The Filipinos who are in uproar against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain are claiming that the US has a hand in the negotiations. They are claiming that the US pressured the Philippine government to sign the MOA. What nonsense!
These people base their argument on the letter sent by the MILF to Pres. George Bush in 2003 asking the US to mediate for peace. What in the world is wrong with that? The Philippine government continually asks the US to help them in their fight against the Moros and the Communists. And the US obliges them all the time. It is but natural for the MILF to ask the US to help in the peace process instead of the war process.
I believe my brother had a hand in the MILF letter to President Bush. I knew of the letter even back then. And I thought it was a very reasonable request.
From 2002 – 2005, I ran an online journal — The Moro Review. In light of what is now happening, perhaps it would be in order to look at the Moro Review’s May 2002 issue’s Editorial:
One Hundred Years Ago
Some one hundred years ago, the Americans, under the delusion of ‘Manifest Destiny’, betrayed the trust of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and other Filipino revolutionary leaders and conquered the Philippine Islands thus ending the very brief experience of Filipinos with republicanism.
Some one hundred years ago, the Americans, upon the prodding of Manila-based Europeans, decided to extend their imperialistic adventures to MOROLAND –Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan but not to Sabah. Although part of the Sultanate of Sulu, Sabah was untouched by the Americans because the British were there.
One hundred years ago, on July 4, 1902, US President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Philippine-American War as officially over.
Yet it was exactly one hundred years ago when the Moro-American war began. The first fight between the Americans and the Moros occurred in the Sultanate of Bayang in the land of the Mranaos. The intermittent but bloody fight that pitted the Krag versus the Kris lasted for some 30 years until the time when the Moros were co-opted into joining the Commonwealth in 1935 and the Republic in 1946.
One hundred years ago, America was an emerging power. The Moros, on the other hand, were still enjoying their freedom and independence from any colonial power. Both had just given the Spanish authorities their walking papers. The Americans gave the Spaniards a mock battle and the Treaty of Paris while the Moros enjoyed routing the Spaniards cloistered in their fortresses scattered all over Moroland.
During the American Occupation, all Moro nations — the Tausug, the Maguindanaons, the Buayanens, the Mranaos — expressed their desire for independence from American and/or separation from the Filipino administration.
However, the Indios, who started calling themselves Filipinos, led by Quezon and Osmena convinced a handful of Moro leaders to support Philippine (including Moroland) independence. They also campaigned vigorously in Manila and in Washington not to separate Mindanao from the Philippines. They argued that the Moros were not “civilized” enough to form their own government.
With their European background, the new Filipinos portrayed themselves as the inheritors of Western civilization, unlike the Moro “savages” who were described in images befitting the Westerners’ “Other”.
Various US investigative Commissions (like the Wood-Forbes Commission) favored separation of Mindanao and Sulu from the rest of the Philippines. The Bacon Bill of 1926 demanded such separation. US President Hoover vetoed the Philippine Independence Act of 1931 because of Moro protests.
But the Filipino leaders merely doubled / tripled their efforts. Regular missions to the US were sent to convince American leadership about the folly of trusting the Moros. The Filipinos only had to remind the Americans of the deaths and destruction the Moros had done to American army personnel in Mindanao and the report of US officials that “a good Moro is a dead Moro.”
The eloquence, charm and strong personalities of Quezon, Osmena, Roxas and their colleagues were all put to good use. No Moro leader went to the US to counter Filipino charges. And so the Tydings- McDuffie Law was passed in 1936 promising independence to the Philippine Islands, including Mindanao and Sulu.
In 1946, the US handed over the Moro nations to the Indios-Filipinos and formed a new nation-state to be called the Republic of the Philippines.
But the Moros, defending themselves from genocide, rose again in the early 1970s. The Moro fight has been officially recognized by the Organization of Islamic Conference with the MNLF having an observer status.
The various international agreements (Tripoli, Jakarta) signed by the Philippine government and the MNLF were honored more in the breach than in implementation.
In sum, from the 15th century, the Moros were masters of their destinies while the Indios were a subjugated people under the Spanish. It was only in the 20th century when the Moros finally accepted foreign (American) domination in exchange for the right to practice their religion and way of life. Later, they were co-opted by the Indios into a new nation called the “Filipino” nation and a new state called Philippine Republic. Some thirty years after their experiment with being Filipinos, the Moros rose again and asserted a new ethnic identity — the Moro nation (Bangsa Moro) . But the Moros were no match for Marcos’s diplomatic and political genius.
With the new century / millennium starting with an American War Against Terrorism, which many Muslims the world over see as the War against Islam, the prospect of a renewed Moro War is quite bright. (The lapsus linguae of US President Bush when he declared a “Crusade” against his enemies did not escape the Muslims’ attention).
Once again, the Indios-Filipinos have called on “Mother America” to help them fight the Moro “savages” now called “terrorists.
One hundred years ago, America unilaterally abrogated the Bates Treaty with the Sultanate of Sulu and illegally annexed the whole of Moroland. In 1946, America, without any basis, handed the Moro nations to the Indios-Filipinos.
Today, America is here again, upon the call of the Indios-Filipinos to fight the “terrorists” — the new adjective for Moros.
We call on America not to be blinded again by the sweet words and promises of the Indios — like a new military base. We call on America to not to add another injustice to the Moro people. We call on America to right the wrong it had done to the Moro people. Our fathers and forefathers had asked America for protection against the Indios-Filipinos. Instead, America fed them to the lions, as it were.
In 1910, in a conference with US Secretary of War Jacob Dickinson, Datu Mandi said, ” As I look around, I see more Moros than Filipinos. That is why it’s called the Moro Province. If the American government does not want the Moro Province anymore, it should give it back to us. It is a Moro Province, it belongs to us.”
Another Moro leader, Hadji Nuno said, “The Secretary of War must look the matter in the face. We have a different race, a different religion… If we should be given over to the Filipinos, how much more would they treat us badly, when they treated even the Spanish badly? The Spanish were their own mothers and their own fathers for generations.”
Today, as we look around the former Moro Province, we see there are now more Indios. That is why they want to limit ARMM to just a few provinces. Have they treated the Moros badly? They only killed and tortured tens of thousands of Moros during the Marcos regime, waged an all-out war against MILF during Estrada’s presidency and now have called on the US Marines for help. This is not to mention the marginalization and extreme poverty of the Moro people.
We ask America to uphold the right of the Moro people to freedom and to self- determination. Like our forefathers, we would rather be free under American neocolonial rule rather than marginalized under Indio-Filipino rule. Ever since World War II, the Moros, unlike the Indios, never killed any Amercian, especially American soldiers. Unlike the Indios, there are no illegal Moros in the US. There are no Moro communists. The Moros have not done any harm to the U.S.
The Americans have no reason to fight the Moros. But it has the moral obligation to undo what it did before. The US gave the Moros and Moroland to the Indios-Filipinos. Perhaps it is about time to give the Moros back their freedom. It is never too late to undo a harm done — even if it is one hundred years late.