Review of Two Academic Articles by Moro U.P. professors

While browsing through my computer files, I saw the reviews I made of two articles by two Moro UP professors. I wrote this in September 2002
REVIEW OF ARTICLE: The Philippine Muslims: Our Link to Southeast Asia
Abraham P. Sakili (2000) Kasarinlan Vol. 15, No. 2
University of the Philippines pp. 27-34

Sakili argues that the Muslims are the Philippines’ link to Southeast Asia through culture and religion because the rest of the Filipinos have already forgotten their Malay culture in favor of Spanish and American culture.

Sakili debunks Ferdinand Marcos’s assertion of a “native state construction” as “not significant” because “there is no convincing proof of the so-called ‘common political culture in the Philippines’ prior to the coming of Islam and Christianity.” He stresses that “the Muslim Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao differ from the ‘native state construction’ in substance of political power and control. These Muslim sultanates had history of dynastic, political, and commercial ties with the rest of island Southeast Asia and the Islamic world beyond.” (p.28) I would add the Kingdom (Rajahship) of Buayan and even Sarangani. ( See Abbas, Datu Jamal Ashley [2000] Once Upon a Time: Sarangany Island The Philippine Post June 3)

The history of Moro sultanates and principalities cannot be over-emphasized. The revisionist Filipino historians like to portray the Moros as merely having a “barangay” political system like the Indios.

Sakili then went on to describe the effects of Islamization on the Moros, the most important of which is “the development of the Islamic consciousness among Philippine Muslims. This development became the important conditioning factor in the emergence of Moro nationality.” In other words, without Islam, there would be no “moro nationality”.

Sakili wrote: “To say that ‘before the coming of Islam and Christianity, the Philippines was inhabited by one people and that there was already some kind of indigenous nationality’ (Although the words are in quotes, Sakili did not make any citations. Presumably, it was another assertion by Marcos.) is not accurate and has no meaningful socio-political issue.” Again, this cannot be over-emphasized. The modern-day Filipinos are taught that the Moros and Indios have been together since time immemorial.

Sakili then went on to argue the difference between the Muslim and Christian Filipinos, thus creating “two nationalities in the Philippines”. This sounds like Muhammad Ali Jinnah�s “two-nation theory”. Unfortunately, unlike Jinnah and his colleagues Maududi and Iqbal, Sakali did not propose a divided Philippines.

Samuel K. Tan (2000) Kasarinlan Vol. 15, No. 2
University of the Philippines, pp. 221-226
Prof. Tan argues that there are three kinds of war that is going on in the country against both the Moros and the communists. The first, according to Prof. Tan is the military kind. At that time, then President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada was waging an “all-out war” against the MILF. And Tan maintained that such a war could never bring peace. He wrote: “But if history were to be a lesson, one fact has remained constant, the destruction of cottas and the suppression of revolts have not eliminated the Muslim will to resist and desire to continue the armed struggle, however costly they may be to their socio-economic life.” Instead, Mr. Estrada’s war merely “strengthen the resolve and resources of the Muslim armed struggle.”

The second kind is the ideological war. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the Moros and communists. The government’s weapons are : ” (1) Constitutionalism, (2) Filipinism, (3) Democracy and (4) ‘pro-poorism’.”  In Tan�s analogy, constitutionalism is like the Howitzer 105, Filipinism is like a machine gun, Democracy is compared to helicopter gunships and Bronco bombers and ‘pro-poorism’ to the armalite.

Tan has very little regard for this war because he considers the government’s weapons as practically useless against the Muslims. He wrote:

“the ideological weapons have been fired since the 1900 on the Muslim minds and hearts and have not exploded because the bullets were dud or, if they did, they were in the wrong minds. In brief, the government has no effective response to the Bangsamoro ideological weapons that tend to reinforce the desire for independence. On the contrary, the Filipino-controlled media, education, and other information highways including hundreds of seminars and conferences have tended to strengthen Muslim fears, frustrations, resentment and subsequently, bias that they have no place in the Filipino national community and that their only hope for the future lies in their identification with the Muslim world.”(p.225)

Tan asserted that however viewed, “the ideological basis of struggle had already shifted since 1968 from integration or autonomy to independence.” (p.224)The third kind is what Tan considered the government’s best bet, the “war against poverty” (Ang Laban sa Kahirapan). He claimed that the shift to independence was the result of the “deteriorating socio-economic conditions” among Muslims. Therefore, the pro-poor thrust of the government is the most relevant. And so he “can only hope and pray that the government succeeds because the triumph over poverty is the surest avenues to ‘peace that passeth understanding’.”

Tan concluded by enumerating the “possible solutions” which the “nation as a whole may consider.”

1. The theoretical acceptance of the Bangsamoro ideal of an independent Islamic state as the one valid basis of renewed peace talks.
2. The sincere offer by the government of a new autonomy pursuant to President Estrada’s statement in his SONA referring to “radical reform” in exchange for the abandonment of independence as premised in the Bangsamoro stand. The idea of a radical element differentiates the new autonomy from the 1996 package assuming the President was not just using the term for rhetorical purposes. It seems to me this radical reform can possibly be about “autonomy in form but independence in substance” which allows the government only the exercise of nominal or symbolic sovereignty.
3. The change in the vocabulary of tri-media and other information channels to bridge the widening psychological gap between Muslims and Christians because of centuries of embedded colonial prejudice. The process of decolonization must start in the Christian mind.
4. The dropping of President Estrada’s preconditions and that of the MILF to renew talks between two parties and to dialogue anew on the idea of a “new autonomy.”
5. The immediate cessation of military hostilities.



I agree with the Professor’s three kinds of war although I disagree on the relative importance of each. He dismissed the importance of the military war as to its effect on the Moro’s “will to resist” based on the historical experience of the Muslim from the late 19th century. He pointed as example the Spanish victories in Sulu from 1889 to 1893, the American victories from 1900-1913, the cotta fights in Lanao in the 1930s and Kamlon�s rebellion in 1953.

I beg to differ. For an historian, I am surprised that Prof. Tan came to that conclusion. The Muslims of Manila led by Rajah Suleiman were defeated militarily. The military victory of Legazpi was such that the Muslims in Manila never again challenged Spanish rule until generations later with Magat Salamat, which did not even get off the ground. The Muslims in Mindanao are still there because of the victories of the Moros centuries before.

His example of Col. Arolas’s “crisscrossing the islands of Sulu, especially Jolo, to enforce Spanish sovereignty” does not seem to be appropriate. The Tausugs were not fighting the Spanish at all. The Spanish merely intervened in the dynastic quarrel among Amir ul-Kiram, Datu Ali ud-Din and Haroun al-Rashid. The Spanish sided with Haroun but most of the Tausugs were for the young Amir-ul Kiram (later Jamal ul-Kiram II). The destruction created by Arolas and the over-all effect of the dynastic wars left the Sulu Sultanate too weak to fight the Americans later.

In Lanao, the Maranaos, led by Datu Amai Pakpak, valiantly defended Marahui in 1891 and again in 1894. Even if the Marahui cotta eventually fell, the Maranaos besieged the Spaniards on all sides. The martyrdoms of Amai Pakpak and the other datus inspired the Maranaos to fight.

In Cotabato, the Spanish were successful in stopping the ambitions of Datu Utto, the Rajah of Buayan. Had there been no Spanish military victories, Datu Utto could have united the Pulangi principalities – Talayan, Kabuntalan, Buluan, Buayan and Maguindanao — and would have given Datu Ali a stronger force to fight the Americans.

The American mailed fist policy which resulted into victories cowed the Moros down. In Sulu, Jamal ul-Kiram II gave away his sovereignty by signing the Carpenter Agreement. In Cotabato, Buayan’s Datu Ali gave a good fight but when he died, the Pulangui datus went the way of the Americans and permanently destroyed the Sultanates of Buayan and Maguindanao.

In Lanao, the Moros fought. The very first Moro-American battle was at Bayang led by Sultan Pandapatan . Although American newspapers hailed it as “the fiercest battle in the entire Philippine insurrection”, it was a massacre. The locals compared it to the Battle of Karbala and thus named the site of the cotta, “Padang Karbala”.  Like the Battle of Marahui, legends grew out of the battle, which inspired the Moros to fight. However, American victories were simply too much.

My point is: because of the Spanish military victories in the last years of the 19th century, the Moros were too weak to fight the Americans. With not a single significant military victory against the Americans, the Moros had to accept American rule, and later, Filipino rule. The Kamlon rebellion was significant only because it gave the Moros the idea that if one illiterate Moro can create such havoc to the government, then a more organized and united effort could have far-reaching effects.

In other words, military war is very important. The success of the MNLF and other Moro fighters in the 1970s war is the reason many Moros are still hoping for independence. They have seen that the Moros can win the war. MILF’s star rose sky high only after 1989 when all of a sudden the MILF became active and belligerent. They got a lot of concessions from the government, such as the right to have “camps”. But it appears that Erap’s people knew that it was a paper tiger. After Erap’s “all-out war”, MILF is not so popular among the Moros anymore.


I like very much Tan�s equating Constitutionalism, Filipinism, Democracy and Pro-Poor Policies with weapons of war. I fully agree with him. However, I fully disagree with him that ” the ideological weapons have been fired since 1900 on the Muslim minds and hearts and have not exploded”. While he has low regard for this war, I on the other hand, think that this is the most dangerous one.

The ideological war started by the Americans won over the Moros. Dayang dayang Hadja Piandao and Dayang dayang Putli Tarhata were sent to America for schooling. Leaders were appointed as senators and congressmen to further win them over — e.g., Senator Alauya Alonto and Congressman Ibra Gundarangin of Lanao, Senator Sinsuat Balabaran and Congressman Gumbay Piang of Cotabato and Senator Hadji Butu of Sulu.

The next batch of leaders was all educated in Manila. They were the first Moro lawyers — Macapanton Abbas (Ibra’s nephew), Domocao Alonto (son of Alauya), the Sinsuat brothers (sons of Sinsuat Balabaran), and Pendatun (a protégé of an American, Mr. Kuder) — became staunch defenders of Philippine republicanism (Filipinism) as against their elders who preferred American rule. From the late 1930s to the 1960s, nothing happened in Lanao and Cotabato without these leaders’ knowledge. With Ombra Amilbangsa of Sulu, they formed the Knights of Muhammad. They apparently saw themselves as the protectors of the Moro people.

After them, many Moros like Mamintal and Mauyag Tamano were sent as pensionados to the States for further studies. Mamintal was sent to Cornell and Mauyag to Stanford. Naturally, these pensionados became acculturated to both the Filipino and American ways.

The next generation of Moros like Abbas, Jr. and Misuari started as activists but not for the Moro cause. The younger Abbas shined at Ateneo de Davao, a Catholic school. He was the Student Council head, the school organ’s editor, the ROTC Corps Commander, etc. At UP, he was Sigma Rho grand archon, president of UP fraternities and sororities, team captain of (national) champion debating team, president and secretary-general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), etc. It must be noted that Abbas, Jr. defeated the equally popular E. Voltaire Garcia II (also of UP) for NUSP leadership because of the strong support of the Catholic schools.

On the other hand, Misuari was a UP instructor and a founding member of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), a communist organization.

There have been Moros studying in Egypt since the 1950�s, but they usually end up marrying beautiful Egyptian ladies instead of agitating for reform or independence.

If Marcos did not become too ambitious, or if Marcos did not come along, then the Moros today would not be imagining a separate Moro or Islamic state.

Today, most of the Moro students in Manila are as Filipinized as can be. Even at UP, not many people know that the current UP Student Council president is a Moro (Maranao). With the exception of Moro students at the Institute of Islamic Studies, most, if not all, Moro students at UP Diliman are “Filipinized”. In one of my Communication classes, I had to make sudden changes in my report in order to counter a Moro classmate’s report which asserted the existence of a “Filipino psychology” that includes both Moros and Indios (Christian and Muslim Filipinos). I had to show that the historical development of both groups diverged into two communities, two consciousness, and two nations.

If a Moro thinks that he is part of a “Filipino psychology”, then the ideological weapons of the government has made a lot of breakthrough. I do not understand why Tan believed that “the government has no effective response to the Bangsamoro ideological weapons.” Perhaps it was more of a wishful thinking on the part of Prof. Tan.

The War against POVERTY

Tan believed that this war “is a very powerful weapon the government can use to win the hearts and minds of the masses in Mindanao.” Perhaps it is. But I believe the government will never succeed in its fight against poverty. I was a consultant to the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) under President Estrada, and I saw first hand how bureaucracy would always hinder the fight against poverty.

Moreover, I believe that nowadays, with globalization and the information revolution, the richer and more educated the Moros become, the more they would agitate for independence.


I am pleasantly surprised at Prof. Tan’s statement the “the ideological basis of struggle had already shifted since 1968 from integration or autonomy to independence.” But was he talking about the general Moro populace? Aside from the MNLF, MNLF Reformists, MILF and other armed groups, I have never heard of any Moro — politician, ulama, academician, etc. —  openly supporting Moro independence.  Was he referring only to armed groups then? Do they represent the whole Bangsa Moro? The MNLF already signed an agreement with the government, practically abandoning secession. And Erap had shown to all and sundry that MILF had no teeth.
While Indian scholars like Iqbal and Maududi argued openly for a separate state for Indian Muslims, no Moro scholar argues for a separate state for Muslim Filipinos, except for the members of the armed groups themselves.

Perhaps the circumstances are different. India at that time was not under the Hindus, but under the British. The Philippines is under the Christians. But didn’t Algerian scholars argued for Algerian independence? Is it against Philippine laws to advocate for Moro independence? Shouldn’t advocacy be part of the democratic process? Or do Moro scholars believe that they can only be credible if they appear to be “objective” or “detached”?

In reading Sakili’s and Tan’s articles, I got the impression that they are pro-Independence but just would not say so. A people’s struggle cannot be limited to arms. The other aspects of the struggle — intellectual, cultural, economic, etc. — are just as important.



One thought on “Review of Two Academic Articles by Moro U.P. professors

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s