Spanish invasions in Mindanao and Sulu showed the participations of thousands of these natives, and their racial brothers - the Moros - found it almost impossible to discriminate the proselytized subjects from the colonial masters. Both were one in creating havoc in Mindanao and Sulu.
CHAPTER IV – MANDATE IN MOROLAND
When the Americans first appeared in the northern horizon in 1898, the Filipino revolution was in full swing. As a young and emerging world power, the United States had to find "excuses" to realize her vast interests in Cuba, which was then under Spain. The sinking of the American warship Marine at Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898 resulting in the death of 246 men provided the U.S. government the necessary pretext to declare war on Spain on February 25 and in the course of which Admiral George Dewey was ordered to proceed to Manila to attack the Spanish Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo. This was the May 1 Battle of Manila Bay, pitting a modern navy versus "veritable leaking tubs." With the Filipino revolutionaries allied with the Americans, the former won victory after victory against the Spanish forces, until on June 12, 1898, after the last Spanish soldier had surrendered, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, unmindful of or notwithstanding the American mindset, proceeded to declare Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite.
If Aguinaldo did not really misread the American intention, but deliberately played a calculated game, then he had blundered. The Americans never had the slightest intention of recognizing his declaration of independence. As a matter of fact, American troops began to occupy strategic areas vacated or surrendered to them by the retreating Spaniards, to the exclusion of the Filipino revolutionaries. As soon as they had gained enough strategic grounds, the Americans intentionally provoked the Filipinos into a shooting war which setoff the start of the Filipino-American War.
At the outset, the Filipinos were made to believe that the Americans came to help to liberate their lands from the Spaniards, after which they would become an independent nation. Untrue to their words, the Americans did not really come to liberate the Philippines for the Filipinos but to acquire a colony in the furtherance of her own imperialist scheme.
In the meantime, the interval between the Spanish evacuation of the Philippines and the arrival of American troops in Mindanao and Sulu was, in a sense, ruled by anarchy. Moro warriors began to attack the Spanish garrisons in Cotabato, Zamboanga, Sulu and Lanao and sometimes wiped out the defenders to the last man.
In Cotabato, Moro warriors began to assault the Spanish garrisons in Pikit, Reina Regente, Tumbao, Cotabato and Tamontaka. One by one, they captured these garrisons. Leading the Moros were Datu Utto, Datu Piang (Amai Mingka), former Minister of Datu Utto; Datu Ali, Piang's son-in-law and Rajahmuda of Salunayan; Datu Ampatuan or Bapa ni Mangacop, and Datu Inok or Amani Giday.
These datus, all of the Buayan dynasty, were conspiring to reassert their supremacy over the region vacated by the Spaniards. The plot was to overthrow the Filipinos who had grabbed power to side with Katipuneros. Eventually this situation led to the fighting along Paseo de Villaeron in Cotabato on January 6, 1899, resulting in the killing of Roman Vilo, Esteban Ortuoste, and a few others.
As in Cotabato, chaos also reigned in Zamboanga after the last Spaniards left. The organization of the counsel that handled the affairs of the district also disintegrated. The church at Zamboanga was ransacked. People complained of widespread robbery and destruction of property. Pro-Katipuneros and those who were not distrusted one another. A known Filipino revolutionary, Melanio Calixto, was murdered by a pro-American named Isidro Midel. Fighting soon flared up between the Filipino insurgents and followers of Datu Mandi, easily the most powerful chief in the district.
The situation in Sulu, although not as extensive, was even worse. The Spanish garrisons suffered terribly and many were decimated to the last soldier, as in the case of the garrison in Tataim in Tay.
Harassments were also severe in the other islands like Bongao and Siasi. The Moro warriors were clearing every island of Spanish troops. Only in Jolo did the Spaniards have a strong garrison.
In Lanao, a similar scenario was unfolding, although_ in a lesser scale. Spanish garrisons, especially in Marahui, were in a state of siege and sporadic attacks and ambuscades became the rule. As a matter of fact, these garrisons were among the first to be evacuated to escape the wrath of the lake Moros.
The American Mandate
The Americans claimed they had a mandate in their coming to Mindanao and Sulu. But who gave this mandate to come to the Philippines, fight the Spaniards, rob the Filipinos of their right to selfrule and the Moros of their homeland. From God, from the American people, from the American politician-capitalists, from the American capitalists or from the naked greed and avarice of Pres. William McKinley.
Pres. William McKinley, after contemplating what to do with the Philippines, told a group of Protestant clergymen at the White House in November 1899:
I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight; and I am not shamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way I don't know how it was but it came: ... That we could not give them back to Spain-that would be cowardly and dishonourable ....
Was this the mandate and was it from God? Why did President McKinley "kneel" before his god only after the destruction of the Spanish armada in Manila and not before he gave the order to Admiral Dewey to attack Manila?
In the early years of his life, President McKinley had attended seminary in a small town in his native Ohio and this might explain his "pietism" and afterward his "pious imperialism." It is a strange coincidence, however, that all colonizing powers rationalized their expansionist policies by calling to the "gods" or by citing "ethnocentric missions." France was also fulfilling her mission civilisatrice when she laid siege on her Indochinese colonies.
In his policy speech to the U.S. Congress in 1899, Pres. William McKinley succinctly expressed:
The Philippines are not ours to exploit, but to develop, to civilize, to educate to train in the science of self-government. This is the path we must follow or be recreant to a mighty trust committed to us.
Again, the cloak of "benevolence" and the "White man's burden" were central to this policy. But for twenty years or so, even after the grant of independence, the Americans still enjoyed the economic parity rights under the Laurel-Langley Agreement, which was only terminated on July 4, 1974.
Let us go back to what had transpired before the final decision to acquire the Philippines as a colony was made. For a full six months, debates on what to do with the Philippines had been going on in Washington. The choice was whether to grant it immediate self-rule or to make it a colony. In the end, a compromise was sealed. The imperialist Republicans and the so-called anti-imperialist Democrats met halfway, and the result, to colonize the Philippines but grant her self-rule at the "earliest feasible time," which took the United States forty eight years to fulfill, or on July 4, 1946 when the Philippine independence was granted.
If there was indeed a mandate - from the god of President McKinley and from the politician-capitalists- this would have applied only to the Filipinas, then comprising only Luzon and the Visayas. The territory of the Moros or ''Moroland'' should have been excluded. As the facts of history showed, Mindanao and Sulu had always been a foreign territory for Spain had never really acquired these islands either by conquest, purchase or any other means. Her sovereignty was never enforced, except inside the confines of her garrisons and fortifications. How on earth could a nation sell a territory she never owned or conquered? One renowned writer, Dr. Onofre Corpuz, had this to say on this point:
By the time the treaty negotiators were parleying in Paris there was no longer any vestige Of Spanish control, possession, or government in Filipinas (that is to say, the Christian part of the archipelago). And Spain never had control, government, nor possession of the Moro territory. It did not have any "suspended sovereignty" because its sovereignty had been terminated.
The Signing of Kiram-Bates Treaty
On the eve of the signing of the Kiram-Bates Agreement, there were three hard postulates that were molesting the minds of the Americans. First, there were still 34,000 armed Moros in the Moro country and the various islands were in such a dangerous condition that no place could be safe for outsiders. The swish of the kris, said an American author, Victor Hurley, was unrestrained. Second, the American occupation forces had a hard time containing the onslaught of the Filipino revolutionaries led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo when the Filipino-American War flared up in Luzon and some parts of the Visayas. And the Americans feared any strategical or tactical tie-up between the northern insurgents and the southern (Moro) warriors. Such an eventuality would have been too hot to handle, even for the best of the American generals. And third, even President McKinley had entertained serious skepticism over the sovereignty of Spain over the Moro country, particularly the Sulu sultanate.
Under the given situation, the Americans had very limited leeway. To ignore the reality of the situation is to court new disasters, prolong and escalate the fighting not only in the northern islands but right in the Moro country. Finally, the Americans chose a political approach by sending Brig. Gen. John C. Bates to Sulu to negotiate a treaty with Sultan Jamalul Kiram II. On August 20, 1899, General John C. Bates, representing the United States, and Sultan Jamalul Kiram 11 signed the Kiram-Bates Treaty. Similar but informal agreements were also made with the Moros of Mindanao. Among the Mindanao leaders who were provided with the same pledge, especially on due recognition of the Moro religion, custom and traditions, were Datu Mandi of Zamboanga, Datu Piang of Cotabato, and Sultan Mangigin of Maguindanao.
The negotiation, with the Sulu sultan was no easy job for the Americans. Right from the start the sailing was delicate, fraught with risks. The American negotiators had to use earnest and tactful diplomacy in order not to antagonize the sultan, who was expecting the surrender of the Spanish garrison, but not to the Americans. He never understood how the Americans had any claim of his realm which was never conquered by the Spaniards. After over a month of unnerving bargaining, the Sultan finally submitted a proposal which expectedly did not fit well with the American wish. However, after some mutual refinements the document was signed.
The Kiram-Bates Treaty was made up of fifteen articles. Some of the salient provisions are as follows:
1. The United States was to be recognized as the sovereign power over the Sulu Archipelago, though the American authorities were to recognize and fully respect the rights and dignity of the Sultan and the datus;
2. The Moros were assured that their religion and customs would not be interfered with;
3. The United States was permitted to occupy such places in Sulu as the public interests demanded, but with due compensation for the owners whose properties were taken;
4. The people of Sulu would have free, unlimited and undutiable trade in domestic products with any part of the Philippine Islands;
5. Crimes of Moros against Moros would be tried under the Sultan's jurisdiction but all other cases were to be tried by the United States;
6. The United States would give full protection to the Sultan and his subjects in case any foreign power should attempt to impose upon them;
7. The Sultan and datus agreed to cooperate in the suppression of piracy;
8. Any slave in the archipelago of Jolo would have the right to purchase freedom by paying to the master his or her usual market value;
9. The United States would not sell the island of Jolo or any other islands of the archipelago to any foreign nation without the consent of the Sultan;
10. The importation of firearms and other war materials was forbidden, except by license of the Governor General of the Philippines; and
11. The United States agreed to pay a monthly salary to the Sultan and nine of his top chiefs or datus.
On April 9, 1900 General Bates informed the Sulu sultan that the agreement was confirmed by the President of the United States except for Article X regarding the practice of slavery.' For its part, the U. S. Congress did not ratify the agreement on the pretext that the Sulu monarch and his people were polygamous.
In the course of time, disputes arose over the interpretations of the provisions of the treaty especially on the aspect of "sovereignty." The term was not only alien to the Moro political terminology but was so "complex" and "intricate" that the Sultan failed to appreciate the far-reaching implications of its Western definition.
Blueprint of Subjugation
Beyond any tint of doubt, the United States did not come to the Philippines in 1898 for the islands of Luzon and Visayas alone but to claim more territories.' Fired by imperialist agenda, her intention to include the Moro country was never suspect. However, the war with the northerners was still raging and any mishandling of the Moros could be disastrous. Even a sort of modus vivendi was in order; and, therefore, as earlier said, the signing of the Kiram-Bates Treaty, more than any other reasons, was a dilatory tactic to neutralize the Moros while the pacification campaign in the northern areas was still underway. Moreover, even before American troops landed in Moro country, the United States already had a comprehensive plan on how to handle the Moros. This involved a wide-ranging strategy with military, political, social, economic, and educational components.
1. Military Occupation - The Americans did not act passively in the face of a possible alliance between the Filipino revolutionaries and the Moros. The decision to occupy Sulu and Mindanao and take over the Spanish garrisons were the first orders: "Relieve the Spanish forces; gradually extend American jurisdiction .... and do this in such a manner as to cause a minimum of friction with the people, for no reinforcements could be expected for a long time."' In May 1899, American troops landed in Jolo, and on October 30 the Military District of Mindanao, Jolo and Palawan (until 1905 was still known as Paragua) was constituted. On November 16, Zamboanga was occupied, and from December 1899 to January 1900, the southern coasts of Mindanao, including Cotabato, Davao, Mati, Polloc, Parang, and Banganga were garrisoned. In charge of this command was Brig. Gen. John C. Bates, but on March 20,1900, Brig. Gen. William Kobbe took over. Afterwards, the status of the command was elevated to the Department of Mindanao and Jolo. In 1902, Brig. Gen. William Kobbe was replaced by Brig. Gen. George Davis, who in October 1, 1902 was succeeded, after a few adjustments in the structure which was renamed the Department of Mindanao, by Brig. Gen. Samuel Sumner on July 10, 1902. A year later, General Sumner was followed by Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, later to become the first Governor of the Moro Province.
At this point, it is worthwhile to state that many of the military officers assigned in the Moro country were veterans of the Indian wars and reservations duty. It was, therefore, frequent that many of the methods in governing the Indians were also tried in the Department of Mindanao. Usually, the authority of the military commander assigned in Mindanao and Sulu was the same as that of the commander at the Indian reservation west of the Mississippi River. Under his command were some hundreds of Apaches, men, women and children, who were all restrained in their liberties and were virtually prisoners. Brig. Gen. George Davis, who succeeded Brig. Gen. William Kobbe, had earlier worked in the Indian territories before his stint here. One such approach resembling the treatment of the Indians was the attitude that "treaties" made with them, who were considered ',savages," were not binding and could be unilaterally abrogated as necessity arises. That action could be easily justified by simple misconduct on the part of the "natives".
In the beginning, the Moros and the Americans were quite at ease with each other, in the way the Kiram-Bates Treaty defined their relations; i.e., there was no direct American interference in the affairs of the local population. There was no aggressive effort to carry on the so-called White Men's burden to develop, "civilize," educate or to train the Moros in the way toward a democratic government. The main concern of the occupation forces was to maintain peace and order in the Moro region. But as more troops poured in, an offshoot of the end of the Filipino-American War in 1901, frictions started to occur between the Moros and the Americans. Customs regulations were enforced, taxes were levied, and land surveys, mapping and exploring missions were increased. Census was also conducted. Consequently, the shift from non-interference to direct rule shaped up with the creation of the Moro Province. The military occupation of Mindanao and Sulu lasted from 1899 to 1903.
2. Direct Rule - The main reason given for the change of approach from non-interference to direct intervention with the creation of the Moro Province was to prepare the Moros for integration into the body politic of the colonial government. The insistence of the Filipino leaders and the American acquiescence was predicated on one point: the importance of the rich natural resources in the Moro country. The direct rule scheme, the Americans alleged, was also to protect the common people from the "tyranny" of the sultans and datus, from the depredations of bandits, to introduce the American concept of justice, to stop the unscrupulous practices of native traders, and finally to implement public projects such as schools, hospitals and wharfs or ports. Slavery was also made illegal. In brief, the direct rule policy, overtly, was to implement the so-called American mandate in Moroland to develop, to civilize, to educate, to train the Moros in the art of democratic governance. But covertly the main motivation was the immediate exploration and finally the exploitation of the vast natural resources in the Moro country.
The Kiram-Bates Treaty was singularly the main obstacle to the implementation of the direct U.S. rule. The treaty clearly laid down the guiding principles of non-interference in the local affairs of the Moros. But the Americans had to get rid of this obstruction if they had to succeed in their grand plan for the Moro country. On March 2, 1904 ' they did exactly what they were expected to do. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, without the slightest conjunction or any moral or ethical consideration, unilaterally declared the treaty null and void. On March 21, Gov. Leonard Wood notified the Sultan of the decision and, naturally. he was displeased, especially when the decision was relayed through someone (Wood) who for years had been teaching them that we must each do exactly what we promise to do. He could not imagine how a government claiming to have come on a "pious mission" could suddenly act so unscrupulously in abrogating the treaty contained in a formal agreement signed by both sides.
Thus, in essence, U.S. policy vis-a-vis the Moros was in line with the treatment of the American Indians whereby agreements made with them were set aside as convenience dictated, without the least hesitation or the slightest compunction. These agreements carried no weight and no binding effects on the Americans on the malicious pretext that the Moros, like the Red Indians, were savages. With the "might is right" credo forming the guiding thrust of the U.S. colonial expansion, this supercilious attitude was more than expected.
However, even before this formal unilateral abrogation, the Kiram-Bates Treaty had practically ceased to exist already, when the Moro Province was created on June 1, 1903. If the Kiram-Bates Treaty was the instrument of indirect rule, the Moro Province was the nail to drive down and establish direct rule in Moro country.
The Moro Province was under the direct supervision of the Civil Governor of the Philippine Islands and the Philippine Commission. The Civil Governor, with the concurrence of the Philippine Commission, appointed the provincial governor, secretary, treasurer, attorney, engineer and superintendent for the Moro Province. The six officials. above constituted the legislative council, which, subject to certain limitations, was the legislative body of the province. The Moro Province was divided into five districts: Sulu, Zamboanga, Lanao, Cotabato and Davao, which in turn were subdivided into several subordinate local governments.
The creation of the Moro Province was deemed the transitional machinery for the shift from military to civil rule in the Moro territory. in actual operation, however, it was no less than what the Spaniards conceived earlier as the Politico-Military Province. All throughout its existence, the Province was controlled and manned by military personnel. And this being a military government, such guidelines as "to cut the Moro foot to fit the American shoe" was central in the so called "civilizing" mission of the military administrators of the Moro Province from 1903 to 1913.
The first governor of the Moro Province was Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood. As governor of the province, he adopted a "mailed fist" policy or simply the use of brute force to quell even a minor military problem. His background either as military man or political leader was far from desirable. As officer of the Rough Riders regiment, he first saw action against the Indians and then against the Spaniards in Cuba in 1898.
On both stints, there was much destruction, mass slaughter and brutality. After the Spanish-American War, he was appointed military governor of Cuba, and after his term ended in the Moro Province, he was made Governor General of the Philippine Islands. Throughout his career either as a military officer or politician, he was known to have had little regard for human life. He acted with a martial temperament, said to be the outcome of his ignominious defeat to Warren Harding in a presidential nomination.
As first governor of the Moro Province, Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood had the primary task of organizing the province along the rationale of direct interference in the affairs of the Moros. Already prejudiced to the absolute correctness of the American outlook and ways and the rightness of the mandate over the "good-for-nothing" Moro laws, General Wood proceeded to discharge his official responsibilities though, in fairness, firmly and with enthusiasm -with much predilection against the general welfare of the Moros. He introduced laws which were not only unpopular but exacerbated resistance to the American presence in Mindanao and Sulu. In his characteristic 11 arrogant" ways, he bluntly told the Sulu Sultan on the eve of the abrogation of the treaty:
I am going to be frank with you. At present, your rights as a nation are nothing ... I believe we are here forever, unless some greater country comes and drives us away; we do not know of any such country.
On April 16, 1906, General Wood was relieved of the post and Brig. Gen. Tasker Bliss succeeded him as governor of the Moro Province. General Bliss never fought in the Indian wars or in the Spanish-American War. He was more of a scholar rather than a soldier and, moreover, was as "peacemaker." It was his primary concern in war to end it rather than to prolong the agonies and sacrifices of its victims.
In November 1909. Brig. Gen. john C. Pershing took over as governor of the Moro Province and lasted up to December 15, 1913, when the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was created. Like General Wood, he was a veteran of the Indian wars and the Spanish- American War, and later in Mexico against Pancho Villa. A year after his stint in Mindanao. he was appointed commander of the World War 1 American Expeditionary Force in Europe.
During his term as head of the Moro Province, he was responsible for the creation of the first Christian colony of settlers in Mindanao in 1912. Although he continued the educational programs of his predecessors, it was under him that the number of Moro children increased. However, disarmament of the Moros was his major achievement. Under him, the Province greatly progressed, particularly in ways of the American system of governance which eventually led to the appointment of the first civilian rule in Mindanao and Sulu.
On December 13, 1913, Frank C. Carpenter was appointed the first civilian governor of the Moro Province, which later on was named Department of Mindanao and Sulu on March 13, 1914. Aside from the five provinces already under administrative jurisdiction of the Moro Province. two more provinces were added, namely, Agusan and Bukidnon. Both the Moros and the so-called "wild tribes" or "pagans," the inhabitants of the two provinces added, were now lumped together under this office.
Frank Carpenter, a Nebraskan, joined the army in 1888 and became Secretary of the Army in 1895. Four years later. he was appointed secretary to General Lawton in the Philippines and thereafter was appointed Assistant Executive Secretary and. later. as Executive Secretary of the Insular Government. He learned to speak Tagalog and Spanish very fluently and was endeared among the Filipinos. He was remembered for many highlights, among which were the signing of the Carpenter Agreement In 1915, the filipinization of the offices. the adoption of the "policy of attraction," and the sending of scholars or pensionados (including Moros) to the United States for higher studies.
In 1916, the legislative power over the Moro country was transferred to the Philippine Legislature as per stipulated in the Jones Law. By 1920, the control of the Moro Affairs, except for a few positions held by Americans, was in the hands of the Filipinos.
On February 5, 1920, the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was formally abolished by Act No. 2878 of the Philippine Legislature and, in its stead, the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes was organized. Teopisto Guingona, a native Christian, succeeded Carpenter as Director of the new office. In 1936, a further change was effected with the renaming of this office into the Commission on Mindanao and Sulu with Dansalan, Lanao as its headquarters. The Commission was headed by a Commissioner with the rank of Undersecretary in the Department of Interior and Labor. The arrangement continued until the invasion of Japan in 1942.
The policy of direct rule, if one may gloss over the narration thus given, may well be seen that, as far as their viewpoint was concerned, the Americans had done the best they could under the circumstances. They did not and would not have satisfied the Moros because they disagreed with the Moros in almost everything except perhaps "to fight" - but as far as their self-styled mandate was concerned, they had delivered it well. Before 1920, the Americans I lad made all decisions in the affairs of the Moro country, but after this time the Moros and the pagans were left completely at the "mercy or tyranny" of the Christian Filipinos.
3. Scorch-Earth Policy - As discussed earlier, the American occupation forces had a clear policy on the Moros: neutralize them while the Filipino-American War was still raging in the northern provinces and, after that, extend American control and sovereignty over the Moro country by all means and at all cost. This "scorch earth" policy was shown in their military campaigns against recalcitrant datus and sultans all over Mindanao and Sulu.
In the 1903 official census, a distinction was made between the "civilized" and "uncivilized" and the Moros were placed under the latter category together with the wild tribes or pagans. In describing the Moros, General Wood, in a letter to Gov. William Taft on October 9, 1903, said:
The people of this island are Mohammedans. Their faith teaches them that it is no sin to kill Christians and they are taught by the priests to believe it is commendable. They are nothing more or less than an unimportant collection Of pirates and highwaymen, living under laws which are intolerable ....
Earlier in 1902, Brig. Gen. George Davis in his official report to Gen. William Kobbe said: It is useless to discuss a plan of government that is not based on force, might, and power."" In 1903, Capt. John Pershing also referred to the Moros as 'savage". Impressions like these had greatly helped shape the early policy of the United States in relation to the Moros.
We shall endeavor to discuss this policy in this section where brute force was used in what otherwise was a simple pocket military problem. The fights that constituted what we refer to as the MoroAmerican War will be discussed in another section.
There is nothing more bloody, if only to show how this policy of brute force was carried out to the hilt, than to recall what transpired in Bud Dajo in 1906, Bud Bagsak in 1913, and to the Alangkat Movement in Cotabato in 1926-1927. All three were essentially not military confrontations but simple cases of massacres.
Bud Dajo is an extinct volcano six miles from Jolo. It is covered by dense tropical jungle and is 2,100 feet above sea level. Ensconced in the crater were over a thousand Moro men, women, children armed only with krises, spears, aging rifles, and a few cannons. Laksamana Usap, the leader, and his followers were up in arms on issues they believed wrongly imposed on them. One was the payment of the cedula tax, which resembled the "tribute" of yore and which the Moros were not accustomed to give. The defenders occupied a very strategic position, probably the "strongest" ever defended against the occupation forces in the Philippines. Most important of all, they were making a defense "unto death." The American assault forces, numbering 790, were under the command of Col. Joseph Duncan, and consisted of infantry and cavalry, an artillery battery, constabulary troops, sailors, and a gunboat anchored offshore.
Before the actual combat. the Moros - women already dressed in men's clothes and in full battle gear - were asked to "surrender" or at least send down the non-combatants. The reply was a complete defiance. The Moros were seething with hatred and rearing to fight.
That early morning of March 6, 1906, General Wood was in Jolo to get things done personally. He had no other plan to settle the issue than to use force against poorly-equipped but gallant warriors. The battle started. It continued on the following day where the major phase of the fighting was fought. There was bloody hand-to-hand fighting and after two days of combat, on March 8, the slaughter. as expected, was terrible. Of the more than 1,000 defenders, only six survived, while the Americans suffered 21 slain and 73 wounded, including Colonel Duncan.
General Wood was severely criticized for the carnage, where even women and children were not spared. Critics pictured him as "blood-thirsty monster difficult to parallel in history." But as expected, his boss in Washington, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, cabled his congratulations: "Upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they [his men] so well upheld the honor of the American flag-
The carnage could have been averted if only the Americans had observed restraints and paid due regard to the inviolability of human life enshrined in the United States Constitution. Several letters and pleas were addressed to Gov. Leonard Wood against a military solution, but he ignored all these pleas. His conscience, if any, did not bother him in the least.
Seven years after, American hands were again dripping with Moro blood in Bud Bagsak. The central issue was the disarmament policy of Brig. Gen. John Pershing, who succeeded General Wood as Governor of the Moro Province. The Moros resisted this vigorously. After some extended negotiations, the Moros led by Naqib Amil, Datu Jami and Datu Sahipa declared that they would never surrender their firearms. General Pershing would settle for no less and branded the Moros "outlaws" and "desperados."
Bud Bagsak is another extinct volcano not far from Jolo. Five hundred Moro warriors were encamped in the crater and swore to die rather than submit. Before the battle began, the crater was subjected to "murderous" bombardment, and soon on June 11, 1913, the action commenced. Five days of combat action, mostly hand-to-hand, ensued, and on the final day, June 15, the record of the fighting was made and the result, again, as anticipated, was that nearly all of the 500 Moros were killed or wounded versus 14 killed and 13 wounded on the American side. One report said 2,000 Moros were killed, including 196 women and 340 children."
The defenders of Bud Bagsak were completely routed like their counterparts in Bud Dajo, but the spirit of the Moros to resist did not die with them.
It is noteworthy to relate here the introduction of two new ingredients in the fighting. First, the Moros devised a new weapon in their last-ditch desire to fight the Americans in every way. This was the use of logs fastened to the slope of the volcano and let loose on the advancing enemy. According to a local tradition attached to the alleged military exploits of Sansawi, a member of the Moro Company or Scouts fighting on the side of the Americans, this caused many injuries even death to the attacking American soldiers. Another was the participation of this newly-formed 52nd Company of the Philippine Scouts, otherwise known as the "Moro Company." Members of the unit were required to wear the red fez (a Turkish cap) with either a gold or black tassel.
On March 23, 1927, the final assault was mounted on the members of the Alangkat Movement or what the Americans called "Dance craze." The movement was largely a Manobo affair under Datu Mampurok of the Arumanon Manobo and crudely devised against the influx of Christian settlers into Mindanao. The contingent under the command of Major Gutierrez and Colonel Stevens came to the Manobo settlement (located at present-day Midsayap, North Cotabato) and started shooting indiscriminately. The result was a massacre. Datu Mampuroc, and 29 other Manobos, including women and children, were killed en masse.
Datu Mampuroc had many followers in Lebak, Talayan, Dulawan and other areas in Cotabato. According to their belief, Datu Mampuroc was Datu Ali reincarnated, who came back to earth to continue the war against outsiders who were out to drive out the natives. The ceremony was weird. Members underwent a state of suspended animation or went in deep trance, after which they engaged in wild sex orgies or went in warpath to kill people, especially Americans or Christians.
4. Creation of Colonies - The next scheme to contain the Moros was the creation of colonies. The first formal plan to settle Mindanao with Christian settlers, as noted earlier, started in 1912 during the time of Brig. Gen. John C. Pershing as Governor of the Moro Province. The main reason for the resettlement plan was the alleged overpopulation in the northern areas. Other reason given was that the Cotabato Valley needed settlers if it was to produce rice in larger or commercial quantities.
In the same year, the first Christian rice colony, consisting of 100 families from Cebu, was relocated in Cotabato. They were promised to own the land eventually. Pershing emphasized that a well managed Filipino colony in the heart of the Moro country, as an example, should act as a stimulus to Moro agriculture.` They were practically provided with everything. free of charge, and there were other incentives to lure others.
However well-intentioned General Pershing was, but all his theories, save the production of rice in a wider scale, were a farce. There was no over-population in Luzon and the Visayas and the Moros were not encouraged to be productive, at least not as it was supposed to be in Pershing's mind. On the contrary, with the influx of wave after wave of settlers, the Moros were forced back to the wall and, not long afterwards, violence erupted. Similar to the 1899 "holy mission," the arbitrary settlement of these "alien" people had a direct disastrous consequence on the native inhabitants whose priority rights were not considered or attended to. This policy was reminiscent of that unscrupulous and amoral political theorist of the 15th century, Nicollo Machiavelli (1469-1527). Machiavelli was an advocate of trickery, treachery, and dishonesty in statescraft, and at one time was "identified with Satan." He declared that a country can be effectively colonized by settling there people of the colonizing power. This bit of advice was apparently heeded by the Americans in Mindanao and Sulu as it was by the British in Ireland. The Americans settled alien Filipino elements in Mindanao and Sulu just as the British Crown planted Protestant outsiders in Ireland.
Before 1913, the Americans had no fixed plan for creating settlements in Moro country. Although the lure of lands in the Moro country, tagged as another "Wild West" and inhabited by wild savages, was intense, there were many obstacles on the way. First, serious fighting was still going on and things were in a precarious condition. Second, there was no consensus as to which group of people, Italians, Negroes, Greeks or Filipinos to settle. Adding to this difficulty was the hot and humid climate prevailing in the region. And third, the free flow of the American dollars as capital for business ventures did not come to the Moro Province until the later part of the second decade of this century. B.F. Goodrich started operations only in 1919, Del Monte through a subsidiary in 1925, and Goodyear in 1929.
As a result of the explosive Negro Problem in the United States, the American blacks became the priority in the still nebulous settlement plan. By settling them somewhere, the Americans were actually defusing one of their serious racial problems at home. Moreover, the Negroes, having come originally from the usually arid African continent, would have little difficulty in adjusting themselves to the tropical climate in the Moro region.
In 1939, Pres. Manuel Quezon even had a special concept of settlement in mind by proposing to plant Jews who were running away from the gas chambers of Adolf Hitler. His Jewish contact suggested that after the settling of the Jewish refugees a law should be passed banning all other foreigners in the Commonwealth. The special target, without pinpointing it, was the Japanese who then posed the greatest problem to the state before World War II. He had in mind Lake Lanao in Mindanao as the favored site. However, had his idea - some said a "misdirected magnanimity" - materialized, he could have created another Palestine in Mindanao. Quezon might have been moved by the savagery and horrors of the Nazis, which is natural to any rational human being. But the question is, why did he fail to consider the outcome of his "generosity" right in his own backyard? No less than 10,000 Jews mostly from Germany and Austria were involved in the proposed settlement project.
There is no intention of listing all the ideas or proposals for settlement in the Moro country. Certainly there were many more. However, two such ideas bear mentioning. In 1899, there was a proposal from a certain C.A. Muir of Weatherford, Texas that a settlement of 1,000 Texas farmers and mechanics be established in Mindanao to induce others from depressed communities in the U.S. to follow. They were offered many. incentives. In the same year, there was another plan from W.G. Douglas of Baltimore to parcel lands in the Philippines (including Mindanao and Sulu) into colonies. Each colonist would be extended help and easy loans.
In the successful migration and settlement of outsiders in the Moro region resulted in the dislocation, dispossession, containment and "minoritization" of the Moros. They became virtual strangers in their own lands.
5. Policy of Attraction - There was one clear-cut aspect of the American policy vis-a-vis the Moros which contributed largely to the general atmosphere of peace in Mindanao and Sulu; i.e., the policy of attraction. History has proved that the Moro psyche would respond to love with love - and to force with force - which was not always natural to man. Other people would submit if force were applied. The Moro would not. His amor propio, his dignity, his maratabat would urge him to resist for it was dishonorable to surrender.
The policy was formally inaugurated after the termination of the military rule from 1899 to 1913. It was one of the cornerstones of the administration of Frank C. Carpenter when he became the Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. In essence, it was nothing but an appeal directly to people's natural interests or aesthetic sense. In practice, it involved the extending of scholarships, building of schools, hospitals, construction of roads, bridges, and artesian wells. The Americans also resorted to "dollar diplomacy" or doleouts, giving posts in the government, arranging pleasure trips and the excessive use of praise or flattery.
In the end, this policy mesmerized the minds of the Moros, which were the final target; it gradually penetrated into their society as a whole, benumbing their sense of national identity. The hands that firmly grasped the deadly krises and spilled so much blood were now trained to seize the pens and indite encomium eulogizing the erstwhile enemy-and-now masters. Exactly as it had been planned, those who were enamored of this policy or those who had availed of the pensionado program and studied in American schools, by and large, became the foremost exponents of the American system and colonial interest. These elements, fawning on their masters, went to the length of despising their own people and institutions, and in many ways, religious zeal was snapped out for worldly pleasures and other mundane matters. As a result, the epoch marked the fashion of naming Moro children after American monickers, such as Mcnutt, Pershing, Carpenter-etc. It also gave birth to the self-defeating attitude popularly referred to as "colonial mentality of preferring everything of foreign, nay American, origin. For the sultans, datus and other chiefs, the power of praise and flattery, doles and donations were masterly utilized to neutralize and finally to win them over to the side of the Americans. On several instances, datus or groups of datus and other chiefs, particularly those seething with deep-seated antipathy to the American rule, were brought to Manila and other provinces and in some instances even to America on "educational tour" or as guests of the government. The purpose of these trips were no less than to convert them into government spokesmen upon their return home. Two of those invited were Datu Alamada (Amani Boliok) and Datu Ampatuan of Cotabato, who both figured prominently in the early wars with the American occupation forces. The number of public schools increased and attendance was made compulsory. Sons and daughters of Moros were sent to Manila or Washington on scholarship grants or as pensionados. Upon their return, they carried with them new world outlooks based on the American value system and beliefs. Public works expanded and field dispensaries and hospitals were made available. Moros were appointed, though in a small scale, to offices and their lands began to be titled in their names. Moros also "participated" in agricultural colonies.
In all these efforts, the net result was not "moroizing" the Moros but "filipinizing" them in order to pave the way for the integration of the various islands into one unified state once independence is granted.
Moro Actions and Response
We have stated that the presence of the Americans in Mindanao and Sulu was a direct challenge to the independence and authority of the still "unconquered" Moros, numbering about 335,000 by modest estimate. They viewed the move toward integration the White Men's renewed attempt to subjugate and christianize them. This move. they could not tolerate or allow to happen, even if they had to go to war, as what their forebears had done for many centuries.
The Moros took the threat seriously. As they were not trained to bow down in shame, it was now the American's turn to decide whether to back off or take the square dare they had hurled forward. However, for the purpose of this discussion, let us classify into two the forms of struggle of the Moros during the American regime, namely, the armed and the parliamentary. In this section, let us deal with the armed struggle first. But before doing so, let us note that these two forms of struggle appeared to lack coordination by a central leadership in the pursuit of common formal political objectives. The main reason for this deficiency, perhaps, is the superior handling of the problem by the American colonial administrators, who had fully grasped the intricacies of the southern problem, as well as the various errors of the Spaniards, and then succeeded in adopting an almost flawless policy as far as their imperialist agenda in Mindanao and Sulu were concerned.
1. Armed Struggle - There were several factors which ignited the Moro-American War. First, the Moro's mental frame of struggle against foreign encroachment did not slacken at the disappearance of the Spaniards. The fighting itself merely had an impasse, thanks to the superb diplomacy of the Americans, which they employed while their hands were full in their war with the Filipino insurgents in the northern areas. For their part, especially of the sultans and datus, the Moros were studying the situation closely and were not in the rush to make hasty decisions. Second, the American total disregard of the policy of non-interference in favor of direct handling made the prospects of war a matter of time. The Moros were not used to be commanded by outsiders and could not accept any infringement of this tradition. Third, the two conflicting world realities - from the Moro side that the Americans were "infidels," " secularists" and "invaders," and from the American side, that the Moros were "savages," "fanatics" and "pirates" - hastened early conflicts. One considered the other as threat and, therefore, must be disposed off as soon as possible. And fourth, such activities of the American forces like land surveys, census, curtailment of slaves and disarmament resulted in an early face-to-face contact with the Moros, especially those who hated outsiders. In summation - and this is the bottom line - the Moros wanted to preserve their independence and sovereignty over their lands from foreign interference.
As early as May 1899, despite the Kiram-Bates Treaty, trouble already erupted in Mindanao and Sulu. The main reason was that the next-level chiefs, after seeing that the sultans were giving in too much to the dictates of the Americans, started to assert themselves. Very soon, serious military confrontations flared up in various parts of the Moro country. These events led one American writer, J. Ralston Hayden, to comment that never during the entire continental expansion of the United States had armed encounters been so frequent and serious as that between the Moros and American troops.` The Moros' bold display of heroism, bravery and determination, even against formidable odds, spoke of their undying spirits to fight for their religion, people and lands. The living legacy to this was the invention of the 1911 .45 caliber pistol, which was specially designed to stop the juramentado dead on his track. Earlier, American soldiers used the.38 caliber revolver as sidearm and, although it was effective against the Cubans it was not sufficient against the Moro warriors who could still lunge at their adversaries with their krises and inflict casualties. The extent of the ferocity of combat and the distraught condition of the American occupation forces could be reflected in one of their most favourite expressions: "The only good Moro is a dead Moro." No less than 20,000 Moros were killed in actions from 1899 to 1916. From 1904 to the end of General Wood's term as Governor of the Moro Province in 1906, the Moros suffered 3.000 dead as against 70 Americans."
There is no attempt here to document all the engagements in the Moro-American War. The record would fill hundreds of pages. Consider that in just less than three years of General Wood's rule, there were already more than a hundred confrontations that took place, some hard-fought. For this reason, the major confrontations would perhaps suffice for this narration.
As early as April 1902, a large-scale engagement occurred in Bayang, Lanao. About 1,200 American troops were thrown into action against the 600 warriors of Sultan of Bayang and of nearby settlements. The Moros were encamped in their cottas (forts) with brass cannons emplacements. For the first time, the Americans had a taste of the horrors of the on-rushing juramentados who simply refused to fall after being hit repeatedly. The fighting protracted until May 3. Report of the fighting showed that the U.S. troops suffered ten killed and 41 wounded as against 300-400 Moros slain, including the sultans of Bayang and Pandapatan. In honor of a fallen young American lieutenant, Camp Vicar was erected near the scene of the fighting. Capt. John Pershing was later appointed the new commanding 'Officer of the camp. Upon assuming the post, Pershing, nicknamed "Black jack," immediately started to implement plans for the eventual recognition of the U.S. sovereignty over the lake Moros. The lake Moros interpreted this as no less than an act to subjugate them and to convert them into Christianity. They warned the Americans to leave immediately or face the dire consequences. A series of bitter engagements followed that lasted up to February 1908. So beleaguered were the Americans that in Dansalan (Marawi) they could not cross Keithley Road "without being shot at." At one time District Governor Allan Card, the first civilian Governor of Lanao, was wounded in an ambush in Maciu in February 1908. But because of American vast resources, superior weaponry and battle tactics, the final outcome of these engagements always favored the newcomers: 300 Moro casualties versus only about 30 Americans dead or wounded.
Leading the Lanao resistance was the shrewd and brave Datu Ampuan Agaus who outwitted the Americans several times and. despite his many reversals, he was still up in arms until the middle of 1916. Out of the deaths, havoc and destructions in these bloody encounters, Pershing was not only promoted from Captain direct to General and thus bypassing 862 senior officers, but was also hailed as a "hero" and "military genius."
In Cotabato, the most celebrated anti-American resistance was spearheaded by Datu Ali, Rajahmuda of Salunayan and later of Buayan, and his brother, Jambangan. Datu Ali was supposed to succeed Sultan Anwaruddin Utto as Chief of the Buayan sultanate, but for some reasons Datu Piang or Tuya Tan, his father-in-law, had become the most popular chieftain in Cotabato when the Americans arrived in December 1899. Mingka, the daughter of Datu Piang, was however married to Datu Ali, who was raising the flag of resistance against the cedula tax and anti-slavery campaign of the Americans. Datu Ali's bravery and determination became known far and wide. He did not only succeed to raise the flag of resistance in the entire Cotabato Valley but also attempted to persuade the Lanao Moros to join hands with him in fighting the Americans.
In early March 1904, General Wood personally led the attack of Datu Ali's main cotta at Kudarangan which, according to account, was the largest ever constructed" and could garrison "four or five thousand men" and was defended by eighty-five pieces of artillery, including a 3 to 5 1/2 inches caliber." After a bitter fight, the fort was captured and Datu Ali and 260 followers retreated to Salunayan. In May 1904, it was Datu Ali's turn to even the scores with the Americans, who were not familiar with the terrain of the marshland and the terrible bites of mosquitoes there. In his diary, Wood recorded their encounter with mosquitoes:
I don't think anywhere in the world have I ever seen mosquitoes as thick as they were at this place. The men were almost crazy. There were countless millions of mosquitoes so thick it was impossible to protect oneself against them, or sleep. Some wrapped their hands in blankets and others sat over the fire until the smoke so hurt their eyes and nostrils that they had to get away, and as soon as they left the fire the mosquitoes attacked them. I think two nights here would have destroyed the efficiency of the command and probably resulted in several cases of temporary madness.
In a classic example of guerrilla tactic, Ali and his men succeeded in luring the American troops into the Liguasan Marsh where a well aid ambush led to the massacre of nineteen soldiers, including two officers, and the capture of several others. The captives were later released.
Finally on October 22, 1905, Capt. Frank R. McCoy led an expedition of combined army and scouts of the 22nd Infantry and Philippine Scouts under cover of darkness and sneaked deep into his hideout near Malala River not far from Buluan to surprise Datu Ali and his men. Datu Ali and scores others perished in this attack. What made the mission easier was the "treachery" of Datu Inok or Amani Gallery, husband of Bagungan, who tipped off the Americans on Datu Ali's hideout. Earlier, Bagungan was abducted by Datu Ali, which enraged the husband and made him turn against his former companion in the resistance.
Even before 1903, a series of confrontation raged in the Sulu archipelago. The most serious were those led by Panglima Hassan in alliance with many minor datus in October of that year. Panglima Hassan was of humble origin but he was gifted with intelligence and determination. He was so influential that he could easily muster 500 warriors within hours notice and many more in days. The Americans accused him of slavery and banditry, the normal crimes imputed to other anti-American campaigners elsewhere in Mindanao and Sulu. Eventually Panglima Hassan, already fed up with the American hostile ways, decided to confront the Americans anew. With about 400 followers, including women and children, he assaulted the American troops stationed in Jolo. The fighting lasted the whole day resulting in heavy casualties on both sides, especially on the attackers. By then reinforcements under the command of General Wood arrived in Sulu. Soon the Americans mounted counter-offensives. The main fort of Panglima Hassan near a lake was besieged from all directions and a gory hand-to-hand fight followed. After days of continuous fighting, the fort was overran, Hassan overwhelmed and captured. But after a masterly stroke of genius, Hassan escaped, leaving behind many casualties among his captors, including Maj. Hugh Scott, who was wounded.
The struggle of Panglima Hassan was shortlived. On March 4, 1904, he was martyred at his hideout atop Bud Bagsak. But the Americans found in him a ferocious fighter who never hesitated to throw himself in battle, even against a superior enemy. After his martyrdom, his followers led by Datu Pala continued the resistance until November 1905 and declared a jihad to drive out the infidel Americans.
Many more resistance fighters came forward. One was the famous Jikiri, known as the "Terror of the Sulu Sea." Branded by the Americans as a "bandit," he was, to the Moros, a kind of "RobinHood." He slashed the throats of the Americans and their local lackeys, got their properties and distributed them to the people and his men.
Like Panglima Hassan, Jikiri had a lowly beginning. He once served the Sulu sultan as a betel-nut bearer. Early in his rebel life, he had a small band of followers of just seven, but in due time this grew in size. In 1907, his fame as a "pirate" began to cause much trouble to the Americans in Sulu, then under Governor Alexander Rogers, who soon raised the reward money to P 4,000 to get him "dead or alive." Jikiri was not only brave; he was elusive to his pursuers and to hit back at his pursuers with rage and impunity. He was particularly a terror to the pearling rights grabbers; in fact, they were the main reason for his resistance. No less than Sultan Jamalul Kiram 11, on his visit to Washington in September 1910, told Pres. William Taft that Jikiri's banditry was due to the violation of the traditional rights of the people over the pearl beds of Sulu."
After two years of hit-and-run confrontations, the end of the road for Jikiri came on July 4, 1909. A combined American cavalry, infantry and artillery assaulted the cave at Patian Island, ten miles from Jolo where he and his men perished after a fierce hand-to-hand fight.
In August 1913, the Moros of Talipao on the Jolo Island refused to pay the road tax imposed on them by the Americans. Led by Datu Sabtal, they fortified themselves around the slopes of Mount Talipao. Their refusal led to a series of engagements between the group of Datu Sabtal and the Philippine Scouts.
In 1914, Datu Alamada or Amani Boliok of Pedatan, near Parang, defied the Americans. With a following of 3,000 men, women and children, and possibly even more, the slippery Moro chieftain fought many engagements with the Philippine Scouts and Constabulary troops. In his many skirmishes with Capt. Allen Fletcher, the commanding officer of the American outfit, Alamada was always on his feet and on the run. His feats were very colorful in the beginning, but Moro culture would not give credit to those who bowed down in shame by surrendering to the enemy. Datu Alamada surrendered to the Americans on May 19, 1914. As can be noted, serious armed confrontations with the Americans continued after 1914. Datu Ampuan was still fighting the Americans up to 1916. Military operations failed to break up his determined effort to fight the colonial rule.
In 1923, armed confrontation exploded in Tugaya, Lanao when a group of Moros revolted against forced education imposed upon their children to attend American schools, which they suspected to be an instrument of conversion to Christianity. The resistance was cut short at the death of the leader and 54 of his followers in the series of armed engagements that followed.
The same year, Datu Santiago and some Constabulary deserters who joined him created much unrest in the Parang region of Cotabato. Resorting to a hit-and-run fighting, Datu Santiago and his men were able to inflict considerable casualties on pursuing government troops, now already under Filipino leadership. Like any resistance leader, Datu Santiago could not understand why he had to pay the cedula tax for staying in his own ancestral place. He was also bitter about the forced education and the excesses of the Constabulary troops. Fighting in a very favorable terrain, he was able to hold on until 1925, when a fierce encounters took place resulting in the loss of several hundreds of his followers. Unable to sustain the resistance indefinitely, he finally surrendered to the government.
Again, trouble erupted in Sulu in 1927. Datu Tahil, a veteran of the Bud Bagsak incident, where he lost his wife and child, refortified the hills of Patikul. After many encounters that started in January and claimed the lives of forty of his men and after a brief escape, he decided to make peace with the government even against the wishes of his clan. This angered even his own sister "who wished him death."
In the meantime, the Philippine Commonwealth Government was established on November 15, 1935 with Manuel L. Quezon as the first President. Barely six months after, in June 1936, the most serious armed rebellion took place in Lanao. It was spearheaded by Hadji Abdulhamid Bongabong, a religious leader of Unayan, Lanao. The fighting lasted for many years and took place around the lake, where a chain of Moro cottas were erected in defiance. This is recorded in history as the great "cotta fight." The grievances were contained in a petition letter addressed to the President of the United States. Succinctly put, the issues raised were:
1. Moros had become second class citizens;
2. The Moro Province be segregated once independence is given, to the Filipinos;
3. Acquisition of lands in the Moro Province be reserved for the Moros; and
4. Islam must not be curtailed in any manner.
The uprising lasted up to 1941, just a few months before the invasion of the Japanese Imperial Army.
The listing of the names of Moro resistance leaders and their engagements with the occupation forces, first against the Americans and then against the Filipinos, cannot be made complete here. What we have is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. One fact of history is that even after the exit of Spain, hardly months or a year passed without one Moro leader or another taking the field to resist whoever was in power. But a great many passed into oblivion and their exploits have not been properly recorded, if they were not, in fact, systematically omitted or ignored. Even the greatest, like Panglima Hassan, Datu Ali, Datu Ampuan Agaus, and Jikiri, whose names are classics in Moro history, had been villainously blackened by the Americans and their puppets, because these Moro heroes had been regarded as the villains. They have ceased to exist now, yes! - as have their tormentors, who are gone - but the cause they had fought for is still very much within us; and certainly, others will pick up the flag of resistance exactly, where they had halted, as thousands upon thousands now are marching forward, following their footsteps, until final victory shall be achieved!
2. Parliamentary Struggle - The U.S. colonial government and the succeeding Filipino neo-colonial power have utterly failed to stamp out Moro resistance. But they have succeeded in rendering Moro traditional power structure effete and almost obsolete. The main casualties have been the sultans and datus, whose authority has been squelched to the extent that they have become mere symbols of the past and mute relics of history. The sultan-people direct dealing has been almost severed and, to get rid of the evils of dual rule, meaning sultan and government ruling simultaneously, the Commonwealth Government directed all state-installed officials in 1936 to take over the roles so far exercised by the sultans and datus.
The disintegration of the traditional socio-political order and the ever-tightening imposition of the secular-materialistic concept of life bequeathed by the Americans have created an extremely difficult situation for the Moros. Consequently, those who were won over to the American side, freely or under duress, were the ones who with their pens, slogans and orations adopted and pursued the parliamentary or unarmed way of struggle. They asked the United States Government to separate the Moro Province, either as colony or as independent state. Singly or in chorus, they unanimously refused to join the Filipinos in their demand for independence. It is true that they did not succeed; neither did they achieve anything of consequence in terms of the real liberation of the Moros - that, obviously, was already foredoomed from the start. But there is no gainsaying the fact that they did their best in their own way. Yet, on the other hand, by following the unarmed way of struggle, they were deeply entangled into the American cobweb and continued to become subservient to the whims and caprices of the new colonial masters.
The agitation for a separate state did not die, even among those who considered it pragmatic to cooperate with the Americans. As a matter of fact, as early as August 10, 1910, on the occasion of the official visit of the U.S. Secretary of War, Jacobson M. Dickenson, to investigate the real condition of the Philippines vis-a-vis the grant of independence, they already made known their deep commitment to the separation of the Moro country from Luzon and the Visayas once independence is granted. A large meeting was held and many Moros and Filipinos attended. The first to speak were two Filipinos who said that the 70,000 Christians in the Moro Province, who were "civilized," "educated" and "property-owners" were ready and willing to govern the Moros then numbering 335,000. Then some of the Moro leaders followed. Datu Mandi spoke first and a portion of his speech reads:
As I look about, I see far more Moros than Filipinos contingent, and if that is so, that is the reason it is called the Moro Province .... If the American government does not want the Moro Province any more they should give it back to us. It is a Moro Province. It belongs to us.
Next to speak was Datu Sacaluran:
I am an old man now. I do not want any more trouble. But if it should come to that, that we shall be given over to the Filipinos, I would Still fight.
The third to come forward was Hadji Abdullah Nunyo who declared:
We area different race; we are Mohammedans. And if we should be given over to the Filipinos, how much more would they treat us badly, when they treated even the Spanish badly who were their own mothers and fathers for generations. How did they treat them? Think about it! Think twice We prefer to be in the hands of the Americans, who are father and mother to us now, than to be turned over to another people.
Between the Americans and the Filipinos, the Moros, after decades of bitter-sweet interactions, learned to accept the former and retained hatred for the latter. This was the legacy of the Spanish colonialism in the Philippines. But battling for political favors and attention from the Americans, the Moros were the underdog in the unfavorable terrain of an alien Western system. The non-acceptability of a separate Moroland was a foregone conclusion. That concept of separation never for a moment became a part of the official policy of the United States Government.
In the meantime, the policy of putting Filipinos into offices or "filipinization" that started very early in Luzon and the Visayas in 1901 by Pres. William McKinley had been extended to the Moro country. This was pushed forward rapidly when Francis Burton Harrison became Governor General of the Philippines in 1913 - 1921.
On September 1, 1914, the newly organized Department of Mindanao and Sulu, including seven provinces as part of its territorial jurisdiction, was inaugurated in Zamboanga. Of these provinces, four had Filipinos appointed as governors and only three, Lanao, Sulu and Cotabato. had Americans retained as governors. The four provinces already under Filipino governors were Zamboanga, Davao, Agusan and Surigao. In this filipinization scheme, the role of the Moros was very negligible. At most it was a consolation. A Moro was appointed third member of the Provincial Board of Zamboanga, and later in 1915, a Moro was placed the third member of the Board of Cotabato. After the passage of the Jones Law in 1916, which provided formal commitment of independence to the Philippines, Gov. Gen. William Harrison appointed Hadji Butu of Sulu, Datu Piang of Cotabato and Datu Benito of Lanao to the Philippine Legislature.
Meanwhile, World War 1 commenced in Europe in 1914. This global conflict had direct repercussions on the Moro country. Turkey entered the war in October 1914 on the side of the Central Powers, and in April 1917, the United States joined the Allies. The Moros still looked up to Turkey both as capital of the Islamic world and the Sultan of Turkey as the political head of the Muslim ummah. This attitude created some apprehension among the American administration officials in Mindanao and Sulu. They feared a Moro backlash favoring Turkey., But as unexpected, even after the conclusion of the war in 1918, nothing untoward happened in Mindanao and Sulu that was related to this global conflict. The Moros remained generally unconcerned with the war.
In 1920, the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was governed entirely by Filipinos. American governors in the predominantly Moro provinces like Sulu, Cotabato and Lanao were replaced by Filipinos. This led to the conclusion that filipinization actually meant christianization" of the civil service in Moro country.
On June 9, 1921, a petition from the Moros of Sulu was forwarded to the United States Government. Along with an earnest desire to remain under American rule, they stated clearly:
We are independent for 500 years. Even Spain failed to conquer us. If the U.S. quits the Philippines and the Filipinos attempt to govern us, we will fight.
On February 1, 1924, another petition containing a declaration of rights and purposes was forwarded to the U.S. Congress from more than 500,000 Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. More than one hundred signed the petition for the Moros. Among the signatories worth mentioning, were Sultan Mangigin of Maguindanao, Hadji Panglima Nunyo, Datu Sacaluran, Maharaja Habing, Abdula Piang and Datu Benito. A portion runs thus:
... In the event that the United States grants independence to the Philippine Islands without provision for our retention under the American flag, it is our firm intention and resolve to declare ourselves an independent Constitutional sultanate to be known to the world as Moro Nation. It is the duty of the Congress of the United States to make provision at once for the security and protection promised to us when we surrendered our arms to the United States Army. This promise is just as sacred as any alleged promises you have made to the Christian Filipinos. 1 ou have left us defenseless, and is your duty to protect us or return to us the weapons you took from us and which we freely gave you, relying on your promises?
A keen American analyst of Philippine affairs, the Honorable Clarence B. Miller, who had extensive tours of the islands, made a startling but categorical conclusion that the Moros would immediately resort to arms if compelled to live under the rule of the Filipinos. This observation was corroborated by the findings of the Wood-Forbes investigation at a meeting held in Lanao. One of the Moros present pointed to a building over which were flying side by side the American flag and the Filipino flag and said: "What is that strange [Filipino] flag flying beside ours? Take it down." In Cotabato, Amai Binaning spoke for the Maguindanao Moros and said: "We Moros wish the protection of America. We wish to stay under the American flag."
After the conclusion of the Wood-Forbes Investigation of the Philippine Islands, one of its findings was:
The Moros are a unit against independence and, are united for continuance of American control, and, in case of separation of the Philippines from the United States, desire their portion of the islands to be retained as American territory under American control. The Pagans and non-Christians, constituting about 10 per cent of the population of the islands, are for continued control. They want peace and security.
What almost turned the tide of history in favor of the Moros were three important events in the year 1926.
The first was the visit of Harvey Firestone Jr. in March to Mindanao looking for 1,000,000 acres of lands for rubber plantation. Firestone got a lift when no less than Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood appeared very supportive. This prospect, however, did not prosper for several reasons, one of which being the stiff opposition of the Filipino nationalists who wanted the Moro country to become an integral part of the Philippine Islands.
The second event was the filing of four bills for the segregation or retention of Mindanao and Sulu either as an American colony or a federal state. On May 6, 1926, Cong. Robert L. Bacon of New York filed House Bill No. 12772 in the United States Congress which sought to retain Mindanao and Sulu as an American colony, even as the rest of the islands would be granted independence. Though mainly motivated by economic reasons, Bacon's rhetoric stunned his critics and heartened his supporters. In his privilege speech, he said:
Their so-called representation in the Philippine Legislature is a farce and a mockery. They are deliberately denied any share 'or participation in the government. They have no elective representatives.... They have no magistrates, no judges, no public prosecutor drawn from their own people. And the guardians of law and order in their region -constabulary - are practically drawn from the ranks of their hereditary enemies - the Filipinos. The Filipinos are their lawmakers, their governors, their judges, their persecutors and their policemen. To these conditions the Moros respond by giving nothing but hate and unwilling submission.
He continued his rhetoric by saying:
The Philippine Islands are divided into two very distinct areas - the Christian provinces... and the Mohammedan territory .... These two regions belong to different and opposed civilizations - the Christian world and Islam."
Bacon was not alone. Apart from his supporters in the U.S. Congress, there was tremendous popular support and endorsement from the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. During the deliberation of the bill, Datu Piang of Cotabato, one of the most popular pro-American leaders, felicitated the New York Congressman and cabled this message:
Allow me to congratulate you on a bill for the separation of Mindanao from the government in Manila. Long have we hoped and long have we prayed that the people of the U.S., after conquering us would not turn us over to those who do not understand us. We have written the President, asking him for the support of your bill. I am not talking for myself, because I am an old man. I am talking for my people and for the Moros of these vast islands."
In the interlude, the Filipino politicians, who were sharply divided at the moment, decided to come to terms to form the Supreme National Council. The Council was headed by Manuel Quezon and its avowed objective was to present a more unified front against the Bacon Bill. A powerful lobby was organized to counter the efforts of Bacon and his colleagues in the U.S. Congress. The Council bitterly denounced the bill and criticized the movers.
Three other bills were introduced in the United States Congress, namely, the Roger, Copper and Kies bills. The first was similar to the Bacon Bill while the Copper Bill provided for the retention of the islands of Mindanao and Sulu for eventual federation with the United States. The third bill was obscure but was believed similar to the rest.
The third momentous circumstance was when Pres. john Calvin Coolidge, unable to ascertain the real situation in the Philippine Islands in relation to the grant of independence, sent Col. Carmi Thompson to investigate. The situation of the Moros was one of the main concerns. The mission reported that the Philippines lacked social homogeneity and solidarity. It also took note of the approval of the Bacon Bill by the Moros.
.This prevailing sentiment was reiterated to Gov. Gen. Dwight F. Davis two years after in one of his visits to the Island in 1929. One prominent Moro leader, Gumbay Piang, son of Datu Piang, spoke of this universal desire of the Moros to dissociate themselves from the independence movement of the Filipinos. He remarked that the Filipinos, after having been influenced by Spain for many centuries, had an innate motive to eradicate Moro identity and traditions in addition to having territorial ambitions in Mindanao.
In 1927, an American observer in the New York Post wrote the following:
The outstanding mistake of the U.S. in its Philippine dealings has been their assumption that the native inhabitants constitute a homogeneous Filipino people; instead there are numerous peoples, the widely scattered population of the archipelago ... speaking many dialects and radically if different character, in development and government needs. This is particularly true of the Mohammedan people inhabiting the great southern islands of the Philippines, who are altogether distinct in religion, physical type and mental outlook.
Before the turn of the 20th century, ninety eight percent of the lands in Mindanao and Sulu belonged to the Moros.` Except in areas garrisoned by Spain particularly in the northern part of Mindanao, the Moros lorded over these vast islands and the various indigenous natives like the Manobos, Bagobos, Tagakaolos, and others numbering about 23 ethnic tribes were largely under their sphere of influence. But as soon as the Americans stepped into the Moro country, even before the indirect rule was discarded, they decreed a law called the Land Registration Act, also known as Act No. 496. requiring the registration of all lands occupied by any person, group or corporation in writing, signed and sworn to by the claimant. In such an early stage, when fighting was still widespread in the various islands, the Moro may not have heard of this law or, if they had, they would not have been willing to comply, for apparent reasons. The payment for staying in one's land or the cedula tax was one of the reasons why many Moros resisted the American occupation.
On April 4, 1903, the Philippine Commission enacted Public Land Act No. 718. The law declared null and void all lands granted by Moro sultans, datus or chiefs of any of the non-Christian tribes without authority of the state. This law dispossessed the Moros of their landholdings which, in most instances, they occupied since time immemorial. The Moro sultans were not excluded from the operation of this law and their failure to comply with it meant they would be squatters and face automatic ejection.
On October 7, 1903, the Public Act 926 was enacted into law which provided, among other stipulations, that all lands not registered under Act No. 496 were deemed public lands, and therefore available for homesteading, sale or lease by individual or corporation. One can imagine that in less than a year, by reasons of opposition to, default or ignorance of the American bureaucratic system, the Moros could be deprived of their lands. These were shallow alibis leading to the systematic dispossession of the Moros of their landholdings.
The Mining Law of 1905 further confiscated Moro lands. The law declared all public lands as free, open for exploration, occupation and purchase even by Americans. Such a law opened the gates for American dollars to come, particularly in Mindanao, where wide tracts of lands were still available. The influx of American capitalists led to several conflicts which at one time caused the death of Lt. Edward C. Bolton, District Governor of Davao, on June 6, 1906.
The Cadastral Act of 1907 facilitated the acquisition of new landholdings. The law virtually favored the educated natives, moneyed bureaucrats and American speculators who were more familiar with the bureaucratic process to legalize claims usurped through fraudulent surveys.
In 1913, the Philippine Commission passed Acts 2254 and 2280 creating agricultural colonies. The two laws aimed at encouraging Filipino migrants from the northern areas to the so-called "public lands" in Mindanao and Sulu. The purpose of the colonies was as follows: 1) to increase food production especially rice; 2) to equalize the distribution of population in the Philippines; 3) to bring under cultivation extensive wild public lands; and 4) to afford an opportunity for the colonists to become land proprietors M The earliest colonies were planted right in the middle of Moro communities with the aim of integrating Moros and Christian native population into a "homogeneous Filipino people 1,41 Of the ten colonies created between 1913 and 1917 in the entire Philippines, seven were established in Cotabato, one in Lanao and one in Basilan. The sites selected in Cotabato were Silik, Peidu Pulangi. Ginatilan, Pagalungan, Pikit, Talitay and Clan. all populated by Moros.
Of special interest was Philippine Commission Act No. 2254. Again, it showed the glaring instance of injustices. While this law awarded Filipino settlers with a 16 hectare lot, the Moro was permitted to own only eight hectares, despite his prior birthright to the place. Such was the consequence of the previous enactments that already deprived him of his ancestral landholdings.
In 1919, the Public Land Act No. 2874 was enacted which provided for the manner of acquiring land ownership, especially in the Moro country. Under this law. a Filipino was entitled to apply and possess a 24-hectare parcel of land. while a Moro only ten hectares. The discrimination did not end there. In many instances, even before the Christian could come to Mindanao, his land had been titled already, while that of the Moro remained untitled for years. Or the Moro may not have moved to title his at all. He may have been personally responsible for some of the reasons for this failure, but that certainly was no sufficient moral ground to deprive him of his landholdings. One noted American writer had this to say on this predicament:
The government officials they turned to for counsel were often 'too busy' to help. And when some did manage to file their registration papers. they were disheartened by the uncertainty and delay in getting them approved .
Aside from the inherent discriminations in such laws, there were at least two or more reasons for this pathetic situation. Firstly, the Moros continued to resist the registration of the lands they owned, occupied and tilled since time past under a government that they considered to be a "foreign authority." The second cause was the specious pretext raised apologetically that the Moros were not only poor but ignorant, little realizing that it was one of the fundamental duties of government to attend to the needs particularly of the marginalized and depressed sections of the population.
1934 Constitutional Convention
On March 24, 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Law was signed into law by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt of the United States. The law contained provisions which specified the various steps as preconditions before the establishment of the Commonwealth. The first step was the holding of a constitutional convention not later than October 1, 1934 to draft a Constitution which would be forwarded to the U.S. President for approval. After the approval, the Filipino people were to elect the officials of the Commonwealth government. After the ten-year transition, the United States would grant independence to the Philippines.
On July 10, 1934, 202 delegates to the constitutional convention were elected. Of this number, only four Moros were elected, namely, Datu Blah Sinsuat and Minandang Piang of Cotabato, Arolas Tulawie of Sulu and Alauya Alonto of Lanao. The other delegates, Tomas Cabili of Lanao and Jose Montano of Sulu, were Christians. The election of delegates was the first time Moros participated in a nationwide voting exercises.
On July 30, the Convention started to work under the presidency of Claro M. Recto. The Moro delegates participated in the deliberations and to represent the interests of their constituents but against the tyranny of numbers they, numbering only four or five, were practically unheard. The fact that they already belonged to the second generation of Moros since the arrival of the Americans might be enough to suspect that in all likelihood they could no longer represent the legitimate aspirations and sentiments of their people. They were not only proAmericans in every respect but were generally friendly to the Filipinos, who were pushing for Philippine independence. The truth that they ran and won as delegates to this Convention which would make formal self-rule a step nearer singularly attested to this assertion. However, in fairness to them, they discharged their responsibilities to what they thought was their -level best, but they never equalled the exceptionally pro-Moro exploits of Tomas Cabili, though a Christian, who voted against the Draft Constitution. It is on record that Delegate Cabili made the following objections to the Draft Constitution:
1. It did not provide for the direct election of representatives. for the provinces of Lanao, Cotabato and Sulu but left the matter for the Legislature to decide - including, especially, the manner by which the representatives of said provinces may be chosen; and
2. It did not have any special provisions for the backward and non-Christian population of the Philippines. He wanted the Constitution to recognize and hold in trusteeship the welfare and progress of our backward population.' As a sign of protest, he did not sign the 1935 Constitution. On the contrary, all the blue-blooded Moro delegates signed the new charter.
The Constitution miserably failed to specify or imply due consideration for the Moro traditions, customs and laws, which in Islam still fell within the ambit of religion. Many Moro leaders openly campaigned against the ratification of the Constitution denouncing it as an abridgment of their religion, rights and customs. Despite the opposition, the Constitution got ratified. The Christian populace, not thinking of the problem of the Moros, heavily voted for its approval. However, in the succeeding elections for the delegates in September 1935, Moro candidates who were closely associated with the Filipino leaders of self-rule were badly routed in the polls. Hadji Gulamu Rasul of Sulu and Minandang Piang of Cotabato were defeated by Datu Ombra Amilbangsa and Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, respectively. In Lanao, Sultan Alauya Alonto was rejected by the Moros in favor of Tomas Cabili.
CHAPTER V – PUPPETRY IN THE MAKING
Inauguration of the Commonwealth
"I swore to myself and the God of my ancestors that as long as I lived I would stand by America regardless of the consequences to my people or to myself"
This was the statement of the man who would become the undisputed leader of the Filipinos during the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines on November 15,1935. Pres. Manuel Quezon was the son of a Spanish mestizo sergeant in the Spanish Army in the Philippines. He was born in Manila, but later emigrated to Baler, Tayabas where he married also a Spanish mestiza schoolteacher. During the Philippine Revolution, he was a lieutenant in the Bataan sector, especially during the general retreat. of the Filipino forces. Like all his comrades, he surrendered to the Americans in April 1901, thus both in his thoughts and actions he was a captive of the Americans.
In his inaugural speech, President Quezon had firmly emphasized that the government he sought to establish must satisfy not only the passing needs of the hour but also the exacting demand of the future. In doing so, he identified three major problems, namely, the need for political stability, national security, and a poor economy that was too dependent to the United States. From these main national concerns emerged minor problems that also commanded equal attention and consideration.
The Commonwealth was envisioned as a transition period before the final grant of independence ten years thereafter. During this interlude the government should make necessary adjustments on political, economic, social and cultural aspects. The task was not an easy one considering the fact that inherited problems from the Spanish and American times were seemingly insurmountable. One such delicate problem was the policy formulation towards the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu who, except for a few "collaborators," overwhelmingly opposed political agglomeration with the Filipinos. And without doubt, considering his background, President Quezon was not prepared - as his succeeding actuations, pronouncements and policies showed - to shed his "Spanish and American feathers." He went further, vis-a-vis the Moros, by refusing to accord official recognition to the sultans and datus. In one of his meetings with them, he had these blunt words:
... The sultans have no more rights than the humblest Moro and that under my administration the humblest Moro will be given as much protection as any datu under the law, and
that his rights will be recognized exactly as the rights of a datu will be, and that every datu will have to comply with his duties as citizen to same extent. and in the same manner that the humblest Moro is obligated.
Definitely the bottom line is not equality before the law; rather it was the radical reversal of the traditional system and the replacement of the chiefs with leaders whom the people were made to bow down against their will. Reacting to this situation, Sultan Alauya Alonto had this observation:
This is indeed a tragedy. Those of you who are accustomed to witness the native son of the province conducting the affairs of your own people will surely understand what it meant to be governed by "Outsiders" who do not have even the command of the dialect of the people to be governed.'
Thus with President Quezon ended the policy of "special treatment" accorded to the Moros, although this did not mean the birth of equal consideration and protection for the Moros. As a matter of fact, the Moros were not only reduced to second class citizens, but as far as Mindanao and Sulu was concerned, the development of the Moros was a poor third priority in the national agenda.' On the contrary, the Moros, along with the burgeoning Japanese colonies in Davao, were perceived as threats to the security of the commonwealth state. This was precisely the main reason why the 30,000-man Moro Battalion was not issued firearms by the USAFFE during the war with Japan because some pointed out the danger of arming the Moros to the peace and order situation in Mindanao and Sulu.' Despite the pleadings of Lt. Salipada Pendatun (later conferred the rank of Brigadier General), the Moros were permitted to arm themselves with bolos, hence the outfit earned its label as the "Moro Battalion." It was also the hard logic behind the high gear migration to Mindanao particularly in the Moro-dominated provinces of Cotabato and Lanao.
Legalized Landgrabbing Continues
On February 12, 1935, the government enacted Legislative Act No. 4197, otherwise known as the "Quirino-Recto Colonization Act." T his was the turning point of the land settlement when the government declared settlement as the "only lasting solution" to the problem in Mindanao and Sulu, thus shelving all other long-range solutions as secondary and of less importance. The choice of the term "colonization" in the very title of this enactment bespeaks obviously of Manila's sinister designs. It had no scruples in openly calling the Moro country its colony.
This Act envisaged land settlement, with Mindanao as the special target. The mealy-mouthed preamble spoke of the great national advantage in carrying out the work in that part of the country because land settlement is the only government activity that will furnish an effective solution to the Mindanao problem."' The Act opened the floodgates to massive influx of settlers on Mindanao under the full sponsorship of the government. "Go South, young men!" became the slogan of the day. Mindanao became the "Promise Land." News that the program had the full backing of the government, in addition to the construction of roads and other infrastructure, spread like wildfire. Unknown number of individuals rushed south to join the mad scramble for the choicest parcels of land, especially along the highways. But the sad part of this was that instead of addressing past complaints of the Moros, the government pushed too far in abetting and inciting homestead-seekers in the unjust process of landgrabbing. Newcomers just squatted on lands and began cultivation before they could get around to subdivide the areas.
On November 7, 1936, Pres. Manuel Quezon signed into law Commonwealth Act No. 141 which declared all Moro ancestral landholdings as public lands. Section 84 of this law provides:
That all grants, deeds, patents, and other instruments of conveyances of land or purporting to convey or transfer rights of property, privileges, or easements appertaining to or growing out of lands granted by sultans, datus, or other chiefs of the so-called non-Christian tribes, without the authority of the Spanish Government while the Philippines were under the sovereignty of Spain, or without the consent of the United States Government or of the Philippine Government since the sovereignty over the Archipelago was transferred from Spain to the United States, and all deeds and other documents executed or issued or based upon deeds, patents, and documents mentioned are hereby declared to be illegal, void, and of no effect.
By a simple piece of legislation, the Moros became landless and were deprived of their ancestral holdings. Under this Act, a Moro was allowed only to apply for a piece of land, not exceeding four hectares, while a Christian was entitled to own up to 24 hectares, and a corporation, wholly owned by non-Moros, was permitted to get 1,024 hectares.
In June 1939, Pres. Manuel Quezon signed Commonwealth Act No. 441 creating the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA). This was another settlement law. Given the priority slots in this program were those who had completed military training in preparation, as the proponents put it, to meet the impending Japanese invasion. But the Moros viewed it from a different angle. Their suspicions were not really unfounded because a similar condition was required to be fulfilled by those who made up the first batch of fifty settlers in 1912. The colonial government saw to it that the members of this batch were required to be experts in arnis or sword-play. 12 This was obviously in anticipation of encounters with the kris-wielding Moros of Mindanao. NLSA opened up three major settlement projects and two of these were in the Cotabato Valley. That in Koronadal Valley in Cotabato was spearheaded by Gen. Paulino Santos, onetime Governor of Lanao and in 1944 appointed Commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu. In this project, 200 Christian families were given each twelve hectares farmland and financial assistance reaching up to P7.5 million.
In the meantime, the settlement projects had been temporarily slowed down, principally due to the war with Japan. All state attention, activities and resources were focused on the war efforts. In addition, mass movement of people, especially from one far-flung area to another in the archipelago would not only entail huge expenses but was dangerous.
Before proceeding further, we should not fail to note carefully the mendacious rhetoric of politicians who spearheaded the wholesale colonization of Mindanao and Sulu by raising a hue and cry over the alleged population explosion in Luzon and the Visayas. They argued that this over-population problem was causing untold miseries and sufferings to the people. They wanted a place where this excess population could be relocated. To arouse public sympathy, they particularly referred to the so-called "pauperized peasants and workers" in the haciendas in Central Luzon and Negros in the Visayas, who had been exploited and persecuted since the Spanish regime. They were never given the chance to own a piece of land, let alone the ones they had been tilling, where they could work outside and away from the cruel hands of landlords and hacienderos.
In his address to the first session of the First National Assembly in 1936, President Quezon took the lead in sounding this alarm. Part of his speech was as follows:
There are provinces in Luzon and the Visayas that are already over populated. There are localities in some of these provinces where the people live on large estates without opportunity to earn a livelihood sufficient to meet the necessities of civilized life, much less to own the land wherein they live and which they cultivate. It is inconceivable that such a situation should exist in a country with extensive areas of fertile uncultivated lands.
The fact that no less than the President himself of the Commonwealth Government was involved in this ballyhoo to get the nod of the National Assembly was more than enough reason to extrapolate on the issue. President Quezon was not the first to raise the over-population issue. As early as 1912, Gen. john C. Pershing was already pushing for the importation of homesteaders from the over-populated Luzon and Visayas to the frontiers on Mindanao." The same line of argument can be noticed in almost all rationales behind the creation of settlement projects, as well as in the opening up of frontier lands to new applicants. In 1913, the Philippine Commission enacted Acts 2254 and 2280 creating "colonies" in Mindanao, and one of the objectives was to equalize the distribution of population in the Philippines.
In order to find out whether or not the population pressure was founded on fact or fiction, let us refer to the three successive population census in 1903, 1918, and 1939. The 1939 census is specially important because the holding of this population count was well within the period when the issue was very much alive. In the 1903 census, the population of the entire country was 7,635,426 including 647,740 non-Christians; in 1918, it was 10,314,310 including 932,935 non-Christians; and in 1939, it was 16,000,303. Of this last number, around 13,000,000 were in Luzon and the Visayas, the rest in Mindanao and Sulu.
After having this concrete data, let us proceed to determine the density of population -based on the 1939 census which listed the national population as 16,000,303. The Philippines has a total land area of 115,800 square mile; divide this area by 16,000,303 and the result is: 138 persons per square mile. Since this density applied to the entire Philippine Islands including the Moro territory, then let us focus our attention on Luzon and the Visayas, where the congestion was allegedly serious. Based on the same 1939 census, the people of the two islands numbered 13,000,000. Divide that number by the total land area of the two islands: 78,420 square miles (Luzon: 40,420 and Visayas: 37,380), and the quotient (outcome) is 165 persons per square mile.
Now after considering the data aforecited, does the logic of overpopulation scare still hold? Was President Quezon really speaking of facts or merely masking the government's real intentions on Mindanao.
for whether it was an economic, social or political issue critically depended on the support of the christianized natives.` The irony of it all was that when legions after legions of settlers arrived on Mindanao it became clear-that, contrary to official government bulletin, these people were not the poor peasants and workers of Central Luzon and Negros, but people from the more affluent areas of the llocos region, Cebu and lloilo, who later became the carpetbaggers, loggers, ranchers and bankers of Mindanao.
What happened afterward was just the reverse of the hoped for results of resettlement as the lasting solution to the Mindanao problem. Endless bloodshed and destruction became the order of the day because the situation seemed so skillfully woven to neutralize the Moros right in their own backyard. Why did the government establish, particularly the early settlement projects, right in the middle of Moro communities, when other places elsewhere were easily available? When people's fundamental rights and needs are not properly addressed but are, instead, suppressed or even ignored, conflicts will inevitably follow. In the past we witnessed the upsurge of violence as soon as the newcomers reached the shores of Mindanao. The Alangkat Movement in 1926-27 in Cotabato Valley, a mainly Manobo initiative, was actually a protest against foreign rule and the settling of an alien people. In 1942, at the height of the war with Japan, a series of massacres took place between rival guerrilla groups, fueled by or rooted in social and agrarian frictions. One group was led by Capt. Mantil Dilangalen and another by Capt. Froilan Matas. In Cotabato alone, about 1,000 people on both sides were brutally hacked to pieces in the towns of Buluan, Tacurong, Midsayap and Pigkawayan. The bloodbath in Pigkawayan was exceptionally terrible. The marketplace was enclosed in barb wire and the Moros inside were sorted out and slaughtered en masse. About 200 men, women and children perished in this slaughter. Some were buried alive. The ring leaders were Capt. Froilan Matas, Capt. Jose Escribano and Capt. Sebastian Javelosa, who collaborated with the Japanese occupation forces or stayed away as separate guerrilla units from the Moro units. No justice was meted out and the culprits remained scot-free even after the war. Capt. Froilan Matas became the mayor of Magpet and so did Capt. Jose Escribano in Tacurong.
Moro Appeals and Rebellions
During the height of the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention, Hadji Abdulhamid Bongabong, chief religious leader of Unayan, and 189 Lanao Moros sent a letter of appeal - or a virtual warning - to the United States through the Governor General on March 18, 1935. The petition, popularly referred to as the historic Dansalan Declaration, speaks well of the undying sentiments and aspirations of the Moros for a separate homeland. The following is the full text of the petition:
In the agreement that we have arrived (i.e., the Declaration) our people gave their unanimous approval. We would like to inform you (i.e. U.S. Congress) that because we have learned that the U.S.. is going to give the Philippines an independence through the efforts of Hon. Quezon and others, we want to tell you that the Philippines, as it is known to the American people, is populated by two peoples with two different religious practices and traditions. The Christian Filipinos occupy the islands of Luzon and the Visayas. The Moros predominate in the islands of Mindanao and Sulu. With regard to the forthcoming Philippine Independence, we foresee that the condition will be characterized by unrest, suffering and misery ....
Our Christian associates have for ... many years their desires to be the only ones blessed with leadership and well progressive towns and cities. One proof of this is that, among us who were capable of participating in managing and administering the government have not been given the chance to demonstrate their ability. Another proof is that Christian Filipinos have taken control of our insular funds in which by right we must have equal share. Most of those funds are annually appropriated for the provinces of Luzon and the Visayas, and little are appropriated for the so-called Moro Province in the islands of Mindanao and Sulu. As a result their provinces progressed by leaps and bounds and ours lagged behind. Another result is that we have been and are still behind in modern civilization and education
One more discriminatory act of our Christian Filipino Associates is shown in the recen t constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth. In that constitution, no provision whatsoever is made that would operate for the welfare of the Moros ... the (provision of the) constitution are all for the welfare of the Christian Filipinos and nothing for the Moros. As a proof of this, our delegate did not sign the constitution.
We do not want to be included in the Philippine Independence (fo r) once an independent Philippine is launched there will be trouble between us and the Christian Filipinos because from time immemorial these two peoples have not lived harmoniously .... It is not proper to have two antagonizing peoples live together tinder the Philipine Independence.
One proof of this (is) that when Lanao had its Filipino Governor many leading Moro datus were killed for non apparent reasons. This has not ended up to the present time because our people can't and will never forget the bitterness of this incident ....
Should the American people grant the Philippine Independence, the islands of Mindanao and Sulu should not be included in such independence. Our public land must not be
given to other people other than the Moros. We should be given time to acquire them, because most of us have no lands. Out. people do not yet realize the value of acquiring those lands by the process of law. Where shall we obtain the support of our family if our lands are taken from us. It will be safe to us that a law should be created restricting (the acquisition) of our lands by other people. This will avoid future trouble.
Our practices, laws and decisions of our Moro leaders should be respected .... Our religion should not be curtailed in anyway .... All our practices which are incidental to our religion of Islam should be respected because these things are what a Muslim desires to live for .... Our religion is no more, our lives are no more.
As expected, the petition was never given due consideration. It was not even read in the Convention and, most probably, only the Moro delegates were the ones privy to the content of the petition. All the rest obviously swallowed the official government line that the Moro Problem ceased to be synonymous with Mindanao, but rather assumed the status of an economic problem of national concern and development. The basic issues and concerns raised in the declaration, especially over lands, were never addressed, as clearly shown in earlier discussion of the Commonwealth policy to formally colonize Mindanao and Sulu.
After having ascertained that there was no legal remedy forthcoming from the Commonwealth and the United States Government, Hadji Abdulhamid Bongabong launched a rebellion in Lanao beginning in June 1936. This only simmered down in 1941. The firefights were referred to as "cotta fights" in Philippine history. The government had a hard time putting down the rebellion of Hadji Bongabong, who built a chain of cottas in and around Lake Lanao.
On October 8, 1936, a major disturbance also occurred in Sulu. ,.'he leader was Imam Saccam. One of the issues raised by the rebels was the report that the Philippines was granted independence?' It started with the ambush of 20 Constabulary soldiers by 50 armed followers of Imam Saccam at Kulay-Kulay. All initial negotiations to make him surrender failed, although one by one his followers perished. Though his uprising did not succeed, it had direct effect on the neighboring town of Talipao, where another armed resistance erupted in 1937.
The Japanese Invasion
On December 8, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army landed in the Philippines. Davao and Sulu were occupied immediately and in April 1942, Cotabato and Lanao were garrisoned. The Moros, approximately 700,000 in population, saw the newcomers as another group of invaders and therefore had to be fought. Numbering by tens of thousands, the Moros enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) in fighting off the Japanese invasion; Those who were not accommodated in the regular USAFFE units joined the guerrilla battalions just to become involved in the war endeavors. Among those who figured prominently in the war were Lt. Salipada Pendatun, Datu Udtog Matalam, Gumbay Piang and Manalao Mindalano. The guerrillas inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese troops through hit-and-run tactics. At one time, the guerrillas under Manalao Mindalano inflicted 129 casualties on the Japanese soldiers during an ambush in Tamparan along Lake Lanao. The Japanese retaliated by subjecting the guerrillas with intense bombings that lasted for almost a month.
However, if there were many Moro leaders who fought in the side of the Americans, those who cooperated alongside the Japanese were equally many. They thought it would be better to take part in the Japanese war efforts. Others tried to exonerate this cooperation by saying that it was making the best out of a bad situation.` Still others cited the cooperation as serving the best interests of the people. Those who went the way of cooperation were Sultan Alauya Alonto of Lanao, Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, Datu Minandang Piang of Cotabato, and Datu Ombra Amilbangsa, Datu Gulamu Rasul and Datu Salih Ututalum of Sulu. Some of these leaders accepted positions in the Japanese Puppet Government, and actually benefited from this cooperation, especially in terms of material and educational rewards. Right after the war, some pro-Japanese leaders were charged with treason before the People's Court for collaboration. One of the biggest and most celebrated cases of collaboration was that filed against Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Blah Sinsuat. The investigation lasted up to 1948.
In these cases, the men who were charged with collaboration with the Japanese were called "traitors" and those who sided with the Americans were hailed as "heroes." Seen from the reverse side, the question would bring out the same answer in reverse. Those who were identified with Japan would have been "heroes" and those with America would have been "traitors." Thus, whichever side they chose, they would always be the villain to the opposite side, which only reveals the ugly facet of nationalism when viewed in the prism of other countries, especially of the colonialists or invaders.
Both the Americans and the Japanese came to the Philippines in quest of more lands, glory and gold at the expense of the Filipinos and Moros in this country. Therefore, whichever side one chose or fought for during the war the fact remained that one fought for the wrong cause and had done the immoral thing. Author Onofre D. Corpuz made this observation:
A lively issue for some time was that of collaboration with the Japanese occupation regime. In the verdicts of the tribunals that tried the collaboration cases, the men who were declared to have collaborated with the Japanese were called traitors, as if those who were loyal to the United States, and fought the guerrilla war so that the Americans would return, were any less betrayers of the nation's integrity. The meaning of the nation had been lost; the Filipinos could only view themselves in terms of other countries."
The truth of this otherwise comical scenario was rendered more
revealing after the war. Both the so-called heroes and traitors were equally catapulted into high-ranked positions, elected or appointed, to serve the government after the war. Although there were some who were found guilty of collaboration by the People's Court, this was shortlived. When Pres. Manuel Roxas assumed the presidency in 1946, he solved the collaboration issue by proclaiming amnesty to all the political prisoners. He himself was a "collaborator," for he served well in the Philippine Puppet Government under Pres. Jose P. Laurel. The Americans themselves, through the maneuvers of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, chose Manuel Roxas, the "collaborator," over Sergio Osmena, a hardliner on the collaboration issue, to become the protege of the Americans in the election of 1946.
During the war there were times that animosities between the. Moros and Christians degenerated into open hostility. This was particularly true with opposing guerrilla units, one group fighting on the side of the Americans and the other with the Japanese. The guerrillas were the former, while the Japanese-backed Bureau of Constabulary were the latter. The Bureau was renamed the Philippine Constabulary when the so-called Philippine independence was granted by Japan on October 15, 1944. On the guerrilla side were Salipada Pendatun, Datu Udtog M talam, Datu Mantil Dilangalen and Gumbay Piang and, on the side of the Japanese, were no less than Gen. Paulino Santos, Froilan Matas and Sebastian javelosa. Actually, Pendatun was not involved in the conflict, but being the most prominent guerrilla leader, he was inevitably dragged into it. On July 1, 1944, a patrol of Japanese-BC Patrol led by Capt. Sebastian Javelosa attacked a guerrilla base in Buluan and captured two prominent Moro leaders, Datu Butu Mangudadatu and Datu Daongtan. The guerrillas retaliated by laying a siege on the BC garrison at Tacurong, which resulted in the slaying of Lt. Gregorio Jayme and the capture of 40 BC soldiers. The Japanese conducted a reprisal by sending 37 planes to bomb the guerrilla positions. Twenty two persons, including two guerrillas were killed.
On August 1, 1944, Pres. Manuel Quezon died in Saranak Lake, New York. Sergio Osmena, then the Vice President of the Commonwealth Government, was sworn in immediately as President. He pledged to continue the fight until the Philippines was finally liberated . On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the terms of surrender on board the battleship Missouri at Tokyo Bay. This ended the war. Immediately, Pres. Sergio Osmena appointed Moros to the government. Salipada Pendatun was appointed Governor of Cotabato and Datu Manalao Mindalano to the Executive Committee of the Philippine Veterans Legion in Manila. In the 1946 election, three Moro leaders were elected. Salipada Pendatun won a Senate seat, Datu Ombra Amilbangsa of Sulu and Manalao Mindalano of Lanao were elected congressmen.
CHAPTER VI – ANNECATION OF MINDANAO AND SULU
Grant of Self Rule
After the defeat of Japan in World War 11, the United States officially annexed Mindanao and Sulu into the territory of the Philippines in the grant of independence on July 4, 1946. This was a very painful decision. The Moros were never given the right to free choice and to national self-determination and to vote on the issue through a referendum. The hard fact is that they, after having been disarmed and rendered defenseless, were forcibly incorporated. Thousands of them resisted and died fighting in the process. But this decision had already been sealed as early as 1935 when the Commonwealth regime was inaugurated. Wider American interests were seen better served in an undivided territory under Filipino rulers.
The Moros, now faced with a situation never before experienced, slipped into "independence" with almost a closed mind. Those still with revolting hearts were rendered practically helpless. The many decades of bloody confrontations had practically sapped their energies to be able again to go into the field and fight. Those who by chance or by choice tasted power with the new political order were busy picking up the spoils of their collaboration.
As a whole, the Moros were poised at the crossroads. Either they went on fighting aimlessly or they must learn to accept the situation they had no chance to change. There was no clear distinction made. Everything rested in the hands of the new Filipino rulers, who inherited the Moro country in a silver platter. The Americans freely handed to them the "Promise Land" but not, of course, without inheriting the so-called Moro Problem. It was up for them to put the "house in order." The trouble may have been that they had already concluded that all would be well with the Moros after independence. This was the premise from which they started,
Together under one flag with the Moro, the Filipino must make good his pledge that he could govern the Moro well. The Moros had been outstanding in their opposition to Filipino rule, but the Filipinos were persistent in their desire to govern the Moros. This was the situation when the Moros were turned over to the Filipinos for governance.
Mere Change of Face
For over four decades since the arrival of the Americans in 1898, the cream of the Filipino leadership, descendants of the Maharlikas of the pre-Spanish days, had been taking a tutorial course from their new masters. These officials, who now spoke English, were spoon-fed on the ways to interpret and implement American maxims in subjects as wide-ranging as administrative structure, legal system, national economy and lifestyle. When they took over the mantle of power of the new state, after this thorough grounding, they merely became the "alter egos" of their American colonial masters. The system of government and the institutions were the continuation of the old order with all the components of worldliness, hedonism and materialism. They mimicked blindly their masters' ideas, values, outlooks and tastes and very soon, their whole personality revolved around the cult of the "stateside" or the attitude that everything American was not only good but the best. And even after the physical exit of their masters, the alter egos continued in subservience and worship. No Filipino leader then and now had successfully dissociated himself from this entrapment. Politicians, perhaps with very few exceptions, enhanced their political clout by seeking the blessings of their former bosses in Washington. This submission can easily be seen during the inauguration of the Independence Day in 1946. Pres. Manuel Roxas, the first President of the Republic, had dutifully declared:
We have already subscribed irretrievably to the principles of the American Declaration and the American Constitution. Those principles are now embodied in the basic law of the land. We are committed to the cause and international programme of the United States of America.
It is not unusual for states which had achieved their freedom to dissociate themselves from the policies and values of their colonial masters. The case of the Filipinos was different. Nationalism did not become part of the national policies as long as Mother America was on the other side. Filipinos and Americans had parity rights in the exploitation of the natural resources. The Filipinos also agreed to grant lands in the public domain, rent-free, to the United States as military bases. Free trade was also agreed upon, a scheme that insured the perpetuation of the agricultural-type of economy for the Philippines.
The overriding belief during the struggle for the grant of independence was that the Filipinos could govern the Moros properly. This was the message conveyed, at least ostensibly, for placing early Christian settlers right in the middle of Moro areas, so that the two groups could live harmoniously and productively. The belief later became a neurotic assumption that the Moro Problem had ceased to exist and therefore, the grant of independence, more than ever, was not only necessary but very timely. Unfortunately, there was no corresponding effort to ensure that the assumption would become a reality through the formulation of proper state policies or programs. Thus equipped with this distorted presumption, the Filipinos proceeded to rule and trade on the basis of tact and luck with the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. What followed next cannot be overstressed here, but the following pages will attempt to put it plainly.
Second Class Citizens
As a young and emerging state, the Philippines had to attend to many priorities needed for reconstruction and nation-building. The country was so devastated during the last war that she had to start practically from scratch. There were other social, political and economic problems. The Communist-inspired rebellion was one of the most serious concerns of the state. In contrast, the so-called Moro Problem was never given proper attention. It was deliberately dropped from the national agenda that required immediate action. Consequently, the Moros also assumed minor roles after the war.
For a while, Mindanao as the "Land of Promise" continued to lure in hordes of people. Not to be outdone, in fact in the lead roles, were American capitalists- thanks to the parity rights agreement and the local elites, who were mostly feudal lords and political kingpins. The American capitalists intensified their spoliation of Mindanao. In 1957, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was awarded 1,000 hectares of land in Makilala, Cotabato for rubber plantation. In 1963, Dole Philippines, a subsidiary of the Castle and Cooke Company, acquired a vast tract of lands in Tupi and Polomolok, Cotabato for pineapple business. In 1966 Weyerhaueser Corporation obtained 72,000 hectares of forest lands in Mindanao for logging operation. in 1968 Boise-Cascade Corporation started hauling lauan timber from its 42,000-hectare concession, also in Mindanao. For reason of space, we cannot list all the American capitalists who engaged in big business ventures on Mindanao.
The case of the Filipino capitalists is even more revealing; in fact, they cornered the lion-share of the booming timber, pasture and coconut concessions in Mindanao. Imagine one such locally-owned company, the Bislig Bay Lumber Company, which had acquired 141,000 hectares in Surigao for logging operation. Such names as Sarmientos, Magsaysays, Sorianos, Cojuangcos, Puyats, Alcantaras, Ayalas, Floirendos, Yuchengcos and many more did not only enrich themselves from the wealth of Mindanao but directly contributed to the deprivations and sufferings of the natives of the region.
In 1973, a government-sponsored study found out the following disparity between the socio-economic conditions of the Moros and the Christians: 1) Only 12 percent of the Moros had electricity, while the average in the whole Mindanao was 17.5 percent; 2) 20 percent of the Moros had water supply, while the average for Mindanao was 25 percent; and 3) There was only one doctor for every 6,959 Moros, while there was one doctor for 3,954 for non-Moros.
Earlier, in 1957, the Province of Cotabato had 1,546 Christian educators as against only 37 Moros; six Moro business proprietors versus 144 Christians, one Moro lawyer to 38 Christians; and not one Moro dentist, engineer or pharmacist.
Unlike other provinces, Sulu, Lanao and Cotabato continued to be governed as "special provinces." The government directly chose the highest officials of the provinces until 1950, when the right of suffrage was extended to the Moros. Except Cotabato, the two other special provinces persisted in having Christian governors until later. The Commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu exercised control and supervision over these provinces until 1950, when this office was abolished and its functions were taken over by the Office of the President. In 1956, the supervision was transferred to the Executive Secretary until these provinces were reclassified as "regular" the following year.
Legalized Landgrabbing Persists
As noted in the preceding discussion, the full-blast settlement of Mindanao initiated by Pres. Manuel Quezon was temporarily shelved in view of the impending war with Japan. This was not continued until 1950, when the government established the Rice and Corn Production Administration (RCPA), which was apparently a continuation of the bid to promote rice and corn production. Subsequently, in the same year, the RCPA and the Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Corporation, whose function was to supply farmers with farm machinery and equipment, were merged to form the Land Settlement Development Corporation (LASEDECO). The new agency became the implementor of the resettlement program of the state. By the end of its mandate, it had resettled 1.500 fan-Lilies to the expenses of P3.5 million.
The resurgence of the agrarian-related problem posed by the Communist-inspired Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (National Army against the Japanese) or Hukbalahaps or Huks called for the immediate upgrading or reshuffling of government agencies handling land settlement. Thus, Mindanao also became the dumping ground for the so-called "undesirables" of Luzon and the Visayas. In 1954, the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) was created through Republic Act No. 1160. At the outset. the NARRA efforts were not very extensive. But a few years later, in 1963, it had already resettled 20,500 families at the cost of P44.5 million.' As in the Commonwealth period, Lanao and Cotabato were adversely affected by the convergence. The government also created the Economic Development Corporation (EDCOR) which issued homestead lands to alleged former Huks. Ironically, however, many of those resettled in Mindanao. especially in Cotabato and Lanao were not former Huks. In fact, many former soldiers were deliberately mixed with the former rebels in order to function as stabilizers.' The EDCOR was set up under the control of the Philippine Army and its budget Also emanated therefrom. The EDCOR settlements were largely through the initiatives of Ramon Magsaysay, then Secretary of National Defence.
NARRA was subsequently taken over by the Land Authority, and one of its functions was to administer all the various settlement projects of the government. In September 1971, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos signed into law Republic Act No. 6389 creating the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The agency took over the administration of all existing settlement projects in the country. By December 1980 the DAR, now renamed Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR), was administering some 23 settlement projects in Mindanao. And in 1983, the MAR was in charge of 52,728 resettled families nationwide, 22,639 of them in Mindanao and Sulu.
In February 1986, Pres. Corazon Aquino carried on with the settlement projects of the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR). After some time, the government made a new approach by pushing for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This approach called for the breakup of big landed estates into small units of seven to 15 hectares, depending on whether the land was planted with rice, coconut, sugar, etc. The CARP Law is in effect at the time of this writing (1997).
It is very clear that the various land and settlement laws and projects of the government since the beginning of this century benefited only the Christians. Hardly any effect trickled down to the benefit of the Moros and other indigenous natives. This historic injustice became more appalling with the introduction of the Torrens System of land ownership which was copied from Australia. The system was a complete anathema to the clan or community ownership system prevalent among the Moros. The doctrine considers all lands within the state as public domain and ownership is a state-conveyed privilege. Any person or group may own property subject to the laws of the land. Its implementation, therefore, resulted in the wholesale confiscation of the ancestral lands of the Moros, and the expropriated lands were declared "public lands" and hence subject to distribution even to outsiders. This state of affairs is well elucidated by the following statements by Aijaz Ahmad in Class and Colony in Mindanao:
Muslims, who were 98 percent of the region's population in 1913, accounted for only 40 percent by 1976, according to government estimates. They had owned all the land in Mindanao on the eve of colonization. Today, they owned less than 17 percent, most of it in remote and infertile mountain areas which lacked marketing and infrustructural facilities. Over 80 percent of the Muslims are now landless tenants.
Sad to state, this tragic scenario persisted. In collusion with greedy agents, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LB) continued to dispossess the Moros of their few remaining landholdings, in consideration of payment from 30 to 40 percent of the amount.
Recrudescence of Troubles
Exactly as it had been forewarned, hardly a year elapsed since the granting of independence without trouble erupting in Mindanao and Sulu. The momentary truce caused by the bitter pangs of the last war vanished as quickly as a passing fad after the superficialities or cosmetics of the day had worn off. As a matter of fact, the discriminatory policies persisted, the onrush of land-hungry outsiders continued unabated, greedy entrepreneurs and power-seekers saw the vast opening and seized it, while the Moro leadership escalated in lip-service or sank further in ineffectiveness. All these troublesome events continued to grow until fighting erupted once again.
Immediately after the War, in 1947, Saubing and Binang, two "notorious bandits" to the government, refused to cooperate with the maiden state. They started engaging government troops in Sulu sent to quell them. The situation deteriorated further when other Moro warriors joined the insurrection.
By about 1951, armed clashes started to rage over wide areas of Sulu, Lanao and Cotabato. The most bloody was the one launched by Kamlon Hadji and 100 followers. Despite their inferior strength and crude weapons comprising mostly of old rifles and krises and their being mainly restricted in the Luuk area on Jolo island, Kamlon and his band made the government shake in its shoes. They inflicted severe losses on lives, equipment and fund. For almost eight years the government engaged Kamlon and, during the final assault, 5,000 ground troops were utilized along with naval, air and mortar supports. Logistical expenditures, after the final inventory, amounted to P 185 million. Despite all this cost, Kamlon could not be routed or captured. He finally gave up conditionally due to advancing age.
At the same time, two Lanao chieftains, Abdulmajid Panondiongan and Tawantawan, were also proving very troublesome to the government. Like Kamlon, they decided to raise the banner of resistance and succeeded in inflicting considerable casualties on pursuing government troops. As expected, the uprising did not succeed but they brought to light the cumulative effects of official neglect, wrong assumptions, mistaken policies and lop-sided opportunities to the disadvantage of the Moros.
In Cotabato, the off-and-on armed skirmishes also during this period were outright dismissed as "plain banditry." As in other cases, these skirmishes were mainly in opposition to an imposed authority and the frequent intrusions of government agents into mainly Moro communities. The most wanted man tagged as "bandit" was Disumimba Rashid, the terror of the upland areas of Dinaig and Datu Piang.
In 1961, a move to fight the government with the ultimate aim of separating Mindanao and Sulu was winning adherents in Sulu. The leader, Hadjal Uh, had a motivation similar to those of his predecessors, save for the ideological undertone of his movement. He sought the resignation of the Christian governor of Sulu and called upon the people to refuse to pay taxes. But the movement was cut short when the leader was captured.
Also in 1961, Cong. Ombra Amilbangsa sponsored a bill in Congress which sought to declare the independence of the Province of Sulu.` He was disgusted by the chronic ills and inequalities' prevalent in society, which mainly hit the Moros. As foreseen, the bill did not merit the attention of his colleagues in Congress and his action was simply dismissed as "attention-calling."
Integration of Envisioned
There has not been an era of genuine peace in Mindanao and Sulu since the Spaniards came. In all the American years, except perhaps for the minority view among American policy-makers, the approach had always been to integrate the Moros into the political life of the majority, that culminated in the annexation of the Moro country into the new republic. But the American colonial government unlike the Spaniards, never attempted to convert the Moros to Christianity. On the contrary, they even recognized the "distinctness" of the Moros when they set up special administrative agencies to take charge of Moro affairs.
When the Filipinos took over the rein of government, they ignored that distinct fact. Pres. Manuel Quezon never gave an inch of recognition to the age-old sultanate system of the Moros. He denied the petition from Sulu for the succession of Dayang- Dayang Piandao to the throne after the death of Sultan Jamalul Kiram. In a forthright tone, he told them that the sultanate ceased to exist with the death of the sultan."
After the war, sporadic armed clashes returned to the various parts of Mindanao and Sulu. In a vicious cycle, the government sent troops to quell these disturbance 'and, after a little while, trouble erupted again. This approach had never been questioned until the Kamlon and Tawantawan Affairs when it became the subject of intense assessment for possible administrative and legal remedial measures. The government had practically exhausted its military muscles to defeat Kamlon Hadji and his followers, only to conclude in a negotiated surrender. Its necessary outcome was the sudden national interest in the Moros who were pathetically bogged down in the quagmire of neglect and isolation. Hastily, the government decided to investigate the causes of the unrests. Consequently, a Special House Committee was organized to inquire into the problem and named to this body were Sen. Domocao Alonto of Lanao, Cong. Luminog Mangelen of Cotabato and Cong. Ombra Amilbangsa of Sulu. After the investigation, the Committee's findings were: the Moros must be made to feel that they were an integral part of the Philippine nation and this aim must be achieved through a comprehensive approach covering economic, social, moral, political and educational developments. The direct result was the creation, in 1957, of the Commission on National Integration (CNI) by virtue of Republic Act 1888. The agency was charged with the task of "effecting in a more rapid and complete manner the economic, social, moral and political advancement of non-Christian Filipinos and to render real, complete and permanent the integration of all said minorities into the body politic." The Commission was given ten years, later extended to a few more years, to operate and accomplish its task and, chiefly, it was through education through which it must carry out this assignment. It had an annual appropriation of P 5 million, but not more than half the amount was actually released every year. In the words of one of its officials, the CNI, in spite of its sparse funds and resources, was working "tooth and nail, hoping for miracles to accomplish the rest."
In fairness to the government, it may have fully believed in the effectiveness of the CNI in addressing the Moro Problem. But it little realized what the implications were to the sensibilities of the Moros, who were basically Muslims. The Moros believed that "integration," in essence, would lead inevitably to the abandonment of their beliefs, mores, racial or cultural traits, in favor of the system professed by the state that is suffused with Christian ideology. The essential result would be a situation where one could not distinguish Muslims from the Christians, and vice versa. For a real Muslim, this was absolutely unacceptable. It would be incompatible with Islam.
At least there were two objections to this integration scheme. First, integration is just the beginning and not the end of the process. The fullest outgrowth would be "assimilation" and this was what in the minds of the great many Christians when they think of integration." In this process, the religious and cultural identity of the Moros would be absorbed by the belief and culture of the dominant group, the Christians. Secondly, integration implied that the Christians were not only superior in all spheres of life, but even in the matters of religion they were spiritually or religiously correct. This perception, whether founded or imagined, did not fit well with the Moros. To them, it was an act of injustice to refer to, them as members of the "cultural minority" for, beyond the Philippine territory, lived more than a billion Muslims, who like them, are believers of Islam. This claim find more validity when right after our doors are Muslim states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, which are far more developed economically and as culturally-heterogeneous and yet generally peaceful than the "only Christian nation in Asia,", the Philippines.
The CNI could have succeeded in many of its programs, if only the government extended to it all the funding mandated by law. If it had failed in its goal of integration, its inefficacy in the other aspects (if its mission was equally disheartening. Even in the granting of scholarships, there were reports of anomalous awarding of scholarships favoring one ethnic tribe over the rest. Even full-blooded Christians sneaked into the roster of CNI scholars. The government did not only fail to release the full funding provided for by law but, almost always, the releases were delayed.
CHAPTER VII – DIASPORA OF THE MOROS
The Past Revisited
Before and during the Spanish times, the Moros were under sovereign sultanates. Left to themselves, they might have developed into unified and constitutional sultanates, or evolved into a political system of the Malaysian pattern, where the different princely states are federated and headed by a paramount ruler, although he is not the repository of powers and functions. But the course of history changed when powers changed in Spain. The Moors were defeated and Spain, eventually becoming world power, grabbed land ' s overseas; thence, the "rediscovery" of the new world and - in search for "tastes" -the Philippines.
The task of the Moros during the Spanish era was simple and vet bloody: defend, attack, negotiate, defend, attack, etc. This vicious cycle lasted for over three centuries. In the end, the Moros survived, Islam survived, and the Moro country survived.
At the exit of the Toledo blade, the Krag rifle came in and assumed the war with the Moros. There were still 34,000 armed Moros ready for action. But the newcomers were not "Christ" they were ''Ceasar.'' Armed with no "crosses" but "carrots and sticks" or "sticks and carrots," they tamed and disarmed the "unsubdued." After years of agonizing tit-for-tat interactions, the Moros learned to accept the Americans, not just as ordinary friends but as endeared ones, so that when the grant of self-rule was underway they pleaded to be retained under the American flag or be segregated from the Filipinos. The Americans fully grasped this sentiment and they even predicted that the Moros would rise Lip in arms against the Christians if U.S. rule ended. But alas! they did not only ignore this premonition; they committed another unconscionable act of handing the Moros, defenseless and disorganized to the Filipinos.
This was the state of affairs when the Moros slipped into the hands of the neo-colonial Filipino rulers when the Americans left. In the previous discussion, we have dealt with the policies of the new state and how these affected the twist and turn of events in Moro country. This time we will probe how the situation of the Moros, instead of improving, had steadily deteriorated into chaos, destructions and open warfare when the Filipinos assumed power in the Philippines.
Back Against the Wall
As soon as the last Japanese soldier had left the country, independence was granted to the Philippines by the United States. The timing was excellent for it perfectly coincided with the positive atmosphere created by the invasion. Fighting side by side against a common foe somehow gave the Moros and the Filipinos mutual approbation and satisfaction. The war also created remarkable opportunities, such as material rewards for jobs well done in the service of country and the United States. All these, however, were transitory. Under Filipino neo-colonial rule, the condition of the Moros became worse than when it was under the Americans. The regime was not only proved apathetic and discriminatory; it "resorted" to an extreme measure of systematic dispersal and destruction of the Moros.
On the basis of the past and the stark realities of the present, the Moros rightly or wrongly concluded that under the Filipino flag the future was hopeless and not worth living. There were no genuine efforts designed to set them free from the bondage of exploitation, oppression and persecution. The few or insignificant positive steps taken by the government were no more than palliatives to appease them momentarily.
Economically, a very large proportion of the Moro population sank deeply into the morass of poverty and hunger. In every respect, they lagged behind others. Moro communities remained stagnant and backward. The situation was so depraved that many believed the Moros were better off during pre-Spanish days than at present. One writer cited this pathetic situation in the following lines:
The national census of 1948 placed 80 percent of the Moslems as having no definite source of income, no property. This still holds today. An average Moslem is either a farmer or a fisherman.-'
In politics, there was steady loss of Moro-controlled areas in Mindanao as one province after another slipped from the hands of the natives. Newly created provinces went also to the newcomers.
The brief supremacy of the Moros in the local politics in Cotabato was cut short when the government arbitrarily made its proteges get elected. Case in point was that of Lt. Col. Carlos B. Cajelo, who was made to run and win in the 1971 gubernatorial race over Cotabato Gov. Datu Udtog Matalam, who was then otherwise unbeatable. In Lanao del Norte, Colonel Buenaventura, another congressional candidate, tried to contest the governorship of Lanao del Norte. Again, the unseen hand of the state pushed his candidacy vigorously to make him win. Only a last hour compromise, leaving no losers, saved the day for the Moros.
Massacre in the Rock
If there was one Philippine president who was close to the hearts of the Moros, he must have been Pres. Diosdado Macapagal. In saying so, the author does not speak for other Moros, but only for himself. But he is quite certain that many others share this view. When he first came to Manila, as a student, barely less than a year was left of the term of President Macapagal. But even in such a brief period of time, he could not fail to feel the warmth and sincerity in the man,
and even other Moro students, mostly shy and unassuming, had little difficulty reaching him. Had such a moving personality stayed longer in power, the violence that rocked Mindanao in the 1970s would have taken place sometime much later. But he was defeated in the 1965 presidential election and the man who beat and succeeded him was Ferdinand Marcos, who like the other "Ferdinand," surnamed "Magellan," was instrumental in sowing the seed of enmity that finally made an already seething social volcano erupt.
However, in fairness to President Marcos, it was not he who first initiated the Philippine claim to Sabah. It was President Macapagal, himself, who formally put forth the Sabah Claim in 1962, based on the sovereignty once exercised by the Sulu sultanate over the northern Borneo territory. By all indications, however, President Macapagal was pressing the claim through peaceful and diplomatic channels. In the case of President Marcos, it was an open secret that, in addition to the normal procedure in international law that disputes between and among states be resolved through pacific methods, like negotiations and through the adjudication of the International Court of Justice, he resorted to extra-legal actions in securing the claim. It was in the light of this scenario and his obsession to stay in power beyond what the law allowed that the massacre of sixty-four Moro trainees, popularly known as "Jabidah Massacre," on March 17, 1968, on the rocky island of Corregidor could be appreciated. The victims were part of the 180 trainees, mostly Moros, who were undergoing training on jungle warfare, sabotage and infiltration. The training was purportedly part of a wider clandestine operation code-named "Operation Merdeka" for the invasion of Sabah, to which the Philippines had a pending claim. The word merdeka is an Indo-Malayan term meaning "to set free" or simply "freedom".
The real story behind the cold-blooded massacre was never made public by the government. There were explanations but at most those were intended to mislead rather than to inform. The lone survivor, Jibin Arola, however, made shocking and chilling revelations. He said that they were ordered shot because they refused to follow orders to attack Sabah: "How could we attack the Malaysians when they are our brothers and we do not have any quarrel with them?"' That he, survived by swimming the shark-infested waters of Corregidor and Cavite was in itself a miracle. Other reasons given were the nonpayment of their monthly allowances and the trainees' desires to resign.' Another version spoke of the mutiny of the trainees which forced their military handlers to order the massacre of the entire company, so that none could survive to tell the story of the horrendous nightmare.
When the invasion story hit the international news headlines, Malaysia, expectedly, reacted sharply to the point of going into a frenzy of war preparation. Already having a strained diplomatic relation since 1962, when the Sabah Claim was first filed, the two neighbors almost fell into a shooting war. President Marcos vehemently denied the alleged plan of invasion. But no one took his words seriously. Such a project of formidable magnitude and full of diplomatic dangers could not have been undertaken without his official go-signal. Besides the man in charge of this top-level project, Maj. Eduardo Martelino, was, like him, an llocano by ethnic affiliation. Moreover, the project was under the direct supervision of the Civil Affairs Office of the Office of the President of the Philippines.
Who was Maj. Eduardo Martelino? As above stated, Major Martelino was an llocano from the llocos Region. Once a Christian, he reportedly became a Muslim and adopted "Abdulatif" as his new Muslim name, after marrying a Moro lass by the name of Sofia or Safiyah. The wedding ceremony took place in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, while he was posted there supervising another batch of trainees, also under the same project. Simunul is the last town before Sabah and, on a clear day, Sabah is visible from there. Whether he really became a Muslim or his conversion was merely a propaganda tool to win support or to cover up his real intention, nobody knew for sure. But before his stint with Project Merdeka, while serving as military attache' in Washington D.C., he proposed in a book for the federation of the states of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines into a Pan-Malayan aggrupation; and to realize this, he thought of organizing an expeditionary force code-named jabidah to be based in Simunul Island.' Though his idea appeared fantastic, he earned some prominence for it.
This is the sketchy background of Maj. Eduardo Martelino who was made to appear as the man behind the ill-fated project and on whose shoulders all the blame, insult, curse and international ramifications were placed squarely. Obviously, he was sacrificed or had himself sacrificed to conceal and save the real brain behind the invasion plan. But the public perception was quite clear: If Martelino was the lead actor of the project, Gen. Romeo Espina, then AFP Chief of Staff, was the Director, and President Marcos, as Commander-in-Chief, was the Producer.
Had Project Merdeka succeeded and Sabah was invaded, the consequence would have been disastrous. Besides, what benefits awaited the Moros if Sabah became part of the Philippines? The fact of the matter was that Sabah under Malaysia was very progressive.
The Old Man is Angry
The bloodbath at Corregidor did not only anger the Malaysians including Sabah Chief Minister DatuTun Mustapha Haron, but jolted the Moros and their leaders, particularly Cotabato Gov. Datu Udtog Matalam. Hardly two months after the incident, Datu Udtog Matalam spearheaded the move to create an Islamic Republic of Mindanao in answer to the alleged systematic policy of genocide, discrimination, and dispossession of lands pursued vigorously by the government.
On May 1, 1968, he organized the Muslim (and later Mindanao) Independence Movement (MIM), which sought to form a state comprising of the contiguous southern portion of the Philippine Archipelago. In the Manifesto issued by the MIM, the following, among other matters, were declared:
1. That it is a recognized principle underlying the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights of the rights of all people consisting the minority in a given state for self-determination;
2. That the Islamic World Congress has affirmed the above principles, particularly on the rights of Muslims who are in the minority in non-Muslim states for self-determination;
3. That the systematic extermination of the Muslim youth like the Corregidor Fiasco - and the policy of isolation and dispersal of the Muslim communities have been pursued vigorously by the government to the detriment of the Muslims; and
4. That Islam, being a communal religion - an ideology and a way of life, must have a definite territory for the exercise of its tenets and teachings, and for the observance of its laws.
The text of the Manifesto was forwarded to the UN Sec. Gen. U Thant and copies were also furnished to all heads of Muslim States and to Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.
In a flash, the Old Man and the MIM were in the headlines. But nobody seemed to have known why he went on to such an extreme move. The desire for power was quite remote. He was already the governor of the biggest province in the entire country. Neither could his action be attributed to the desire for more wealth, for revolution does not pay off. Whether or not he was serious is not within our competence to pass judgment. But one thing is certain. The MIM did not gain much momentum and few outside his home province of Cotabato listened to him seriously enough. But the reaction of the government was a different story. From all indications, it did not take the MIM challenge lightly. Subsequently, one of his advisers, Atty. Hussain Pangato, was killed sometime in 1970 by PC troopers at Tinidtiban, Pikit, Cotabato. He also lost to Lt. Col. Carlos B. Cajelo in a very questionable gubernatorial contest in 1971.
The MIM may not have endured long, but it contributed in no small way to the revival of the spirit of independence among the Moros, particularly the studentry and the professionals. In fact, the professionals and students in Manila who later formed the Moro National Liberation Front were also moved by the spirit of the MIM when they enlisted in the first batch of trainees to undergo guerrilla training in a nearby state.
At this point in time, it was interesting to note that President Marcos was about to run for his second term after which the Philippine Constitution would disqualify him from seeking a third term. It was in this setting that the threats caused by the Matalam's bugaboo and the political ambition of Marcos could be tied together and on which basis also many loose ends of contemporaneous events could be made to bind, in order to get a clearer picture of the larger scenario which later unfolded to become what this country had never experienced. President Marcos, on several occasions, was overheard to say that "only fools get out of the Palace," meaning, as president of the Philippines. His declaration of Martial Law in 1972 and his stay in office for more than twenty years substantiated beyond doubt the allegations that he indeed had dictatorial ambitions.
The Rats Strike
The emergence of the Ilagas was attributed to threats posed by the MIM on the Christians in Cotabato. In the province at the time, there were reports of Moro youths undergoing guerrilla warfare training n Malaysia and several training camps in the province. As a result, Christians, who chose to stay and fight for everything they held dear, reportedly became the early pioneers of the Ilaga movement.
The word Ilaga is an llonggo or Visayan, term for "rat," that highly voracious creature that infests on our crops. How these "halfcrazed" or "mad killers," or what the regime preferred to call "fanatics," acquired the name or chose to be known by it is perhaps explained by the widespread proliferation of their gory activities on Mindanao. Other sources went further to decipher the name as an acronym for Ilonggo Land Grabbers Association. The final truth of the matter still remains to be seen, but in the absence of more solid evidence to the contrary the theory might as well stand. Initially, a simple folk leader, Feliciano Luces, was tagged as the Ilaga chief. Those who knew him well in Upi, Cotabato, could not help but wonder how a mild-mannered farmer of this town could become an overnight leader of an ultra-rightist Christian organization whose name brought fire and awe.
Early references to the name theorized that it referred to the voracious animals to exemplify the natural right of any man or community to legitimate self-defense. There were rumors and wild stories about the organization, all unsubstantiated at the time. But in July 1972, the Associated Press, an American wire service, reported that the Ilaga organization was the brainchild of seven Christian leaders of Cotabato. Later, in 1973, a group of students commissioned by the government reported that the llaga was founded in Cotabato City in September 1970 by Mayors Wenceslao de la Cerna of Alamada, Nicolas Dequina of Midsayap, Pacifico de la Cerna of Libungan, Bonifacio Tejada of Mlang, Conrado Lemana of Tulunan, Jose Escribano of Tacurong, Esteban Doruelo of Pigkawayan and PC Capt. Manuel Tronco of Upi, the overall commander. Being seven in all, they were thus called the "Magnificent Seven." Though a later recruit, Lt. Col. Carlos B. Cajelo, also an Ilonggo, who became Governor of Cotabato and later the Deputy Defense Minister for Civil Relations, was popularly believed as the real leader. He was perceived to have taken over the command discreetly from Manuel Tronco, a candidate for Mayor of Upi in 1971, when the latter was slain in an ambush in 1972 in Upi, Cotabato. Ex-Mayor Esteban Doruelo, then an assemblyman of LTP-12., was also assassinated on February 4, 1984 in Cotabato City for reasons believed linked to the founding of the Ilagas.
The Ilaga rampage started in the middle of 1970 barely a year-and-a-half before Pres. Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into Martial law on September 23, 1972. The first killing field was Upi, Cotabato the new home of Commander Feliciano Luces, alias "Toothpick." There he led a band of Tiruray tribesmen, who readily responded allegedly to settle an old score with the Maguindanaon Moros. 12 On March 22, 1970, Commander Toothpick and his band of so-called "fanatics," initiated, as their baptism of fire, an attack on an isolated Moro village, killing six people and burning several houses. They left behind their horrifying trademarks on the victims: cut ears, slashed nipples, plucked out eyes, and cross markings on the body. Members of the gang, mostly teenagers, were subjected to rigid initiation rituals and were required to wear amulets and other charms believed to have magical powers to ward off evil and harm. In the beginning, the Tirurays dominated the gang but, later on as other Ilaga units sprouted in other areas of Cotabato, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and elsewhere, the movement was dominated by llonggos. Later, the Ilaga gangs acted as "storm troopers" for government troops when the Moros succeeded in putting up an effective defense. A pertinent article in one of the front-running Manila dailies had this to say this tie-up:
The list is long... but it can be compressed into one single horrifying theme -- a near absolute lawlessness armed and protected by... government officials and the military into remote corners of Mindanao to look for and kill... Muslim rebels, and whoever they believe to be their sympathizers.
The late Pres. Diosdado Macapagal had this to say in connection with the llaga Organization:
The political and short-sighted handling of Muslim problems under the Marcos reign reached a zenith when the authorities sanctioned and believably helped arm and Ilagas, an armed band of Christian Filipinos, who have waged an operation to kill Muslims. Reports of massacres both of Muslims and Christians in a mutual rampage of violence and killing as a result have considerable truth in them. Seeing the hand of the government in the organization and operations of the Ilagas, it is understandable that the Muslim Filipinos have entertained the belief that the administration is out to exterminate the Muslims.
Such belief no doubt has intensified Muslim insurgency.
The number of victims continued to increase as the PC-Ilaga, tandem mounted and widened its bloody sorties in the other provinces and towns outside of its original base of operations. Hardest hit by these depredations usually were isolated Moro villages.
So far, there is no formal research work conducted or made available that shows data on these Ilaga-related massacres, including the names of the victims, number of houses burned or destroyed, and other losses or damages. The following listing is not presumed to be complete but somehow efforts have been made to make the entries as detailed as possible."
Question of Genocide
The nightmarish killings did not only alarm the local Moro population, but even the Islamic world was led to believe that there was really a systematic genocide campaign waged by the state to annihilate the Moros in Mindanao. According to the Marcos regime, more than 1,000 civilians had died, about 2,000 armed Moros and Christians had been killed, and more than half-a-million persons had been wounded, displaced, and rendered homeless, not to speak of heavy casualties among government troops.", According to another source, the number of Moro victims of the Army, PC and Ilaga attacks reached as high as 10,000 killed." In addition, thousands of Moro houses, mosques and Arabic schools were destroyed or razed to the ground by these ruthless depredators
In response to the issue of genocide, the Islamic world sent missions to Mindanao to investigate the reported mass slaughter of Muslims. In January 1972, eight Muslim ambassadors visited the various Moros areas, particularly Cotabato and Lanao del Norte. Members of the mission were ambassadors from Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Singapore, United Arab Republic (Egypt), Pakistan and Iraq. Again in July 1972, another mission, this time made up of Libya and the United Arab Republic, came to Mindanao to monitor the situation of the Muslims. The delegation was headed by Dr. Ali Abdulsalam Treki, the Libyan Foreign Minister, who spoke for the group:
... We don't believe there is such a thing. But what is important is not what we educated people believe in. What matters is what the Muslims in Mindanao think. They think their war against Christians is a religious one."'
Both the second and first missions found no trace of genocide as an official policy of the Philippine government, but the collusion of many military and government officials in the series of Ilaga activities was not only a matter of public knowledge; it was confirmed by no less than a ranking member of the organization. One Ilaga commander, Carmelino Abagon, who figured in many massacres in Mindanao, told newsmen that they never attacked Muslims without the permission or order from the Philippine military."' The least the government was guilty of was in tolerating, hence acting as an accessory, in the bloody activities of these gangsters. One can only imagine the wisdom or folly of the decision of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos to play guest to the notorious llaga chieftain, Feliciano Luces, in late 1970 right at the Presidential Palace in Manila. Instead of being punished, the Ilaga kingpin, to borrow the words of the late Cong. Salipada Pendatun, was "knighted" and "bade to go back to his kingdom to bear more arms and commit further depredations
In the meantime, the displacement and dispersal of the Moros from their ancestral lands continued unabated. The towns of Ampatuan, Bagumbayan, Alamada, Columbio, Upi, Palembang, Tulunan, Carmen, Isulan, Esperanza, all in Cotabato; of Wao, Lanao del Sur; of Magsaysay, Kauswagan, and all areas along the National Highway from one end to another, in Lanao del Norte; of Siay, Labangan, Dimataling, and other areas along the National Highway as well as along the coastline, Zamboanga del Sur; of Kalilangan, Talakag, and nearby places, Bukidnon; and of Tantangan and few other towns of South Cotabato, were rendered "ghost areas" as evacuating Moros and Christians moved about in opposite directions. However, in predominantly Muslim towns like Dinaig, Parang, Buldon, Barira, Matanog, Maganoy, Datu Paglas, all in Cotabato, and Balabagan, Lanao del Sur the evacuees were mostly Christians.
Up to the present, most of the people who were uprooted from their ancestral dwellings have not returned. A few who dared to return had to flee again from the incessant fear for their lives from their erstwhile enemies who were usually clothed in authority and brandishing high-caliber firearms after their integration into the paramilitary forces of the government. Others failed to reoccupy their lands because other people were already telling them. And it was not an uncommon instance that those who managed to return became tenants to the lands they once owned. Survival, even in sub-human standards, was really difficult. Not a few survived by swallowing whatever remained of their dignity and pride by winnowing the grains from the chaff of rice left over in Christian granaries and farmlands.
The Terror Escalates
The off-and-on and yet bloody confrontations remained towards the last quarter of 1971. By this time, the Moros had been able to put up a more organized resistance against the onslaught of the IlagaPC tandem with the formation of the so-called "Blackshirts," said to be the army of the Muslims or more precisely of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) of Ex-Gov. Datu Udtog Matalam. The Blackshirts, so-named because they wore black khaki, chevrons, boots, and name tags, first tasted prominent combat experience in the much-heralded "Battle of Buldon" in August 1971. Buldon is a border town next to Lanao del Sur, thus an ideal place for defence against the PC troops sent to blast the Blackshirts from the town.
The attacking PC troops, backed up by tanks and mortars, confessed that they could hardly move 100 meters forward without being pinned down by heavy enemy fire. After a few days of fighting, President Marcos sent a group of emissaries to negotiate the surrender of Bangon Aratuc and to forge a truce. First, the Mayor sent his son, Tomatic Aratuc, to Manila and then he followed to meet President Marcos. He denied there were Blackshirts in his municipality. "What I have are black teeth, 1121 he cracked. A few aging rifles of World War II vintage were surrendered obviously to save faces, especially for the government, which promised a consolation of P 75,000 to "rehabilitate" the town. Soon Buldon faded out of the limelight.
On August 20, 1971, news flashed that Ampatuan, Cotabato was under siege. llaga gangsters had swooped on isolated Moro villager. The Moros fought back to defend themselves. In Maneba, Ampatuan, a series of pitch battles were fought involving the llagaPC on one hand and the villagers on the other. Two of the "Malaysian trained" Moro students, Abdulmanan Abas and Akmad Enampadan, saw action here.
In September 1971, the escalation of hostilities switched to Lanao del Norte between llagas and "Barracudas." Both Muslims and Christians evacuated in large numbers: the former to Marawi City and the towns around Lake Lanao, and the latter to Iligan City, Ozamis City, Cagayan de Oro City and, across the sea, to Dumaguete City. Estimated to have swelled to 50,000, the evacuees now became a major refugee problem, especially to the government.
As in Cotabato, the hostilities in Lanao del Norte were inflamed by local politics. A Christian governor, Gov. Arsenio Quibranza, was on one side of the political divide, against Cong. Ali Dimaporo on the other side. The Barracudas were labeled as the private army of the Dimaporos while the Ilagas were said to be at the disposal of the Quibranzas. This conflict peaked when a 40 unarmed Muslims were mercilessly mowed down at a checkpoint in Tacub, Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte on November. The victims were returning home after casting their votes in a special election set by the Commission on Election.
The massacre shocked the entire nation and the Muslim world, which denounced the carnage as another attempt of the Philippine government to make true its genocide campaign against the Muslims Mindanao. Malaysia, Libya and Kuwait adopted special efforts including calling upon the United Nations to intervene in the crisis. Libya offered relief assistance to the victims.
Towards the end of 1971 and up to April the following year, there was a lull in the fighting. No major confrontations took place. But suddenly in May renewed fighting raged in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur. The Ilagas were reported to have come to the town to rally the local Christians against the predominantly Muslim populace. The initial cause, in fact, was the bloody feud between a local politician and a Christian logging company. After some fighting, the result was the evacuation of some 5,000 Christians
Almost simultaneously, Iligan City, a predominantly Christian City, clamped a boycott of Marawi City, a city of Muslims. No food, fuel or communication could reach the city. Even the price of salt had sky-rocketed from P20.00 to P40.00 per sack. Sometimes, even if money was available, the stock was not on hand. The boycott was lifted only after the government sent in Marines and constabulary troops to replace the local police force and dismantle all the roadblocks.
After a while, the battles shifted to at least two towns in Zamboanga del Sur. First to succumb was Siay Mayor Maulod Puasa, a Subanon-Maguindanaon mestizo, who was cut to pieces right at the market place by rampaging Ilagas. Next to be attacked was Hadji Van Jadjourie, a Tausog trader; fortunately for him, he and his clan managed to beat off the 60-man Ilaga attackers. Then there was the free-for-all fight involving Dimataling Mayor Carmona and the Maguindanaon residents. In a hastily called peace dialogue by Gov. Jose Pecson, the two warring groups were told to appear in order to tresh out the roots of the problem. First to arrive were Governor Pecson and the Muslim group, and while the Governor and the Muslims were discussing some aspects of the conflict Mayor Carmona and his armed followers barged in. Alarmed by their sudden and threatening appearance, the Muslims opened fire and first to fall was Mayor Carmona himself. A firefight ensued. The Governor barely survived, although the casualties on both sides were heavy.
The Zamboanga incidents were not the end of the conflict. People looked toward Basilan and Sulu, expecting them to be the next battleground. Instead, the main event was the sudden declaration of Martial Law on September 23, 1972.
CHAPTER VIII – THE QUEST FOR SURVIVAL
The Search for Alternatives
The travails of the past and the chilling fear for the unknown future had aroused the Moros to activity, especially the studentry, professionals and even the political leaders at the time to look for alternatives that could guarantee or at least provide a defense mechanism to secure the survival of the Moros as a people. The Manila government was to them still a "government of outsiders" and was not only indifferent but, even more so, appeared to be the main force behind a move to "liquidate them," as revealed in the Jabidah Massacre in late the 1960s and the series of mass slaughters in Mindanao by the Ilaga-PC tandem in the early 1970s.
The old Moro leaders, nationalists or "collaborators," had tried to secure Mindanao and Sulu from the control of the outsiders but failed miserably. One main reason for this failure was lip-service they offered to what was generally perceived to be a real and serious problem requiring immediate and concrete action. Evidently, they had bec9me too preoccupied with the present, since most of them were either politicians or high government officials, to recite the hard lessons of the past and perceive the threats in the offing. Such lackluster mentality must have been the consequence of having made too many compromises, which ultimately led to surrender, or what we may be mildly termed as "subservience." In addition, the lure of the world and the inability of these aristocratic leaders - most of them belonged to the so-called royal class - to shed off their privileges attached to this ancient tradition must have contributed a lot to this unfortunate frame of mind. As virtual captives of this leadership crisis, the Moro people apparently had become unproductive and uncreative, which explained why they have been generally passive, if not indolent - almost like the indios of the past Spanish regime.
As the conflict hardened and intensified - against the backdrop of deepening Islamic consciousness - the Moros had to find ways to survive and at the same time to make true their distinct national identity. This necessity found expressions in the rise of numerous organizations. The listing would be very long, but for the purpose of this section, it is enough to make mention of three organizations, namely, the Muslim Association of the Philippines (MAP), Ansar El Islam, and the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM). The Muslim Association of the Philippines, was founded in 1926, ironically by Indian Muslims,' but after a while local elite Moros began to dominate it. Prominent among these local leaders were Ex-Sen. Salipada Pendatun, Ex-Sen. Domocao Alonto, Cong. Rashid Lucman and Ex-Ambassador Pullong Arpa. Under Ex-Sen. Domocao Alonto came the Ansar El Islam in 1969,'which later on branched out surprisingly to practically all corners of Mindanao and Sulu where Muslims were domiciled. Its main objective was for the complete establishment of Islam in all aspects of life.' However, many eyebrows have been raised on why, during the hard conflict that followed in Mindanao and Sulu, the Ansar El Islam failed to rise to the occasion when its services were most needed by the people. If there was any organization that had probably evoked much terror in the power circle in Manila, the Mindanao Independence Movement under Cotabato Gov. Datu Udtog Matalam in 1968 must have been that organization. But after much rumblings, the MIM itself may have succumbed to the threats and enticements of the government. In December 1971, Pres Ferdinand Marcos and Datu Udtog Matalam met in Manila, after which only the name was left of this organization.
There were other organizations earlier founded by Moro elders, but most if not all were either regional or mainly religious or educational in character. In 1934, the Sarrikatul Islam Association was formed in Zamboanga but its objective was more of commercial venture. Trading during this period had expanded and the people were accorded a greater chance to dispose off their produce easily and to buy merchandise at reasonable price. In 1936, the Kamilol Islam Society was established in Lanao del Sur. Its purpose was mainly educational.
Rise of Moro Students’ Power
The years from the early second half of the sixties to the early seventies marked the height of student militant activism and unrest. There was widespread unrest, violence and disturbances, both global and national, which stirred student activism through the "parliamentary of the streets," like demonstrations, rallies, pickets, teach-ins and other forms of radicalism. The Moro students and even the professionals were not remiss in facing the challenge of this world phenomenon.
In the case of the Moro students both in Manila and in Cairo, Egypt, there were seven eventful episodes, three global and four national, which had the greatest impact upon their lives and the trend of events in Mindanao and Sulu. The three global incidents were as follows: 1) the June 5, 1967 Arab-Israeli War; 2) the 1968 aborted but bloody coup attempt in Indonesia; and, in a lesser degree, 3) the rise of student demonstrations in Indonesia and Malaysia in 1968. And in the national scene, the 1968 Jabidah Massacre easily was the main "eye-opener," which evoked much disgust that revived the old fears that under Filipino rule the Moros were not safe. It was followed by the founding of the Mindanao Independence Movement by Datu Udtog Matalam in 1968, the 1970-1971 series of massacres of Muslims in Mindanao, and finally by the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. All these incidents were highly exceptional circumstances that no rational person, lest of all a Moro, could ignore and leave everything to chance.
Initially, the students, professionals and, to some extent, the politicians were locked in debate over what course of action to pursue for the Moros, as a whole, to survive. There -were three options before them: 1) adopt a collaborationist line, as did most of the old nationalist leaders, whose only weapon to freedom was lip-service; 2) assume a riskless buj4ishonorable stance of acquiescence and leave the rest to "fate;" and 3) subscribe to the view that man, as the "best of creations," has the relative capability to make or unmake his own destiny. All the three options had takers. Ironically, those who took No. 1 shone in the heyday of student activism, especially in Manila, but were mostly nowhere to be found when the sailing got rough in Mindanao and Sulu. Those who picked up option No. 3 generally assumed supporting roles in the "parliamentary of the streets," but became the ones who personally led the revolutionary war later. Takers of No. 2 were the slaves of the insatiable self and remained in the cities; many married Christians and raised their families outside the moral realm of Islam.
In the language of the day, the "aroused" students or professionals were branded "activists" or "radicals" and were more likely declared "subversives." Despite the so-called policy of maximum tolerance ordered to anti-riot policemen and Metrocom soldiers, not a few Moro student activists were injured during rallies and demonstrations. Cases in point were the violent demonstrations against the visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in 1967 and the coming of Gen. Abdul Harris Nasution of Indonesia in 1968. The demonstrators protested against the Israeli Foreign Minister and the pro-Israeli policy of the Marcos regime. Some of the demonstrators managed to barge into the Israeli Embassy in Makati and pulled the Israeli flag down. Actually the confrontation in 1968 was not preplanned. The Moro students were set to welcome Gen. Abdul Harris Nasution, the man who was highly regarded as the successor to Pres. Ahmad Soekarno. While the Moro students were at the Manila International Airport (MIA) waiting for General Nasution to disembark, another group of militant students identified with the Pro-Communist Kabataang Makabayan (KM) protested his visit and started hurling invectives, such as "Nasution: Butcher of Indonesia," "US puppet, go Home!" and other stinging slogans. Consequently, the pro-Nasution and the anti-Nasution demonstrators clashed with stones, bottles and Molotov bombs that resulted in several injuries on both sides.
The study groups, mostly hastily formed, centered on alarming issues of the hour. The members wanted to rationalize everything on the basis of something. As their discussions prolonged and sometimes got heated, their conclusions were not unanimous as to what must be the direction and the guiding light of their activities. All were Moros, but although they were all Muslims by upbringing, they were enrolled in secular universities and colleges and not all followed a purely Islamic way of thinking. Others adopted a nationalist line. This confusion remained even after the battle scene was transferred from the streets to the frontlines of Mindanao and Sulu.
In the beginning, both Moro and Christian students jointly denounced the prevalent evils of the day. They organized demonstrations against the prevailing political and economic frustrations of the people, the widespread graft and corruption, elitism in the social and political structure, and so forth. Gradually, however, the Moro activists began to realize, albeit quite later, that although there were common serious national issues confronting the Moros and the Christians that they could both cry about, the fact was that the Moros themselves had their particular tune to sing. They, therefore, started to speak of the problems of the Moros, in particular, how they would fare in a predominantly Christian state, what would be their destiny under the Filipino flag, should they have to work for reforms within the realm of national politic, etc.
It was not long after t hat many Moro student organizations began to sprout in metropolitan Manila, the nerve-center of student activism. Some of these organizations were the Union of Islamic Forces and Organizations (UIFO) under student leader and later lawyer Macapanton Abbas Jr.; the Muslim Progress Movement (MPM) led by Dr. Altman C. Glang; the Philippine Muslim Nationalist League (PMNL) spearheaded by UP Instructor Nur Misuari; the Students' Supreme, Council of the Philippines; the Muslim Students' Association of the Philippines (MUSAPHIL); the Muslim Lawyers' League; the Muslim Youth Assembly; the Bismillah Brotherhood; the Al Muslimin Fraternity, and the Sulu Muslim League. Students in the provinces also formed organizations, two of which were the Mambarul Islam based in Cotabato City and the Sulu Islamic Congress in Jolo, Sulu.
Very soon the disillusionment of these activists came to surface in early 1970. They were particularly cynical and disheartened by the continued lip-service of their leaders, both traditional and political stripes. In May 1970, the Moro youth activists convened the first Muslim Youth Assembly in Zamboanga City, where they denounced the evils of the day. They exhibited an anti-government posture and called on the Moro youths to take the lead Overseas, the Moro students in Cairo, Egypt, despite being detached from their homeland by thousands of miles, were in fact much ahead in the need to form themselves into an organization, initially in response to their basic requirements as students. This later developed into a vehicle to bring forth to the international forum the sad plight of their people. In 1962, the Philippine Students' Union (PSU) was formed in Cairo, Egypt. The leading personalities were Salamat Hashim of Cotabato, Abdulbaki Abubakar of Sulu, Mahid Mutilan of Lanao, Ibrahim Abdulrahman and Khalifa Nando, also of Cotabato. Other organizations also cropped up later in other Arab capitals, but were not as politicalized and representative as the PSU. Either the membership was limited to an ethnic group or was purely religious in intention.
On several occasions, the PSU staged rallies to denounce the persecution of the Moros back home. Their presence in what was considered the most influential Arab capital under the able leadership of Pres. Gamal Abdul Nasser, as well as their proximity to other Muslim capitals in the Middle East and Africa, had ushered in contacts with other Muslims also working for their emancipation. Such contacts, especially with the Palestinians, buttressed in no small way their early revolutionary inclination and motivation. It also facilitated the solicitation of help from many Muslim states and leaders.
Formation of Liberation Fronts
1. Birth of the Moro National Liberation Front - It was riot until early 1973 that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was made public and started to claim credit for the series of fighting in Mindanao and Sulu.' In Cotabato, the early statements or press releases of the rebels were issued in the name of the High Command of the Moro Fighters. Before that, the name and identity of the Front was even more shrouded in mystery.
The founding of the MNLF5 was made in 1969 by young secular-minded Moro students and professionals in Manila. The decision was consummate for the stakes were high and laden with dangers. But it was not a carelessly thought-out decision. In fact, under the prevailing circumstances, there was no other recourse except to organize, mobilize and fight to survive. After a while, a seven-man Provisional Central Committee was organized with Nur Misuari as Chairman and Abulkhayr Alonto as Vice Chairman. The other major portfolios were given to Otto Salahuddin of Basilan, Ali Alibon of Davao, Lumet Hassan ("King Size") of Cotabato and Sali Wali of Zamboanga. Salamat Hashim was tasked to head the undivided Empire Province of Cotabato where a provincial committee was set up immediately.
In about the second half of 1972, a meeting was slated to take place in Sabah to install, as the main agendum, a permanent Chairman of the Central Committee. The meeting was facilitated by Chief Minister Datu Tun Mustapha Haron. Unlike the previous meeting in 1969, the Cairo group was now represented. Salamat Hashim, Dr. Saleh Loong, Daud Tayuan and Muntassir Abdulrahman were there for the group. The names of Nur Misuari, Salamat Hashim and Dr. Saleh Loong cropped up as front-runners for the chairmanship. However, in a triumvirate meeting involving the above-named persons, Hashim eventually gave in, in favor of Nur Misuari. He could have prolonged the process and allowed the intramurals to protract and subtly make his way up to take the post for himself. He knew Dr. Saleh Loong, who simply cannot see eye-to-eye with Misuari, would side with him. But after an intense soul-searching, Hashim opted for Misuari for the sake of unity and in deference to what Islam teaches that a Muslim cannot vote for him to become leader.
Early in 1973, Nur Misuari moved to Sabah, Malaysia, where he established his headquarters and from there he directed much of the early fighting in the war theater in Mindanao and Sulu, while Salamat Hashim remained in Cotabato where there was fulI-scale fighting. However, in December 1973, upon the instruction of the MNLF Chairman, Hashim proceeded to Tripoli, Libya via Sabah for consultations and to assume a new assignment in the Foreign Service. Amelil "Ronnie" Malaguiok succeeded him as Chairman of the Kutawato. Revolutionary Committee (KRC). In 1975, Nur Misuari left Sabah and joined Salamat Hashim in Libya where they, together with the other MNLF leaders, officially organized the expanded MNLF Central Committee. Nur Misuari was reelected Chairman and Abulkhayr Alonto was chosen, in absentia, as Vice Chairman. Salamat Hashim became the Chairman of the foreign affairs, with Abdulbaki Abubakar as the Deputy Chairman for foreign affairs, Abebakrin Lucman as Secretary General, Abdurasad Asani as the Chairman of the committee on information, and the rest of the offices went to other trusted lieutenants of Misuari.
In March 1978, Abulkhayr Alonto and his followers surrendered to the government and, soon after, Salamat Hashim, in concurrent capacity, became the Vice Chairman of the Central Committee.
2. Founding of the BMLO - Before the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, the Moro traditional or aristocratic leaders, the likes of Cong. Rashid Lucman, Ex-Sen. Salipada Pendatun and Ex-Gov. Datu Udtog Matalam, were still very powerful. As a matter of fact, the first batch of ninety Moro trainees known as the "Top 90" who were sent to Sabah or, more precisely, to Palau Pangkor, State of Perak, Malaysia, for intensive military training or guerrilla warfare was made possible through the facilitation of these leaders." As may be shown by the number of recruits from each ethno-linguistic grouping, Lucman, who was a Maranao, had the greater say: 64 members were Maranaos, 15 were from the Sulu region, and only 11 were from Cotabato. Sad to state, however, most of the Maranaos surrendered to the government and the remaining few returned to civilian life.
In 1970, Cong. Rashid Lucman organized the Bangsa Moro Liberation Front (BMLO). It was designed to function as an umbrella organization under which all other liberation forces must radiate. In 1984, it was renamed Bangsa Muslimin Islamic Liberation Organization.' It frowned upon the use of the term Moro, which was given by the enemies of Islam, and in its stead Muslimin was chosen.
The first set of officers of the BMLO were the following: Rashid Lucman was the head of the Supreme Executive Council; Macapanton Abbas Jr., Secretary; Udtog Matalam Jr., Chief for Cotabato Affairs; Abulkhayr Alonto for Lanao Affairs; and Nur Misuari for the Sulu region. Obviously, Misuari and Alonto were using the BMLO as cover in the meantime, while exerting effort to strengthen the MNLF, which was still top secret. At this time the first batch of trainees had already reached Sabah and it was believed that the BMLO was to be a control design set up by the Lucman group in anticipation of the return of these trainees and the forthcoming arm shipments.
In 1971, Cong. Rashid Lucman, Ex-Sen. Salipada Pendatun and Ex-Sen. Domocao Alonto, now overtly carrying the name of another but legal organization, the Islamic Directorate of the Philippines, declared themselves as the "representatives" of the Moro people and went to Libya to seek assistance. Pres. Muammar Qhaddafi did not only meet them but promised "all forms of help" to the Moro people. However, in an ironic twist of circumstances, when the Libyan aid started to roll, only the initial releases ware channeled to Lucman and his group. The rest went straight to the MNLF. This marked the start of the BMLO-MNLF rift and later BMLO leaders started to accuse the MNLF leadership of betrayal and counter-revolution.' Lucman also charged Misuari and Hashim and other MNLF leaders of deliberately withholding the letter of Libyan Minister Saleh Bouyasser bearing an instruction to him (Lucman) to meet Dr. Ali Treki in Sabah and receive the $3.5 million requested. The accusation was not substantiated, but nevertheless it exacerbated the rift in the relations between the BMLO and the MNLF.
In 1972, after the declaration of Martial Law, Macapanton Abbas Jr. presented the case of the Moros before the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The OIC Secretary General was erstwhile Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdulrahman. The following year, Macapanton Abbas Jr. returned to the Philippines and, along with several others, he accepted a position in the Presidential Task Force for the Reconstruction and Development of Mindanao (PTFRDM). The main task was to restore peace and order in Mindanao and Sulu and to implement selective amnesty and rehabilitation. On the other hand, Cong. Rashid Lucman worked his way to be declared, with President Marcos' consent, as "Paramount Sultan of Mindanao and Sulu." On June 4-6,1974, Sultan. Rashid Lucman and other Moro aristocratic leaders conducted a conference, with government approval and logistical support, at Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, with reportedly 20,000 participants. The main resolution adopted was the demand to implement autonomy for the
Moro areas. The document was attached to the report of the Quadripartite Ministerial Committee of the Organization of Islamic Conference, which was to meet in Kuala Lumpur in the same month. The Kuala Lumpur-OIC Foreign Ministers' Conference, to the displeasure of the Philippine government, adopted a strongly-worded resolution urging the Philippine government to undertake political and peaceful solution to the Moro problem through negotiation with the Moro leaders, particularly the MNLF. Feeling short-changed, President Marcos described Lucman and other Moro leaders as his "opponents." In 1975, Sultan Rashid Lucman, Ex-Sen. Salipada Pendatun and Macapanton Abbas Jr. left for Saudi Arabia to try once again to reunite with the MNLF leaders. The effort failed.
3. Dawning of the MILF - As early as 1962, students in the Middle East, particularly in Cairo, Egypt started to form organizations, initially along broad Islamic sentiments and orientations. Gradually this paved the way for the formation of a nucleus with the sole intention of freeing the Moro homeland from Manila rule. As mentioned earlier, the leading personality in this group was Salamat Hashim. The fact that these students, mostly taking up various Islamic-related courses, antedated their counterparts in Manila for several years gives credence to the assertion that they were the first to conceive the idea of organizing a liberation organization, later to become as the Moro National Liberation Front. Given the free choice, they may not have called it "MNLF," considering their religious background, but certainly they would put up an organization along Islamic perspectives, which would undertake the historic task of liberating the Moros.
In the early years of the struggle, Nur Misuari and Salamat Hashim were one and worked together as closely as possible. They were comfortable with each other. Hashim even helped Misuari get the top post of the MNLF. But as the struggle hardened and prolonged - often made more serious by human error - the rift between the two leaders started to surface. Hashim started to be left out in many major sessions of the Central Committee. Soon they began to disagree on almost every major point and finally even on political and ideological issues. Secular-educated, Misuari was nationalistic and Hashim, Islamic-oriented, was Islamic. The breaking point came on September 21, 1977, right after the collapse of the GRP-MNLF talks in Manila, when 57 leading officers of the Kutawato Revolutionary Committee (KRC) signed a petition addressed to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Muslim World League (MWL) calling for. the ouster of Nur Misuari as Chairman of the MNLF and,in his stead, recognizing Salamat Hashim as the new Chair. Among the signatories were Al Haj Murad, Ghazali Jaafar, Amelil Malaguiok, Mohagher Iqbal, Abukhalil Yahya, Khalifa Nando; Moslemin Sema, Ibrahim Sema, Kabilan Sema, Boy Hashim, Adan Abdullah, Nur Miranda, Daud Tayuan and Tani Malaguiok, all of Cotabato. Similar petitions emanated from Lanao and among the signatories were Abowidad Mimbantas, Saleh Rascal, Ansarie Mutia and Mohammad James Bond. In December 1977, several follow-up petitions were forwarded to the OIC and MWL from Cotabato, Lanao, Zamboanga del Sur, Davao and other areas. Consequently, on December 26,1977, Salamat Hashim, acquiescing to the popular clamor of the leaders in the field, executed the "Instrument of Takeover." In his letter to OIC Sec. Gen. Dr. Ahmadou Karim Gaye," Hashim enumerated the following major points for the takeover:
1) The MNLF leadership was being manipulated away from Islamic basis, methodologies and objectives and was fast evolving towards a Marxist-Maoist orientation;
2) Instead of evolving towards harmonized and collective leadership, the Central Committee has evolved into a mysterious, exclusive, secretive and monolithic body, whose policies, plans, decisions and dispositions - political, financial and/or strategic -became an exclusive preserve of Nur Misuari, vitiating all commitments previously arrived at to submit for consultations all plans and strategies not only to the MNLF members themselves but also to organizations, local and external, sympathetic with the movement; and
3) This mysterious, exclusive, and arrogant nature of the MNLF leadership resulted in confusion, suspicion and disappointments among members and mujahideens in the field, resulting in the loss to the cause of a great number of freedom fighters.
As expected, Nur Misuari did not only refuse to recognize the takeover but also accused Salamat Hashim of "treachery," "incompetence and insubordination." He was also stripped of all his post and declared persona-non-grata.
The OIC and the MWL tried to tackle the MNLF leadership crisis seriously. Sec. Gen. Ahmadou Karim Gaye, both on official and personal capacities, exerted efforts to patch up the split but without success. The attempt of the MWL was similar. Sometime in 1980, MWL Sec. Gen. Dr. Mohammad Ali Harakan invited Nur Misuari and Salamat Hashim and their assistants to a dialogue. He personally presided over the conference. The aims of the meeting were threefold: 1) to forget and forgive all their differences; 2) to set up a common platform and program; and 3) to form a collective leadership through the formation of a high political committee with Nur Misuari as Chairman and Salamat Hashim as Vice Chairman. Hashim acceded to this arrangement of the MWL, while Misuari refused to accept some aspects of the deal.
Several years after, reactions to the takeover were varied. Some felt it was fully justified, timely and the only way to save the struggle from collapse. Others said this amounted to serving the devils and collaboration with the enemy. Still others branded this as the handiwork of the enemy or its agents. 13 In the absence of a common basis of judgment, nay, a common frame of mind, there would always be wranglings. But in the end, the final arbiter will always be history - and this is forthcoming.
In March 1984, after due and exhaustive consultation and in-depth analyses, the Central Committee of the New MNLF Leadership in a plenary session, officially declared itself a separate organization called the "Moro Islamic Liberation Front." While there were other. important reasons, the main one was the need to emphasize the Islamic orientation of the group as contrasted to the secular-national list line pursued by the MNLF. Islam thus became the official ideology of the MILF, which would guide all its affairs and activities.
4. Entry and Exit of the MNLF-Reformist- After the exit of Salamat Hashim from the MNLF in 1977, Dimasangkay Pundato was groomed to succeed him and, later, was officially installed as Deputy to Chairman Nur Misuari. However, in March 1982, after barely six months in the fold of the MNLF, Dimas Pundato, Jibril Ridha, Napis Bidin and 42 others signed and submitted a nine-point reform proposals to MNLF Chair Nur Misuari to strengthen or to reform the organization. The proposals included the creation of: 1) a real, functional and representative Central Committee; 2) the creation of an Executive Committee; 3) the sincere forging of unity with other organizations such as the BMLO, MNLF Salamat faction, and 4) the localization of the leaders and commands in the province."
Misuari rejected the proposals outrightly and all the petitioners were summarily dismissed from the MNLF. Immediately in June 1982, Dimas Pundato and associates formed the "MNLF-Reformist" faction.
Earlier in 1981, during a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Pundato group, after an extended preliminary, sought a unity meeting with the New MNLF leadership of Salamat Hashim. When appraised by Dimas Pundato of the MNLF leadership "excesses," Hashim retorted: "What you cannot bear for only six months, I swallowed for six long years." The meeting succeeded in effecting a cordial working relations between the two groups. But for some unknown reason, the fruitful prospect of this meeting was short-lived, for in 1985 Dimas Pundato and practically all his associates in the MNLF-Reformist surrendered and accepted positions in the government. This was the death of the MNLF-Reformist as a revolutionary organization.
The Countdown Begins
The deaths and destructions brought forth by the turbulent years 1968-1971 and the climate of fear created by the declaration of Martial Law had both its negative and positive effects upon the Moros and the students in particular. On one hand, it had clamped down the cold-footed and the unprincipled, but, on the other, it motivated the God-fearing and the dedicated to initiate a struggle.
That struggle was inevitable. As long as a man was aware of his obligation to the Almighty, to his people and to himself, he would never be at peace even with himself. Men of this persuasion first made a declaration to fight for their people, homeland and Islam. Then, they went abroad to train in military warfare. Third, after returning home, they effected an alliance with the broad spectrum of society and formed the MNLF. And fourth, they set the timetable to fight back and start the war.
CHAPTER IX – MINDANAO AND SULU IN FLAMES
Suddenly in October
At first, nothing special seemed to have happened immediately after the declaration of Martial Law. Everything seemed to remain normal and in status quo. It turned out, however, to the dismay of many that suddenly on October 21, 1972, exactly one month after the declaration, things turned out for the worse. On this day, Marawi City, in Lanao del Sur, was attacked by several hundred MNLF rebels, who succeeded in pinning down troopers at the Philippine Constabulary (PC) headquarters at Camp Amai Pakpak and capturing the detachment at Pantar Bridge which divided the two Lanao provinces. They took complete control of the Mindanao State University (MSU) Compound where the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines, Toshio Urbano, was almost captured. The rebels also grabbed the PBS Radio Station inside the MSU Compound and started playing martial music and broadcast appeals calling the people to arms and to support the MNLF cause.
One of the leaders of the attackers was Abulkhayr Alonto, scion of a popular clan but whose family collaboration with the American and Filipino leaders during pre-independence days was never a secret. He was then Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the Moro National Liberation Front. But instead of calling themselves or their group the "MNLF," they used the name "Mindanao Revolutionary Council for Independence." One probable reason for this concealment was that the MNLF, as matter of policy, was yet a secret from the public and the government. The other compelling explanation was that the attack did not have the official go-signal of the Central Committee.' As a matter of fact, this unilateral decision, nay grabbing of authority, of Alonto was one of the main reasons for his disgrace from office and finally of his demotion in rank.
After two days of fighting, on October 24, the number of deaths - soldiers, rebels and civilians - was put at 75. By this time, however, the beleaguered government troops received reinforcement from Iligan City. And consequently, the rebels withdrew away from the city.
MNLF Spearheads Struggle
The attack of Marawi City, as noted earlier, was not the handiwork of the MNLF. As a matter of fact, the brain behind the attack turned out to be a man with a personal grudge, who was then the Chief of Police of Marawi City.' It was only on November 14, 1972 that the guns of the MNLF started to speak. The first to be assaulted was the island of Jolo, the capital of Sulu. Simultaneously, the firefights rapidly spread to various islands.
For the seizing of Jolo, the MNLF guerrillas first attacked the countrysides. They captured many firearms and guns including a cannon, a mortar, machineguns, and ammunition. Another group of fighters attacked another adjacent town, Parang, Southwest of Jolo, and in no time had it under control. Hardly two weeks passed when fighting erupted in the Empire Province of Cotabato on February 27, 1973. This fighting was considered the most serious threat to the security of the state. 3 More than any other previous engagement, this offensive attracted world wide , attention because the Cotabato rebels displayed exceptional striking power and logistical capability. Government positions were overran everyday and 12 towns, firmly came under rebel control.
Initially, the fighting centered on the coastal town of Lebak, now in Sultan Kudarat Province. Within a span of less than one month, it engulfed practically all of what are now the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Sarangani.
By and large, the fighting in Cotabato were positional and sometimes they lasted for weeks or months before an area was won or lost. The one at Tran, Lebak, was fierce and bloody. The ferocity of the fight was what perhaps compelled Brig. Gen. Fortunato Abat, Commanding General of the hastily-formed Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM), to declare the place, as "Hell's Little Acre."
The government practically committed its entire firepower, including jet planes, tanks, helicopter gunships, navy boats, howitzers and even the prohibited incendiary bombs in the battle over Tran. Inspite of this massive display of military power, it suffered one of its serious beatings in the war. The government lost, at least, one plane and two helicopters, three tanks and one mortar, not to mention the small arms. After the official termination of this offensive on August 6, 1973, the government listed the following losses on both sides: 46 army soldiers, and six CHDFs slain; 167 soldiers, 13 CHDFs wounded; and on the MNLF side: 137 killed .4 Although the government could only admit this number, in deference to standard military procedure of minimizing losses in war, its casualties could have been much higher. Among the wounded was Lt. Gregorio Honasan, who later figured prominently in the series of coup attempts since 1986 to topple Pres. Corazon C. Aquino from office and is now a Senator.
As early as April 25, the town of Tarragona, Davao Oriental, was attacked and captured. MNLF rebels took over the town until May 7 when they decided to abandon it in the face of a massive counterattack by the government troops. On September 25, MNLF forces struck in another direction towards Mati, an adjacent town, and succeeded in wiping out a joint PC-Police patrol. By government account, six PC troopers and three policemen were lost in this firefight.
Meanwhile, the Provinces of Zamboanga, Tawi Tawi, and parts of Bukidnon and Misamis were also burning. Not a few of the early victories of the MNLF were fought in these areas. As a matter of fact, the one in Zamboanga on March 1973 was dubbed, though clearly a case of intelligence-gathering failure on the part of the government, as the biggest battle. It was asserted that "200 'Maoist-led rebels" were slain in the firefight. There might have been some cadres in the MNLF who were taking cues from the teachings of Mao Tse Tung, considering their exposure to left-leaning individuals or groups during their college days in Metropolitan Manila, but to brand them as Maoist was ludicrous.
On the early morning of February 7, 1974, a massive assault was let loose on Jolo. First government positions were bombed with 81mm and 60mm mortars and with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and then, af ter sensing that the enemy defence had collapsed, the MNLF forces massed forward into the town. After some heavy fighting, one strategic area after another fell into the hands of the attackers. Camp Asturias, the airport, the harbor, the Notre Dame College campus, and the entire downtown area were in the hands of the MNLF forces. Jolo thus became a rebel country. The MNLF casualties numbered only fourteen killed.
On June 20, the Awang airport came under mortar attack. Simultaneously, several villages of Midsayap, some 46 kilometers northeast of Cotabato City, came under siege. The MNLF used mortars to pound the defenders. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued. The government reported losing two army officers, 14 enlisted men, and one CHDF. Twenty four others were wounded. Cotabato City was also threatened. The CEMCOM headquarters was subjected to occasional mortar attack. In fact, one of the casualties was Col. Emilio Luga Jr., the Deputy Commander of the 2/3rd Brigade. However, he was lucky to survive his wounds. Many outlying areas of the city like Biniruan, Kakar, Pagalamatan, Bubong, and even the Notre Dame University campus were scenes of bloody combat actions. The fiercest was fought in Biniruan on July 14, where at one time the CEMCOM troopers suffered over 100 casualties, mostly from the 15th Infantry Battalion, including one army major and the capture of 86 high caliber firearms.
The MNLF forces were also active in some areas in Lanao del Norte particularly in the Tangkal-Munai area. As early as January 1975 MNLF forces launched operations against joint army-Findlay security forces. They first burned bridges towards the town, burned heavy equipment of the Findlay Miller Logging Company, and then laid ambuscades along the roads.
The Cost of War
Up to the early part of 1975, the MNLF was wresting many areas from the government. Several towns or islets in Sulu, TawiTawi, Basilan, and the Zamboanga Peninsula were under MNLF control. The same was also true in the Empire Province of Cotabato. Committees, as a parallel apparatus of governance, sprung up in the villages, towns and provinces. A central committee, the highest governing and policy-making organ of the front, was organized. Everyone, especially Muslims, came forward to offer his or her life, service and property. On the other hand, the government political machinery virtually ceased to function in these areas. Similarly, its military arm, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), had a difficult time picking up troops for assignment in Mindanao. And the Philippine Constabulary (PC) was replaced by army troopers, many of whom had a taste of battle in Vietnam.
So massive and bloody was the war that practically the whole of Mindanao and Sulu was a virtual inferno. This was confirmed by the late Deputy Minister for Defense, Carmelo Barbero (in an interview with a Mindanao weekly), who revealed that the government was spending about 15 million pesos and playing with 5,000 lives a day in military operations. This disclosure could have appeared a little exaggerated if it came from someone other than the Deputy Minister for Defense.
This revelation was not only corroborated later on, but an even more ruthless picture of the conflict was presented, when Cong. Eduardo Ermita, a member of the GRP Panel that negotiated with the MNLF in 1993-1996, disclosed:
Over a period of 26 years since 1970, more than 100,000 persons were killed in the conflict in southern Philippines....
The AFP has spent about P73 billion in connection with the Mindanao conflict since 1970.
... Sixty one percent of our Army and Marine battalions ... more than 40 percent of our artillery capability and 50 percent of our armor assets ... 63 percent of our tactical aircraft....
Casualties of Time
In the meantime, a ceasefire was declared in the 13 provinces and ten cities covered by the proposed area of autonomy stated in the Tripoli Agreement signed in Tripoli, Libya on December 26, 1976. The lull in the fighting gave the government tactical advantage in deploying troops in strategic areas and gain vital intelligence on MNLF forces and mass bases.
By this time, the wounds inflicted by the constabulary-Ilaga depredations in the 60s and 70s were already healing considerably. Those who had joined the fighting chiefly to take revenge had lost interest after their thirst for vengeance had been quenched. The same was true of those who merely wanted a taste of !he thrills of adventure, or those who went into battle for personal glory and gain. It was also no less true for those who only loved banditry. The coming of the war gave them chance to be fighting side by side with a multitude of men and women against the same enemy that they had been occasionally confronting. In any case, all these people had joined the MNLF to fight the government. They saw the MNLF as the only ray of hope for protection in the face of the "genocidal campaign" being waged by the regime of Marcos.
Inevitably, the time of reckoning for the "dogs of war" to lay bare what was truly in their hearts would have to come. These "dogs" were the hypocrites, the opportunists, the waverers, the pseudo revolutionaries, the unbelievers and the dregs of society, who finally realized that a revolution was not the place for pleasure or for any self-serving end. That time came after 1977, when everybody became free to do everything he liked and be himself again. Singly or in droves, they crossed over to the side of the enemy, where there was licentiousness in everything, from sex to material satisfaction.
At the outset, they were most welcome by the regime and the military. They were hailed with all grandeur and glory and extended with all necessary amenities. Their past misdeeds were easily forgiven. A Manila-based columnist of the Manila Bulletin made this glaring comment:
Messrs. Lucman and Malaguiok are among the most privileged citizens in the country nowadays. They got government awards practically for a song to import sardines, cut logs and export bangus fry or fingerlings, among others.
Recently, Lucman was granted authority to export 10 million bangus fry and fingerlings. We don't know anybody who was given such a privilege before.
Perhaps, Lucman and Malaguiok want to show the government their gratitude for the bounty. Or perhaps it was their way of the government to grant them more concessions. You know, soft -scaping.
But later on, all these privileges and wealth that they, except for a rare few, enjoyed with impunity vanished forever. Their true color and odor in the community began to surface.
However, not all who left the cause chose this route to self-serving ends. Some just left the revolution without formally surrendering. They simply sought different lines of trade, careful not to offend the MNLF cause.
This was the catastrophe that rocked the MNLF. But it was not an isolated phenomenon among revolutionaries all over the world. Oftenly, they would be hit by the same internal tornado that only the hardcore members could withstand. It is a phenomenon that is part of the cleansing process that every revolutionary struggle has to undergo. Many inadequate persons would join the revolutionary ranks, only to become casualties of time, either from their own making or as a result of the hard conflict.
Almighty Allah clearly warned the believers of this rectification process when He said in the Holy Qur'an:
God will not leave the believers in the state in which ye are now, until He separates what is evil from what is good.
In the field of combat, positional warfare characterizing initial MNLF strategy contributed a great deal to the early exit of the vacillators and pseudo-revolutionaries. The weakness of the strategy in a clearly guerrilla stage of the struggle began to be felt in the years following the MNLF general offensive in 1972-1975. While this form of warfare once again displayed the gallantry and determination of the MNLF fighters and the Moro people in general even against formidable foes, it also brought home to the MNLF military strategists and tacticians the need to reassess the strategy in the light of prevailing conditions. Finally, they were convinced that commanders could not and should not adopt a war plan calling for greater strength and resources than what actually were available in a given condition, in which the final outcome would be determined by various decisive factors which are not within the control of said commanders.
The years of conventional warfare, of pitting the entire armed forces of the government in conjunction with the active combat support of paramilitary forces, mostly former Ilaga members, against the MNLF was distinctly a one-side affair to the disadvantage of the latter. It was only the strength of the faith and motivation of the Moros that gave them steadfastness and determination to succeed, in spite of the imbalance in physical and material resources. Under the circumstances, however, prolonged and bitter confrontations, sometimes for weeks or months of see-saw fighting, would tend to erode the stamina, efficiency and morale of the fighters. Many of the MNLF forces, as a result, became sluggish in initiative and direction. Some even began to evince hopelessness that finally led to their abandoning the cause, either by lying low, outright betrayal, or surrender.
The War Stalemates
After having faced the worst scare of its life in the MNLF 1972-1975 offensive, (perhaps, second only to the horror of the Japanese invasion in 1941), the government began to launch a massive counter offensive to arrest the secessionist threat. Two unified commands, the Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM), were hastily formed. The SOUTHCOM area of responsibility (AOR) covered South-Western Mindanao, including principally Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan. The CEMCOM had jurisdiction over the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, and parts of Davao area. Both the CEMCOM and the SOUTHCOM, as above-stated, were unified commands; meaning, they took operational control and supervision over all major service elements except for some outfits of the Philippine Constabulary (PC). Control and supervision emanated from the General Headquarters, AFP in Camp Aguinaldo, which in turn provided all necessary support, such as combat troops, service, equipment and other resources.
The government was so ill-prepared at the start of the offensive, especially in matters of logistical capabilities, that it practically dropped to its knees, begging from friendly non-Muslim neighbors, to sell it what the United States under the terms of the Mutual Assistance Program (MAP) was obliged to provide the AFP in terms of ammunition and weapons." As a matter of fact, it even sought the aid of home-made gun factories in Mandaue City to help produce direly-needed parts for Garand (M-1) rifles.
After the first quarter of 1975, the MNLF offensive was greatly blunted by the massive counter-offensive of the government. The government was able to bring in enough troops, equipment and other war materials to sustain the fight and, later, to consolidate positions, especially in the most strategic or critical areas. Both sides, as a, consequence, changed battle tactics. Though the MNLF's main fighting force and will to resist were largely intact, its logistical capabilities were not limitless to carry on indefinitely a massive conventional warfare. The MNLF, therefore, had to resort to guerrilla warfare in order to maintain a share of combat initiative. On the other hand, the government, after concluding that the- MNLF threat was checked, abandoned widescale campaigns for small-unit operations. Thus, in a sense, a strategic stalemate between the forces of the MNLF and the government was in place.
This stand-off was further reinforced when a formal ceasefire was signed between the MNLF and the government in the closing days of 1976. The ground rules of the ceasefire, though clearly favoring the AFP, particularly on the subject of police powers, helped to hold the peace. For the first time since 1972 the forces of both sides met each other without their fingers on the trigger.
The days of peace, as the cynical or the Doubting Thomases would have it, were doomed from the outset. The government, using every pretext to evade the terms of the ceasefire, had violated the truce to the last letter as early as the first quarter of 1977. Under the guise of "police action," the regime unleashed military operations against the so-called lawless elements, although in most cases the real targets were MNLF forces. MNLF areas or those occupied by their supporters or sympathizers were not spared. When confronted about the flagrant violations, the regime's reply or alibi was that it was just exercising its police prerogative sanctioned by the ceasefire agreement. It turned out that the victims of these operations were not criminals but, at times, organic members of the MNLF.
But this shallow pretext did not last long. As early as May 1977, barely five months since the forging of the truce, a full-fledged "searchand-destroy" operation was conducted in Basilan. Rear Admiral Romulo Espaldon, Chief of the Southern Command, ordered this allout military offensive against the MNLF and mass bases. The operation continued for 45 days. Three battalions of infantry troops and 2,000 paramilitary forces were thrown into action. But before pushing inland, the target areas were subjected to intensive bombardments and the flow of foodstuff and other basic human supplies was restricted. This was intended to starve off the rebels and their mass supporters.
As soon as the bombardment was over and the government troops began to close in on the target, fighting commenced. After ten days of combat, the final account revealed that the MNLF suffered five martyred and 24 wounded, and on the side of the attackers, one tank was destroyed and more than 90 were slain or wounded. 13
However, a more dramatic disregard of the ceasefire agreement took place in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and South Cotabato. In these provinces, there were mutually recognized bivouac areas where representatives of the Manila government, the MNLF and the Quadripartite Ministerial Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) met and discussed ways to carry out the ceasefire effectively. As early as January 1977, these areas were used by the MNLF in good faith as camps to facilitate effective cooperation in the peace process then going on.
In spite of this mutual recognition, the bivouac areas were treacherously attacked by government forces under the very eyes of the representatives of the Quadripartite Ministerial Committee. The base in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao had been under siege for the whole of September 1977; and on the last day, the whole range of the base was under veritable hail of artillery shelling and machinegun fire. Enemy forces occupied every strategic hill overlooking the base. They also closed all routes and stopped the flow of food supplies to the camp. Consequently, the MNLF failed to bring in war materials for much of the days of fighting despite continuous skirmishes in the immediate fringes of the camp. Under such condition, the only alternative was a breakthrough. Involved were about a thousand officers, men, and few civilians. Among the key officers of the Kutawato Revolutionary Committee (KRC), who were inside the camp at that time, were Amelil Malaguiok, KRC Chairman; Al Haj Murad, Military Chairman; Ghazali Jaafar, Head of the Political Bureau; and Mohagher Iqbal, Chief of the Information Committee.
Until almost midnight, there was no final decision which route to follow. All the reconnoitering parties, except one, reported back negative findings on a better way out. The last to arrive said that the only choice was a route traversing rocky cliffs, steep slopes and wooded areas to escape detection by the enemy blocking forces. Hurriedly the group called for a caucus and soon a decision was clinched to break through at all cost, following that designated route.
All the MNLF forces were arrayed in battle formation for effective firepower and maneuverability. Anti-tank Weapons, 60mm mortars, and grenade launchers were located in the forward positions to ensure piercing effectiveness of the formation.
The expected did not take place. There was no encounter. The 40-man ambush party was obviously scared and ran away when it saw such a mammoth group heading towards its blockade. Despite this good forture, the MNLF suffered untold difficulties. What would have been a two-hour walk took them almost the whole night to negotiate. Much of the slowdown was caused by the number of fighters who had to be carried out on stretchers.
Almost at the same tirne the bivouac areas in Bagoinged, Dinaig, Maguindanao, in Rajamuda, Pikit, North Cotabato, and in Wato, Sultan-sa-Barongis, Maguindanao were similarly attacked, all in flagrant violation of the canon of civilized nations after the Philippine government had agreed to abide by the terms of the Tripoli Agreement and the ceasefire.
In the meantime, new flashpoints appeared in Western Mindanao, particularly in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Zamboanga, when the regime started to mount new fighting. In Sulu, it culminated with the death of Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista and 34 of his men in the town of Patikul on October 10, 1977. An MNLF contingent of 200 forces led by Commander Usman Sali, an ex-Vice Mayor of the town, was responsible for the bloodbath. Only one sergeant lived to tell the story.
What precipitated the massacre of Bautista and his men was the various atrocities and killings penetrated by the army in violation of the truce. Many of the victims were close relatives of Usman Sali and his men. Being the commanding officer of the Tabak Division that had operational jurisdiction over the Sulu area., General Bautista was held responsible. At the time of his death, he was engaged in a surrender campaign urging the MNLF forces to come out and join the government. This actuation of the General greatly offended Commander Sali, who also had to avenge the death of a son and the rape of his daughter by army soldiers.
It was a shocking incident to the regime and brought in much infamy for its shabbiness in security matters. In retaliation, Marcos ordered the mass slaughter of no fewer than 600 men, women and children of the municipality.
By middle November, five army battalions and an unspecified number of paramilitary forces attacked the MNLF base in Sapu-aMasla, Malapatan, South Cotabato. The attackers used mortars and howitzers and the aid of naval bombardment to pound the entrenched MNLF forces. let planes and gunships were also thrown into action. But when the attackers tried to advance they came up against strong resistance from the defenders. Five MNLF forces were martyred, while the government lost 12 men in this confrontation.
On November 27-30, three army battalions led by Col. Jose Magno Jr. and an undetermined number of policemen and paramilitary forces assaulted an island bastion of the MNLF in Lake Lanao.
Earlier, the island was shelled for many hours. Jet planes also took several flying sorties on a strafing and bombing mission killing or wounding scores of fighters and civilians. The island was named the "Martyrs' Island" in honor of the fighters and civilians who who perished during the bombardment. On the final day, government forces approached the island, using water launches or pumpboats. They disembarked immediately, apparently believing that all the defenders had perished or at least that the island's defence system had already collapsed due to the intensive bombardment made earlier. But the attackers were cut down by bursts of automatic rifles and grenade launchers. They scurried for safety and to fight back, if possible, but were too late. The MNLF defenders were safely under cover in foxholes and canals and had a commanding view of the enemy landing point. The result was conclusive: 100 army soldiers slain, 40 paramilitary forces and policemen killed or wounded and 38 captured.
The resumption of hostilities spread to various parts of Mindanao and Sulu, and were at times even deadlier than that those preceding the ceasefire. The boiling point came when even those who have already surrendered to the government were not spared from abuses and barbarities. The glaring example was the incident in Pata Island, Sulu on February 12, 1981 where a bloody shootout between a renegade armed group and army soldiers took place. Army men were sent by higher military command to collect the firearms owned or issued to the surrenderees. The moment they landed on the island, they started to commit savagery against the residents, who included relatives of the surrenderees. They manhandled many civilians, raped women, raked dwellings with gunfire and butchered dogs inside mosques." Subsequently, they were "lured" to a festival in the town proper where they were finished off by the enraged former rebels and the aggrieved families.
The result, again, was a bloodbath. Of the 124 soldiers, only three survived. Among the slain were Lt. Col. Jacinto Sardual and three other officers. What made the task easier, according to a wellplaced source, was that some MNLF forces participated in the final touches.
Immediately, the regime sent naval gunboats, surrounded the island and started shelling it. Then several battalions of Marines disembarked. They moved inland and started to kill the inhabitants. Village after village were reduced to ruins. No one was allowed to evacuate. Troops destroyed all boats on the island and the flow of food was halted. In the final count, the civilian casualties numbered 2,000. They were killed either by the shelling or in the massacre that followed. The government, however, admitted only 750 deaths.
If war uses the force of arms to achieve both military and political objectives, negotiation pursues the same goals through the skillful use of language and diplomacy. If war, as once aptly put, is an extension of politics, and negotiation is an aspect of war, then negotiation is war in another form.
What are its objectives when a regime agrees to resolve the conflict through the round table? Is negotiation the only form of struggle to achieve a just and lasting peace? Or is it merely used as a weapon to gain time, accumulate resources and consolidate power for the next round of battles?
Negotiation does not always happen between the two warring parties. Its occurrence is contingent on the concrete realities recognized by both sides and their willingness to undertake it. The government can refuse a peace deal if it can beat the other side on the battlefield. However, it can be overeager to negotiate, if the other party indicates a weakness that can be exploited over the negotiation table, or tricked into capitulation. The government can also use negotiation as a weapon to misrepresent itself as the just and reasonable side, intrigue the ranks of the rebels and fool the people.
War is always costly, while negotiation is cheap. A day in war is usually costlier than a month of talking. In negotiation, there are no lives lost, properties destroyed or people rendered homeless. And as the negotiation drags on, the status quo of disengagement or non-engagement is given more and more a sense of reality and hope to become permanent.
In many instances, it is true that talking is better than not talking at all. But talking and talking as if the whole peace process revolves around it only validates the charge that negotiation is mere exercise in futility. It is not meant to reach anything lofty. It is an end in itself.
However, a sincere quest for peace - a just and lasting one through negotiation is a different story. It is a slow process and has no or few shortcuts. Its soul is the identification of the root causes of conflict and its primary objective is to carry out an urgent agenda of change by the agreeing parties that would resolve the problems underlying the conflict.
However, there is little reason to doubt that when the government agreed to sit down with the MNLF to talk, it was assenting to the time-tested tactic: when hard-pressed, negotiate. The grand design of the MNLF to curve an empire known as the Bangsa Moro Republik was high on its agenda. Fighting was raging everywhere and a sizable portion of Mindanao and Sulu was in rebel hands. The government also knew that peace achieved by violence will not last and represented only a part of the solution to the rebellion.
International support for the Moro cause started as early as the late 1960s when reports of massacres of Moros hit world headlines. The first to react openly was Col. Muammar Qhaddafi, President of Libya, who said that his government will come to the rescue of the Moros in Mindanao and Sulu if the mass killing of his brethren did not stop. He was not alone to express such serious concern. Many other Muslim leaders in Asia and Africa shared the same sentiments. These world-wide reactions placed the Philippines and the Marcos regime at a precarious position, since many of these states did not need the Philippines as much as it needed them. Many of these states were producers of oil, which the Philippines needed very much. Consequently, Marcos began to look for scapegoats. He accused foreign agents of blowing up the conflict out of proportion.
The first foreign leader, though at the state level, to extent concrete help to the Moros was Tun Datu Mustapha Haron, Chief Minister of Sabah. There were many reasons why he came to the rescue of the Moros. One of these was his biological, emotional and historical connection with the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. His mother was a Tausog and, therefore, he was as much a Moro as the rest of his brethren. He allowed Sabah to be used as training camp, supply depot, communication center, and sanctuary.
The implication of Tun Datu Mustapha Haron's stance and later also of Kuala Lumpur - Sabah is part of the Federation of Malaysia, -was a major irritant between the two neighbors. The Philippines had a long-standing claim over Sabah that at one time almost led to open warfare. Sabah had began to be regarded by the Philippines as part of her territory on the strength of ownership claim by the ancient Sulu sultanate.
Kuala Lumpur had never admitted aiding the Moros. The official position of Malaysia regarding the Mindanao crisis had been confined only to actively supporting resolutions passed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
In 1971, Libyan Pres. Muammar Qhaddafi openly declared his support for the Moros, who were apparently the object of a genocide campaign. In the same year, Libyan Foreign Minister Saleh Bouyasser came to the Philippines with a US$1 million pledge of his government to bankroll the on-going guerrilla training of 300 Moro recruits in Malaysia. A year later, when Martial Law was declared, Libyan money, weapons and other materials started to flow into the frontlines in Mindanao and Sulu.
In May 1971, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was founded. One of its aims, as set clearly in its Charter, is to strengthen the struggle of all Muslim peoples with a view to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights. It so happened that Tunku Abdul Rahman, the founding father and first Prime Minister of Malaya (later, Malaysia), was the first Secretary General of this powerful Pan-Islamic body. As head of the OIC, he was instrumental in the support extended to the Moros by the OIC member-states, especially Libya and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
From February 29 to March 4,1972, the Third Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, passed a resolution calling for the review of the plight of the Muslims living in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao and Sulu.
On March 24-26, 1973, the Fourth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers meeting in Benghazi, Libya, expressed deep concern over the reported repression and mass extermination of Muslims in South Philippines and decided to send a delegation of Foreign Ministers of Libya, Senegal, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. The Conference also created a voluntary fund from member-states to help the Muslims in South Philippines. It further passed a resolution requesting Indonesia and Malaysia to exert their good offices, within the framework of ASEAN, to help find a solution to the problem.
In August of the same year, the four-nation delegation visited Mindanao and Sulu. Members of the delegation were Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Omar Al-Shakaff, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdulati Al-Obeidi, Somalian Foreign Minister Arteh Ghalib, and Senegal Ambassador to Egypt Moustapha Cisse. The fact-finding mission took note of the steps taken by the Philippines to improve the condition of the Muslims. These steps, however, were considered insufficient to solve the whole problem, as reflected in the resolution of the succeeding meeting of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Kuala Lumpur the following year.
On March 9-13, 1974, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Omar Al-Shakaff again visited the Philippines in a bid to follow up earlier efforts to monitor the condition of the Moros. President Marcos told him that the government was doing everything to attend to the needs of the Moro communities, which included the setting aside of wide tracts of land for resettlement.
On May 29, 1974, President Marcos and President Suharto met at Menado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia to discuss, among other vital ASEAN concerns, the Moro rebellion. But unlike Malaysia and Libya, Indonesia was more concerned with regional unity, as expressed in the ASEAN, of which both Malaysia and the Philippines were members.
On June 21-25, 1974, the Fifth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The conference called upon the Philippine government to desist from all measures which resulted in the killing of Muslims and the destruction of their properties and places of worship in Southern Philippines. It urged the government to find a political and peaceful solution through negotiation with Muslim leaders, particularly with the representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front in order to arrive at a just solution to the plight of the Filipino Muslims within the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. It also created a welfare agency, known as Filipino Muslim Welfare and Relief Agency, for the purpose of extending welfare and relief aid direct to Muslims in the Southern Philippines.
CHAPTER X – WAR BY OTHER MEANS
The Initial Talks
On the basis of Resolution No. 18 approved in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, follow up efforts to bring the two warring parties to the negotiating table were high on the OIC agenda. At the invitation of the Philippine government, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Al-Tohamy, the new OIC Secretary General, visited the Philippines to discuss matters in connection with the resolution. He succeeded in bringing the MNLF and the Philippine government to the negotiating table in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on January 18-19,1975. The MNLF formally abandoned independence in favor of a strong autonomous region with internal security forces.
The two panels met in the presence of the OIC Secretary General. The talks, however, did not materialize because both sides presented demands that could not be met by either side.
The MNLF panel was composed of Nur Misuari, MNLF Chair; Salamat Hashim, MNLF Deputy Chair; Abdulbaki Abubakar, Hamid Lukman, and Abdulrasad Asani. Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor headed the government panel. The members were Admiral Romulo Espaldon, Ambassador Lininding Pangandamen, Col. Jose Almonte, and four others.
The aborted talks, after further consultations, were rescheduled to take place on April 7. It did not take place, because President Marcos instead called for a dialogue in Zamboanga City from April 17- June 30. Those invited to this dialogue were Marcos handpicked Muslim leaders, government officials and the "rebels," who rejected the nine-point agenda proposed by the OIC Quadripartite Ministerial Committee for the resumption of the stalled negotiation. The Sixth Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference convened in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on July 12-15, 1975. The conference approved the nine-point proposal for the resumption of talks and urged both the MNLF and the Philippine government to resume the negotiation, as early as possible.
On May 6 1976, Dr. Karim Gaye of Senegal, the new OIC Secretary General, met President Marcos in Nairobi, Kenya. The OIC Chief told the President of the need for the resumption of the talks immediately.
A week later, an May 13-16, the Seventh Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference held session in Istanbul, Turkey. As usual, the conference reiterated its call for the immediate resumption of the talks between the MNLF and the Philippine government.
On October 1, the Islamic Solidarity Fund donated US$1 million to the Agency for Development and Welfare of the Muslim in the Philippines. However, this fund was coursed though the Philippine government which had the discretion over the manner of disbursement and programming.
Signing of the Covenant
In the meantime, Mrs. Imelda Marcos, the First Lady and wife of President Marcos, was designated Special Envoy of her husband. This brought her to Egypt, Algeria, New York, Saudi Arabia, and then to Libya. At the United Nations, she had an occasion to meet and discuss the Mindanao crisis with the Algerian Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, then President of the UN General Assembly, and through him with the Arab delegates to the world body. From there, she proceeded to Tripoli, Libya where she had a lengthy dialogue with Pres. Muammar Qhaddafi on the Mindanao crisis.
On December 15-23, 1976, the second round of negotiation between the MNLF and the Philippine government took place in Tripoli, Libya. The talks were conducted in the presence of the Quadripartite Ministerial Committee. Dr. Ali Treki, the Libyan Foreign Minister, presided over the series of meeting between the two panels, which culminated in the signing of the covenant now known as the Tripoli Agreement of December 23, 1976. The agreement provided for the establishment of an autonomy for the thirteen provinces and nine cities in Mindanao and Sulu.
The government panel was chaired by Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero, with the following as members: Lininding Pangandamen, Simeon Datumanong, Karim Sidri, Pacifico Castro, and Col. Eduardo Ermita. The MNLF panel again was composed of Nur Misuari, Salamat Hashim, Abdul Baki Abubakar and Abdurasad Asani. Also with the group, as legal counsels, were Atty. Zacaria Candao and Atty. Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur.
Subsequently a formal ceasefire agreement between the two warring parties was signed on January 20, 1977. A committee was organized, composed of the MNLF, the Philippine government, and the Quadripartite Committee to oversee the implementation of the ceasefire. Provincial ceasefire committees were also set up in the thirteen provinces to help monitor and maintain the observance of the accord.
The philosophy behind the declaration of a ceasefire is simple. Heads must cool off, shooting must stop before the talking can proceed. It is only in an atmosphere of understanding and serenity that the search for real peace can proceed.
The ceasefire agreement was generally holding during the early months of 1977, but it collapsed completely towards the end of the year when the government troops mounted massive offensives against all known MNLF strongholds. Even the mutually-agreed bivouac areas in Mindanao, as earlier stated, were also attacked almost simultaneously.
The Day of the Clown
The Tripoli Agreement was lacking in sufficient detail and, therefore, the two panels agreed to meet first in Libya, from February 9 to March 3, and then in Manila, from April 21 to 30, 1977 to finalize it. However, on both occasions, they bogged down owing to the overemphasis on the sideshows, rather than on substance, by representatives of the Philippine government.
The meeting in Libya first stalemated and then bogged down. The two panels simply could not agree on the degree of autonomy to be handed to the Moros and the definitive role the MNLF had to play in it. Much time had been wasted on the side issues than on the substance. National Defence Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero, head of the GRP panel, even brought up the issue of plebiscite which was nowhere to be located in the entire text of the agreement.
Again the First Lady was sent to Libya to thresh out matters with President Qhaddafi. The result was the exchange of cables between President Marcos and President Qhaddafi on March 17-18. The communique contained consensus on the declaration of autonomy, a provisional government, and the holding of a referendum or "consultation."
The meeting in Manila, like the first, was tense. There was a heated discussion between the Philippine panel and representatives of the Quadripartite Committee, particularly Dr. Ali Treki.
The talks failed, as had been predicted right at the outset. Firstly, President Marcos hastily went to Japan in an obvious attempt to escape any role in a negotiation he may have maneuvered to collapse. Secondly, the Philippine delegation was engaging in too many questions of technicalities, virtually reducing the talks into grammar class. Even a single article like "the" or "of" sent the Philippine side, composed mostly of ministers like Foreign Minister Carlos P. Romulo and Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, to gang up on and lock horns with the OIC representatives. And thirdly, like in the first negotiation in Tripoli, Libya, the Philippine panel showed its bad faith and sinister attempt to obstruct the path to peace in Mindanao.
Capitalizing on the stalled negotiations which later degenerated into a "no-peace no-war" situation, President Marcos unleashed a multi-faceted, multi-pronged counterinsurgency program which was implemented at an exceptionally rapid paces. Militarization continued to increase and identified MNLF' areas were flooded with bloodthirsty military regulars and irregulars. Under the veneer of socio-economic and infrastructure agenda, he built roads, bridges, dikes and ports, dredged rivers and canals, reclaimed marshes, etc. With his land reform program, he further dispossessed the Moros of their remaining landholdings. New waves of emigrants from the North kept pouring in which resulted in the creation of fresh settlements and colonies.
One may not wonder that all these programs were executed in the names of peace, security and progress. But in reality they were in the nature of "sugarcoated" bullets. All were intended to defeat the MNLF, deny it of its favorable natural sanctuaries and to penetrate into the "hearts and minds" of the people.
The government's unusual interests in "promoting" Islam and the study of the Arabic language did not fail to intrigue inquisitive minds. This culminated in the creation of the so-called Ministry Of Muslim Affairs. A similar approach was instituted during the American colonial regime in the Philippines. The study of the Qur'an was introduced, obviously, as part of their pacification campaign. Soon, thousands of Moro kids, as a result, filled schoolhouses.
The hypocritical bid to promote Islam cannot be appreciated unless one viewed this as part of the wide-ranging counterinsurgency scheme of the government. This country is strictly secular. The church and state are separated. Both the 1935 and 1973 Philippine Constitutions - also the 1987 Charter explicitly prohibited the government or any of its agencies or instrumentalities to promote, assist or uplift any one religion in the Philippines, directly or indirectly.
The appointment of erstwhile Navy Admiral Romulo Espaldon as head of this office exposed something unsightly for the Muslims of this country. During his stint with the SOUTHCOM, the Admiral's hands had dripped with much Moro blood. He -renounced Catholicism- or made to renounce it - in order to qualify for the job, as being a Muslim was obviously its first criterion. Was there no full-blooded Muslim at the time who could fit the job squarely?
A New Kiram-Bates Treaty
The air of optimism that greeted the diplomatic breakthrough in Tripoli, Libya, at the signing of the agreement was but art analgesic. Even after the lapse of almost a decade since the signing on December 23, 1976 and the subsequent ouster of Marcos on February 25, 1986, many eyebrows were still being raised in wonder whether Marcos was really sincere or merely playing a cat-and-mouse game. However, those who had a full grasp of Philippine history, especially that which is focused on the interludes of peace negotiations and truce agreements, simply viewed the Tripoli Agreement as another Kiram-Bates Treaty of 1899. That treaty was signed between Sultan Jamalul Kiram 11 of the Sulu Sultanate and Brig. Gen. John C. Bates, representing the United States. The Sultan signed the treaty on the firm belief that it signaled the safety of the homeland and the expulsion of the American colonialists. The Americans had a different motive" in mind. They made use of the treaty to usher in eventual occupation of the Moro country.
A close scrutiny of the circumstances leading to the conclusion of both agreements would reveal striking similarities. As pointed out earlier, the Kiram-Bates Treaty was chiefly used by the Americans to prevent the opening up of another front in Mindanao and Sulu, while they were battling the forces of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Luzon. It was indeed a matter of temporary exigency that this treaty was conceived. Eight decades later, history seemed to have repeated itself for the Moros. The pre-1977 period was really dangerous to the Marcos regime. Metropolitan Manila, the state nerve-center, was becoming vulnerable to Communist forces because most of the AFP combat forces were deployed in Mindanao and Sulu. The years of confrontations in the South allowed the Communist New People's Army (NPA) to grow in size and strength. In fact, NPA forces were already scoring many remarkable victories in many areas in the North. And for some time the island of Samar in the Visayas had been practically a liberated area. This was why some army contingents were shipped back to Luzon and the Visayas immediately after the signing of the Tripoli Agreement .
Until the very last moment of the American regime in the Philippines, the Kiram-Bates Treaty was no more than a scrap of paper. It was not observed or recognized faithfully by the Americans. ','he case of the Tripoli Agreement is not far away. Up to the disgrace of President Marcos in early 1986, the agreement was just "scrap of paper." One Mindanao leader, Reuben Canoy, who figured prominently in the move to secede the island in later years had this to say on the subject:
... The Tripoli Agreement was soon reduced to a mere scrap of paper. Perhaps this was bound to, fir like most diplomatic documents the pact was couched in imprecise language liable to all sorts of misinterpretation by the signatories.-
Waging Peace Protracts
The Eighth Foreign Ministers Conference convened in Tripoli, Libya on May 16-22, 1977. A historic decision was passed granting special observer status to the MNLF, an action clearly conveying additional political clout in dealing with the Philippine government. The conference also held the government solely responsible for the failure of the negotiations in Tripoli, Libya in February 1977 and in Manila in April 1977.
The Republic of Senegal hosted the Ninth Foreign Ministers Conference at its capital, Dhakar, on April 24-28, 1978. Here the OIC denounced the Philippines for the massacres committed against the Muslims and for reneging on her international obligations to honor the Tripoli Agreement . The conference also called upon both parties to come to a ceasefire and resume negotiations.
After a year, on May 8-12, 1979, the Tenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers assembled in Fez, Kingdom of Morocco. Again the OIC called on the government to implement the agreement.
In February 1980, the new OIC Secretary General, Habib Chatti, paid a visit to Manila to bring up the issue once again. Again only cold response was forthcoming.
Sometime in 1981, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim state, offered her good offices as an "honest broker" to arbitrate the conflict or at least to restart the stalled negotiations. There was no concrete reply.
On March 21-23, 1982, Saudi Arabia tried to give the precarious peace another lease in life. The late King Khaled Ibn Saud personally brought up the case with President Marcos during his visit to the kingdom. But smart as ever, the latter placated his host by assuring him that autonomy is already in place in Mindanao and Sulu.
Then came the big bang of 1983. Former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was shot dead on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport on August 21. The "conjugal dictatorship" of Marcos and Imelda was the prime suspect. Aquino was their bitterest political rival. No one person or group had a greater motive to execute the assassination.
Thenceforth the Moro issue was relegated to the sideline. The Marcoses were busy shielding themselves against the effects of the assassination.
The years 1984 and 1985 neared and passed. They glided away almost unnoticed as far as the problem was concerned. President Marcos was not only holding on to power by a hairline; he was also very ill, extremely ill.
Enter the Widow
Then another big bang occurred. The dynasty came to an end. President Marcos was ousted from power on February 26, 1986. The widow of the slain Senator, Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino, was installed President of the Philippines, not by the 1935 or 1973 Constitutions, but by the EDSA People Power Revolution. As a revolutionary government, at least of the right, center, center right, it functioned without constitution for about a year.
In the meantime, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Muslim World League (MWL), both based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, were undertaking efforts to merge the MNLF and the MILF into one expanded negotiating panel once talks resumed with the new administration of President Aquino. MNLF Chair Nur Misuari and MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim had already agreed before officials of both world Islamic organizations to unite and close ranks as a prelude to new negotiations to resolve the Mindanao crisis.
The OIC and MWL emphasized that they would only host this proposed renewed peace negotiations if both the MNLF and MILF were represented. The Aquino administration had already been informed of this stand.
But in a surprise move, President Aquino, setting aside protocol and security concerns, met with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in Jolo, Sulu, on September 5,1986. This so-called historic meeting resulted in an agreement to cease hostilities and lay the groundwork for formal negotiations. One writer had these comments about this meeting:
All of a sudden, after the EDSA revolution in 1986, the new Administration, deliriously overjoyed by its victory, brought back Nur Misuari like a hero. Nur Misuari came back with him full with rising expectations of triumph. He brought back with him a more complicated package of the problems in Mindanao to ensure that victory would be theirs."
Meeting in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the GRP and MNLF Panels forged an agreement, now known as the Jeddah Accord on January 3, 1986. The two sides agreed to continue discussion of the proposal for the grant of full autonomy to Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan. It was further agreed that substantive talks would be held in the Philippines.
Oil February 9 and 20, the GRP-MNLF peace talks proceeded in Manila and in Zamboanga City, respectively. It became apparent, even at the outset, that the talks would collapse due to fundamental differences in the proposals submitted by both panels. The MNLF wanted full autonomy for the 23 provinces in Mindanao on the ground that the government had already agreed to it as mentioned in the Jeddah Accord. The government, on the other hand, refused to toe this line because the Tripoli Agreement only speaks of 13 provinces and nine cities.
After the breakdown of the talks, the government proceeded to devise the necessary processes to implement the so-called mandate in the 1987 Constitution to grant autonomy to Muslim Mindanao. Accordingly, in October 1987, President Aquino started to set the groundwork for the creation of the Mindanao Regional Consultative Commission (MRCC), which was tasked by Congress to assist it in enacting an organic act.
On the other hand, MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, bitterly criticizing the creation of the MRCC, once again renewed his bid for full MNLF membership with the OIC. An observer status has been conferred to the MNLF since May 1977.
Similarly, MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim denounced the government action as an obstacle to peace. He accused it of being not really sincere about the early and genuine resolution of the conflict in Mindanao and Sulu.
The Interlude: MILF 5-Day War
The MILF did not only denounce the Jeddah Accord as a "cheap drama" but it launched a fulIscale five- day tactical offensive in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte on January 13-17, 1987. Military installations, equipment and personnel were attacked and suffered heavy losses and damage.
An MILF spokesman, however, clarified that the offensive was not meant to attract national or international attention, in order to be included in the so-called negotiations between the MNLF and the' government. Fighting was simply one of the two weapons a revolutionary organization could use against the enemy.
The MILF also wanted to convey the message that it was not a pushover organization, but a power to reckon with. It could always rise to the occasion in full force, if the situation warrants. However, this message was never made known through official channel."
Afterwards, an informal truce was forged between Hadji Murad Ibrahim and National Affairs Minister Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on January 17 at Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. With Murad during the signing was Mohagher Iqbal, also a senior officer of the MILF.
The strength of the MILF was not only seen in matters of its military organization and hardware. The magnitude of people's support was another important yardstick. This was showcased during an earlier military consultative assembly on October 5-7, 1986 at Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The convenors' group listed more than one million people from all over Mindanao and 75,574 armed components, including highlanders or Lumads with their bows and arrows, who attended the assembly. So far this was the biggest number of Moros ever assembled at one time and in one place by any group, organization, political party or even by the government in the entire history of the region.
Many high government officials graced the occasion, including Quezon City Mayor Brigido Simon Jr., Gov. Rosario Diaz of Cotabato, Gov. Zacaria Candao of Maguindanao, and the late Gov. Francisco Abalos of Lanao del Norte. Ms. Margarita "Ting-Ting" Cojuangco, sister-in-law of President Aquino, also attended. (Cojuangco is now the Governor of Tarlac). Even AFP top brass in Central Mindanao were on hand to witness the historic consultation. Among them were Brig. Gen. Jesus Hermosa and Brig. Gen. Cesar Capa.
Meanwhile, the MILF, after years of traumatic experience in the twirls and turns of the so-called peace parleys, continued to strengthen itself in all aspects of the struggle. The MILF believed that only a strong revolutionary organization could assure victory and liberate the people from the bondage of oppression and exploitation. A 10-year four-point program was launched which covered the four priority fields of concerns, namely, Islamization, organizational buildup, military buildup and self-reliance. The plan formally started in 1985, but was pursued more vigorously after having ascertained beyond reasonable doubt that the government was using the peace process as a "dilatory tactic."
Who are the Tyrants
We have described the Moros as a nation living under an endless tyranny. But who are the tyrants and why are the Moros tyrannized?
If there was one Filipino president close to becoming a tyrant or was one already, he could easily be Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. He was dubbed, perhaps rightly, as a "dictator" or a "tyrant." But it would be somewhat inexact if one considers him- thoroughly a "tyrant." A tyrant is one who rules with absolute power, unrestrained by law or constitution. At least, Marcos had his cabinet, a National Assembly, a Constitution and a Supreme Court - though all were rubber-stamps.
Tyranny does not come only from men. There is tyranny of time, there is tyranny of ideas, there is tyranny of number. Pres. Thomas Jefferson of the United States once described it as an oppressive power exerted over the minds of people. And any severe condition with an oppressive effect is tyranny.
All the above tyrannies somehow ganged up on the Moros. Every form of tyranny had already worked on the physical and mental existence of the Moros, individually and collectively. The Spanish colonial regime in Manila was tyrannical in character. Spanish governor-generals were more or less independent in running the affairs of the colony. Spain was very far and mostly the Spanish Crown ruled the Philippines through Mexico. Similarly, American generals in Mindanao and Sulu almost had a free hand "in cutting the Moro foot to suit the American shoe." Military commanders were good at cutting corners in making decisions. Is the tyranny of 400 years too short for a people to suffer the nightmare of time? The Moros are not only the minority, but since the American regime the majority has always decided for them.
The King Could Do No Wrong
Early Christians believed that God imposed the state upon man as punishment for Adam's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. This divine origin of the state presupposes that the king, who derived his authority from God, could do no wrong and therefore must be obeyed at all times.
This theory is similarly upheld in the Philippines. The Constitution, no matter how imperfect it is -and how many loopholes it has, must be obeyed at all times, because it is the supreme law of the land. This follows that any arrangement that is found unconstitutional, no matter how good and beneficial, is still bad and unacceptable, because the Constitution does not permit it. Of course, the rationale behind this is the preservation of the sovereignty, stability and personality of the state. While this view is understandable, because it is identifiable with - and cannot be detached from - national interests and survival, in fact the implications and consequences are not always good. As history has shown, the state, which is perceived as the ultimate epitome of Summum Bonum or the "highest good for the highest number," would sometimes prefer to do what is morally bad or undesirable to what is good and beneficial.
The tyranny of ideas is best exemplified w hen the government rationalizes that any agreement with any of the revolutionary groups must not be violative of the Constitution. But the hard fact is that this Constitution does not epitomize the dreams and aspirations of the minority with whom the government is negotiating and, on the contrary, it is solely designed to suit the majority's concept of right or wrong and standard of interests.
The truth of the situation is that as far as the resolution of the Moro issue is concerned or any given argument for that matter, there cannot be a monolithic view, not even three views - yours, mine and the correct one, as other proponents would put it. The truth is that there are as many views as there are individuals, groups or organizations in this part of the world, who are directly concerned or have great stakes in the conflict under settlement and negotiation. Different peoples, different groups different organizations have different points of view. It is human nature to disagree.
Which side or view is correct depends much on the eye of the beholder, or on which part of the political, social or religious divide one is identified with. If the MNLF or the government is asked, certainly their reply would be to affirm the validity or rightness of their final agreement as the ultimate solution to this problem.
On this score, President Ramos had made assertion during the signing of the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement;
Today we not only witness history: We make it. Today, with the formal signing of final peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), we bring to a close almost 30 years of conflict, at the cost of more titan 120,000 Filipino lives.'
MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari corroborated this statement by saying:
We have agreed to end the war and restore peace ... This is a very momentous, very historic occasion. This will be written in the golden pages of history.
Following this line of argument, all other views towards the final solution to the Mindanao problem are rendered outright wrong, fallacious or simply untenable or utopian. But who sets the standards of evaluation? Who gives this authority to evaluate or pass judgment? For what Is it mutually or commonly agreed by whom and for whom. and for whom is this prescription intended? Who knows this problem better, the government, the MNLF, the MILF, the OIC, or the people themselves?
Colonialism: Mother of al Cuprits
Before us is a problem that has stayed in our midst for over 400 years. The changing times and the changing leaders, from colonial period up to the present, have miserably failed to solve the problem once and for all. And chances are that even with the signing of this final agreement and their mutual declaration for the termination of the 30-year war, the problem will continue to plague this country.
The Philippines is a unitary and highly centralized state which, historically, was an arbitrary creation of the succession of colonial powers that invaded this country. The Moros, as discussed earlier, valiantly stood their ground and succeeded to preserve their distinct way of life and consolidated their own national political life separately from the colonized natives. However, when the Filipinos, as neo-colonial administrators, succeeded, they followed the footsteps of their masters. This neo-colonialism or, for the purpose of this section, this "internal colonialism" is clearly manifested in the so-called rule of the majority, the Filipinos, over the minority like the Moros .3 The neo-colonial power imposes policies that are invariably and solely based on the standard of the majority people's interests. The GRPMNLF Final Agreement speaks well of this policy. It has very few substantial provisions, especially on the use of the natural resources and the power of the local governance to police and cleanse themselves that could enhance and strengthen the present ARMM. SPCPD and ARNIM Governor Nur Misuari, this early, is already complaining about many things: the defective system, lack of funds, lack of police powers and the untimely GRP-MILF talks,
Up to now and maybe even after three years, this agreement will still be a dead accord. Nobody knows whether Congress will enact an amendatory law to or repeal Republic Act 6734 or the Organic Act of the ARMM, exactly congruent to the provisions of this agreement; or whether the people in the 14 provinces and ten cities covered by the Tripoli Agreement or the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) will approve it in the plebiscite called for the purpose; or whether the next president after President 'Ramos (unless he succeeds himself) honor this agreement and make concrete steps towards its realization.
Granting that a congressional act is enacted into law to implement this agreement to the satisfaction of the government, the MNLF and the OIC, there are still potent groups that can make or unmake this agreement. These groups are simply not dispensable, namely, the "people," the MILF, the Moro Islamic Liberation Organization (MILO), the Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic Command Council (ICC), and the National Islamic Command Council (NICC). Each group has its own peculiar way of seeing and resolving this problem but, clearly, each pushes for a solution or change based on the teachings of Islam. They differ only in strategy and tactics in pursuing their goals.
However, the use of the word "people" needs clarification. This word refers to the Bangsamoro people who are mostly Muslims. If there is one word that has been overused, if not "exploited," it is this. Every group, including the government, alleges to be representing or acting for and in behalf of the people. In fact democracy, as claimed also by the Filipinos, is defined as a "government of the people, for the people, and by the people." The MNLF and the MILF also assert that they are mass-based organizations, hence, people's organizations or struggles. And if this argument is logically sound, then the people must not be a homogeneous body, but are splintered or divided, with each subgroup belonging or loyal either to the state, a distinct group, or an organization. And again if that is the case, then no organization, not even the state, can legitimately represent the people.
Now if the state or every organization claims to be speaking for the people, how can we determine which one is telling the truth?
The answer lies on which group epitomizes the true sentiments. and aspirations of the people it represents. That group would have the genuine support of the people - and hence, is truly the people's organization.
Foreign Interference: Age-Old Evil
The state of affairs in Mindanao is also greatly influenced by external pressures or foreign interference. Foreign interference, whether expressed directly or indirectly, does not only affect the formulation of government policies, but also the turn of events in the area, particularly in terms of internal conflict and the economic life of the people. These external political forces, to enumerate the lead actors, count the OIC, the United States, Japan, West Germany, Great Britain, Canada, France, Taiwan, and most of the ASEAN states.
Today, it is a fact in global power-play politics that one state or group of states interferes with or intervenes in the affairs of another state or states by request, imposition or outright invasion. Classical cases of intervention included those in Korea, Palestine, Israel, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Yugoslavia, Argentina, and Ethiopia.
Intervention, per se, is bad and against the Charter of the United Nations. This is the general rule. The exception applies in special cases. But today this exception smackingly and slowly becomes the general rule. In the name - or under the guise - of humanitarian or global security reasons, intervention is committed everywhere, especially by big and powerful nations.
Towards what direction and what gain does interference bring to people and the termination of conflict? Would it promote. genuine peace and development, say, in Mindanao?
Invariably, the state formulates foreign policy and conducts diplomatic relations solely on the basis of national interest. "My country, right or wrong" is still the foundation of all foreign policies of nations today. It has not changed with the passing of time and the coming of state-of-the-art technology.
Be this as it may, the fact is that using the good offices of a third party in the settlement of a state's internal dispute is a widely accepted practice. It is gaining acceptance among states world-wide, either as a matter of expediency or an addition to the practice of diplomacy. The OIC's role in the Mindanao conflict was in line with this usage. Its participation was deemed beneficial to all the parties in the conflict. The OIC was merely helping the peace initiatives to move forward and succeed. Except in 1979 and 1980, the OIC nor any member state had tried directly to arbitrarily pressure the government. By and large, OIC efforts have been exceptionally within the ambit of diplomatic etiquette and procedure.
The case of the United States is a different story. For the U.S., the stakes in the Philippines are high and varied. The three most important considerations are political, economic and military, all strategically related to her global prime standing as the world No. 1 superpower and the world's policeman. In all three, she needs the Philippines, which she finds to be a steady and willing partner. The Philippines has consistently shown her loyalty and the United States simply does not want to lose that loyalty, or is willing to write this off. It is a valued prize, not much from friendship but because American national and global interests demand it.
But unlike its past practice, the U.S. exerts pressure today through her huge investment here. American multinational companies operating in Mindanao have earned huge profits from lands that used to belong to many indigenous tribes.
In some covert ways, the United States is also helping the government in its counterinsurgency campaigns, especially against the Communist New People's Army and, expectedly, including the so-called Islamic extremists. The victory of either one of these perceived enemies, or just a serious military setback from them suffered by the "client state" such as the Philippines, could send a wrong signal to allies and foes alike and to her business partners abroad.
For instance, the psychological-military doctrine of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC), though generally applied as an instrument of US military aggression in Central America in the early 1980s, had its roots traceable to the anti-communist campaigns in the Philippines.
Militarization: The Main Punch
What is the reason for the continued military buildup in Mindanao amidst the successes of the government peace initiatives? If the civilian government is talking peace or reaping the fruits of peace, why is the military preparing for war? Is the government already abandoning the political approach in favor of a military option?
As a background, let us have a flashback of the status of Militarization in Mindanao more than two decades ago. In 1972, the AFP was barely 70,000 in strength and its annual budget was only P500 million. At the height of the rebellion in 1973-1975, the number swelled to more than 300 percent or 250,000 with a yearly expenditure of P 3.5 billion, or an increase of 700 percent. In 1982, AFP regulars reached 275,000 and military spending skyrocketed from 1"1 7.1 billion in 1981 to P8.3 billion.
Sixty percent of the army, half of the Marines, one-third of the Coast Guard, and 6,080 Air Force personnel and 200 pilots were deployed in Mindanao. In addition, there were 7,500 constables, 11,900 policemen, 64,000 ICHDFs and 35,000 paramilitary forces.
Today, more than half of the AFP total strength is now deployed in strategic areas in Mindanao, estimated at 40 to 45 battalions with 60,000 to 70,000 men. Also stationed here are 40 percent of AFP artillery capability, 50 percent of armor assets, and 63 percent of tactical aircraft.
The massive troop buildup heavily saturated the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Sulu, followed by Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and South Cotabato. The dangers inherent in this kind of situation always hangs onminously in the air. The perpetuation of the previous widespread violations of human rights through summary executions, warrantless arrests, disappearances, seizures, and tortures, forced dislocation, hamletting, raids and bombings will most likely stay.
As a Matter of fact, even after the signing of the GRP-NINLF Peace Agreement heavy fighting is still taking place in many parts of Mindanao. The Abu Sayyaf after having stepped into the vacuum left by the MNLF, started to step up its attacks on government troops and installations in Basilan and Sulu. Moreover, the MILF massed troops to fight off naked AFP aggressions in Cotabato, Maguindanao, Basilan and Davao del Sur. And the highland tribes are now fighting back in Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Surigao and Sarangani after they have been systematically pushed to the wall by settlers, loggers, and miners, and multinational investors. These confrontations are expected to increase and aggravate in the coming months or years as the forces of vested interest groups are getting more and more favorable treatment from the government.
Severe Deprivation: In Continuum
1. Socio-Economic Marginalization - The areas occupied by the Moros are generally one of the most depressed in the Philippines today. Life is so miserable that people could hardly make both ends meet - they are already at the edge of the socio-economic survival. It is often said that the Moros 400 years ago were better off then than their descendants today, despite the blessings of modernism, science and technology.
However, poverty is not the monopoly of the Moros alone. In fact it is besieging almost every home in the Philippines. On the eve of the imposition of Martial Law, one out of every two families was poor. In 1986, three out of every five families were poor.' Statistics showed that the poorest of the poor depended only on rice, corn, sugar and coconut production. Most of the poverty-stricken families are found in the rural communities.
The Moros are overwhelmingly rural dwellers, although many are finding the cities as their new-found havens due to the raging conflict on the countrysides. Based on the 1991 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, average household incomes among the Moros were generally low. At least 83 percent of Moro families lived below the poverty line." Majority of Moros get their income from agriculture, mainly subsistence farming and fishing. Crop farming, aqua-farm cultivation and orchard farming are among the priority occupations. Poultry raising, mat-weaving, and vegetable gardening are also practiced.
The usual reason given for this abject poverty is indolence of the Moros. The same accusation was hurled against the now industrious Filipinos (formerly Indios) by the Spaniards. The truth is: when any member of the human race, including a Moro, is motivated, as the Filipino now proves to be, he will become hard-working and productive.
2. Landlessness - The Moros are landless. The 1991 Census of Agriculture put the average farm size of 2.7 hectares for every family. Communal system of land ownership still persists. Several Moros still own a piece of land that is inherited from generation to generation. Most of their lands are untitled or titled in other people's names.
However, the crux of the land issue is the contradiction between the state's legal system and the communal system prevalent among the Moros. This conflict of legal perception about land ownership had given rise to many related problems, such as landgrabbing by the moneyed and powerful and the expropriation of vast tract of land by the state to giant transnational companies.
3. Poor Basic Services - The Moros are also deprived of basic services, such as electricity, potable water, sanitary toilet facilities, etc. The 1990 Census of Population and Housing indicated that, in Sulu, only 9.4 percent of the households had electricity, in Tawi-Tawi, 10.0 percent, in Maguindanao, 25.8 percent, in Lanao del Sur, 34.9 percent, and in Basilan, 19.4 percent."
4. Low Literacy - In the field of education, more than onefourth of the population has neither entered school nor finished elementary schooling. Primary education is the highest educational attainment enjoyed by two-fifths of the population. For every 20 elementary graduates, only seven finish high school and only one survives to finish a college diploma."
Infant mortality among the Moros is higher due to unhealthy environmental conditions. There is inadequate access to medical services, poor health education and malnutrition.
The Enemy Within: Harder to Crack
There is wisdom - no matter how it hurts - in the statement of Atty. Patricio Diaz, former Editor of the Mindanao Kris, when he addressed the following statement to the Muslims in general and to their leaders in particular. Let us comment on it later in this section.
Here are his words:
Apparently, the leaders and the people in the Muslim Provinces have different outlook, foresight and priorities from those of the leaders and people in Christian provinces. This difference makes a big different achievements.
All leaders in the Christian provinces tell their people to look forward to the year 2000 and beyond. Many Muslim leaders tell their people to look back to 1900 and farther back highlighting their lost glory, the oppressions they have suffered and are suffering, and their being a different nation. Different motivations make different achievements."
The tyranny of the self over self is what we refer to here as the enemy within. Let us remember that when we point two accusing fingers at someone, our other three fingers are pointing back at us. While it is pointless to argue that the mother of all the culprits in the whole mess in Mindanao and Sulu is the colonization of this region, this does not mean that the Moros, particularly the leaders, have not been party to the aggravation of the situation. Dulawan (Buayan or Buhayen) is as old as or older than Manila, but see what is there in Dulawan that is good for the eyes to see. There may have been improvements lately, but rarely have they interested even the local population. There is really a sad lack - many, many things wanting in the leaders who have generally failed to discharge their duties to their people. While many or most of them have kept on enriching themselves, the people have continued to wallow in poverty and other deprivation.
By the same token, the individual Moro or the entire population, with many exceptions, can be faulted also. They appear to have learned nothing and, by their misdeeds or omissions, they have excluded themselves from among what the Almighty has described as "the best of creations." What our forefathers used to do many centuries ago, they have continued to hold on to, despite the passing of time and the coming of the 21st century. Take for instance, the matter of building a house. A great many if not most of our forefathers would consult a "fortune-teller" before erecting a house in a particular spot. Many of us are still. doing the same thing and look what has happened in most Moro communities, in the Supermarket, Cotabato City, in Taluksangay, Zamboanga City, in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, etc. Although there may be other reasons for-their pathetic situation, certainly this superstition, which is contrary to Islamic teachings, has been primarily responsible and is still prevalent.
This traditional disposition and outlook that generally makes up the Moro psyche' or frame of mind has stunted development and brought negative consequences. Its acceptance seems so widespread that its beholders appear powerless to change in conformity with the demand of the modern age. These Moro should heed the injunction in the Holy Qur'an, which says: "God does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in their hearts."
Atty. Patricio Diaz was right when he practicaIly charged many Muslim leaders of leading their people back in time; to fantasize on the glory of the past and blame others for their present condition as if admitting indirectly that they have failed and have not been men enough to put up a square fight.
On the other hand, Mr. Diaz seemed to have failed to understand that the Muslims and their leaders are just human beings and, as such it is natural for them to prefer what is good or desirable from what is bad or undesirable. If the Muslims are looking back to the past, it is because that past represents the best of their lives, while the Christians may not be too eager to remember it because, then, they were considered no more than "slaves," "pintados," "indios," "indolent," etc. Their best world is now, in the present and in the future because, as successors of the colonizers, they now run the whole show. They control everything, have the power, access to state funds and resources, and greater opportunities; and above all, they decide and predetermine the destiny of the Moros.
It is history that the Moros fought for more than three centuries against the superpowers of the time and they were not utterly routed. If they are what they are now, it is because of circumstances, of which they have no control. It is now up to the "only Christian nation in Asia" to show what Christian justice and morality are all about in addressing an "historic injustice" committed to the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu! No amount of moralizing argument could justify the colonization of the Moros. The Moros do not demand the whole moon; they are just seeking for a rightful share of the political pie!
MUSLIMS VIEW THEIR HISTORY
Muslims throughout the world generally have tended to look at their history as a process tending towards justice, provided men make the effort to work for it. But more than this, there is the widespread belief that the historical process is not solely the result of Man’s intentions and actions but there is also the Merciful and Compassionate Deity who is involved in the direction of such a process. Thus, concomitant with the belief that life on earth is a severe moral test, there is always the hope that living the Islamic way of life makes it more purposive and tends to bring about a social situation where justice and good life become operative.
Because of all this, it becomes understandable why Muslims in the Philippines believe that the coming of Islam to the Philippines, and hence their being Muslims, constitutes an instance of Allah’s mercy and graciousness. Also understandable is the belief that their bitter wars against the Spaniards and Americans, their resistance to any form of European colonial design or foreign economic exploitation, and even their internecine quarrels and the chronic epidemics that have visited them have served to maintain their integrity as an Islamic Community.
In so far as they are aware of belonging to a definite religious community, Muslims in the Philippines have always made an effort to understand their past and have never ceased to recall those men who, on account of personal traits, character, and leadership, have helped to guarantee the preservation of Islam in the Philippines in spite of the determined efforts of their antagonists to deprive them of their religion, land, and knowledge of their ancient past. A careful analysis of the history of the Muslims in the Philippines will reveal that the character and attitudes of present-day Muslims are not only the result of what they have made out of themselves but also of what others have forced them to become. Thus it is important to know how Islam was introduced and how it expanded in the Philippines. We need to know also those forces, which came into conflict with Islam, forces which helped to shape the character of the present day Muslim Filipino.