JOLO, Sulu (MindaNews / 17 March) — Commonly overlooked in commemorating the Bangsamoro Freedom Day every March 18 (since 1968), is the fact that what Spain failed to achieve in more than three centuries of Moro wars, America, on the contrary, was able to do it in just three decades.
Such detour process to pacification was done intentionally or otherwise by way of promoting occupational strategies that remain effective as then and now.
One of this was the way it immobilized the Mujahideens by disarming them.
Whether the policy was payment of cedula/poll tax, land registration, or Martial solutions resulting to various massacres of the Moros, underneath was disarmament pure and simple. And when such purpose was achieved, it became quite easy to administer them the way of American overall Colonial policy of ‘civilizing those barbarians.’
In short, the Moros were effectively disarmed and demobilized until they were armed once more during the resistance against Japan in the early 1940s. Such rearming, however, is incomplete due to mere possession of WW II vintage riffle and armory.
Long Distance Trading
The Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, including the Pangampong/Royal Houses of Lanao relied mostly on its long distance trading with foreign powers for maintenance and survival purposes. Such contacts yielded various economic and military advantages for these above-mentioned powerful Sultanates and Suzereigns. Isolating them by way of curtailing their contacts became the order of the day then. The same policy was sustained during the Commonwealth Government and even up to now.
Contacts with China and Europe were cornered by the Philippine republic.
Contacts with neighboring Islamic countries and the Middle East were likewise limited to smuggling activities and religious purposes such as pilgrimage. The same inactivity contributed one way or another to the downfall of the once powerful Empire in Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (MinSuPala). The whole populace was somehow hit by a spell and couldn’t respond well the way they did in their heroic past.
Attracting the Sultans and Datus
The policy of attraction revolved around payment of handsome allowances to the royal families and their Commanders of War. Their children were sent abroad or to Manila for their so-called training and preparation for self-government. The middle and lower strata of the society were equally attracted to go to school. The elites of the Bangsamoro society became the very apologists for America then and the Philippine Government now.
Representation was based not on the supposed mandates of the people, rather, on whom you know in the corridors of power in Manila. This patronage system was made to last up to the present time. The slight difference now is perhaps in the way of choosing our representatives by way of ‘moneyed’ political exercises called elections. And all others were equally copied from America and of becoming famous in Asia as ‘Little brown Americans’ – whether Filipinos or Moros.
These three weighty things became very obvious in their various petitions in the 20s to make the Moroland a Province or one of the States of America rather than it becoming part of the Philippines. But failing to heed such petitions, the Moros were thrown once again into another combative mood, waiting for one triggering event.
Meantime, the 1930s to the late 1960s became the only ‘peace time’ the Moros kept harping on while waiting for another shot at self-determination.
Then it happened.
The Jabidah Massacre of March 18, 1968 came suddenly out of the blue in a manner of putting it. Simultaneously, in every length and width of MinSuPala, the atmosphere turned subversive. Emotions were too high and heated. A totally new generation of Moros responded to the new call for secession. Matter of fact, no less than the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted in the mid 1970s that the Philippines almost lost Mindanao to the rebels.
More than 120,000 had to die in the name of freedom with two different meanings between two combatants. For the Moro, freedom to secede and be freed from colonial oppression, and for government forces, freedom to prevent disintegration of the country they were sworn to uphold.
This compelled then President Marcos to change strategies in order to deter the plan for an Independent MinSuPala south of the Philippines. And after down-to-earth diagnostic of Mindanao Problem, Marcos prescribed a solution called ‘Peace Talks’.
Since 1975, therefore, the battlecry became ‘Give Peace a Chance’. A call to ‘ a non- violent’ alternative solution to the Bangsamoro Right to Self-Determination’ reverberated like the sound of agong from one Presidency to another.
Cory Aquino interpreted it to mean the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from Marcos’ mere Lupon Tagapagpaganap Pampook. Fidel V. Ramos had the Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tried the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but backtracked later on. Benigno Simeon Aquino III had the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF. And finally, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is right now stuck with Bangsamoro Basic Law / Federalism whichever comes sooner or later.
It is obvious, however, that each administration uses the peace formula in sowing disunity among the liberation fronts until it self-destructs, depending from what angle you approach its analysis.
Peace Agreements became no more than pieces of paper with writings and signatures. Implementation if ever, was delayed intentionally, if not derailed altogether by peacemakers themselves. Some players talked more of its unconstitutionality, and less of the grant of Regional Autonomy to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as required by the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Even the Philippine Congress itself created ARMM as a mere extension of Malacanan and as an agency for anything except genuine Autonomy. Indeed, such political circus is becoming very expensive if one relates it to what happened to Marawi. In fact, very dangerous if one relates it to the fast rising tides of violent extremism. And despite clear repeated declarations of never to a second Siege the like of Marawi, President Duterte remains unsteadfast in certifying the urgency of the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)
Therefore, it is our fervent hope that the forthcoming commemoration of the Bangsamoro Day/Jabidah Massacre at 50 years old, goes with our resolve to put an end to the Bangsamoro Struggles for Self-Government and Determination through the urgent passage of the BBL.
In return for that investment, let us support the new Bangsamoro Juridical Entity to terminate the threat of violent extremism through genuine reforms in Home and Family; Masjid and Religion; Madaris and Schools; Islamic Mass Media; Islamic Arts, Sports and Entertainment; Commerce, Science, and Technology; and Government and Politics.
We are asserting no more than our home, sweet home, in peaceful co-existence with your equal homes, sweet homes in the Philippines.
What is so difficult about that gentlemen and ladies of the Philippines?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on peace in Mindanao. Professor Octavio Dinampo describes himself as “a student from Monday to Friday and a rebel on weekends for decades.” He went for training abroad as urban operative and survived operating behind enemy lines until he became a peace advocate in the 1990s and continues to advance his peace advocacy until now. He taught International Relations at the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City from 1979 to 1989 and has been teaching Political Science in MSU-Sulu since 1989)