ARMED STRUGGLE OF THE BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS IN THE PHILIPPINES:
Written by: DATUAN SOLAIMAN PANOLIMBA-North Cotabato, Philippines
Bismillaher Rahmaner Raheem. Asalamo Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuho.
The Bangsamoro Muslims of Mindanao and its islands have fought the longest and bloodiest struggle in the entire history of mankind in the world which extends to about four hundred eighty seven (487) years already up to this writing. First, the Bangsamoro people fought, without let up, against the Spanish colonial power for 377 years from 1521 to 1898. Second, they fought a bloody war against the American imperialist from 1898 up to 1946.And third, they are still fighting against the Philippine neo-colonial power from 1946 up to the present.
In fact the present JIHAD FIY SABILILLAH waged by the Bangsamoro people is a continuation of the struggle which had been fought by their ancestors and forebears demanding for freedom and independence. The 487-year war which has been fought by the Bangsamoro is replete with historical facts.
”But what is surprising is despite of the long period of war being fought for; the Bangsamoro people are still engaged in a war for freedom and independence. The struggle which has been fought by the Bangsamoro in four hundred eighty seven years (487) had extensively covered by the Muslim historians and authors in their books such as Dr. Cesar Adib Majul in his “Muslims in the Philippines, 1973, Manila, Philippines, ” Dr. Alunan C. Glang in “Muslim Secession or Integration, 1969, Quezon City, Philippines, ” and Salah Jubair in “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, 1997, Lahore, Pakistan.”
THE FIRST MORO WAR:
After securing the friendship with Rajah Humabon of Cebu, Ferdinand Magellan, who led the Spanish colonial adventure in the Far East, invaded the small kingdom of Mactan in 1521. The island was then ruled by Rajah Lapu-Lapu who did not want to be a friend of foreign colonizer.
It can be noted, therefore, that Visayas before was believed under the influence if not one of the principalities controlled by the Moro Sultanate of Sulu or Maguindanao at that early period of time. See Map of Moro Sultanate, principalities and areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao at the time of the arrival of Spaniards in 1521. (Source: London Library and Museum). Unfortunately, Magellan died in action on April 27, 1521 that drove the Spaniards back to the West and by such incident, they had narrated their fiasco under the hands of the native inhabitants.
Thus, Lapu_Lapu stood as the first native chieftain who fought against foreign attempt to colonize the Moro homeland.
The Spanish dream had yet started so that in 1522, with Captain Sebastian Del Cano at the head of the Spanish survivors, Spain became the first circumnavigator of the globe as declared.
Crown Prince Felipe, known as King Philip II of Spain, directed Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the viceroy of Mexico, to go to the Philippine island and to make it a permanent Spanish colony. He landed at Cebu where he had established the first Spanish settlement in 1565. In 1569, he proceeded to Panay where a second Spanish settlement was created.
After quelling some minor resistances staged by the native inhabitants, he sent Captain Martin de Goiti to Luzon, particularly in Manila where a well-fortified Moro principality was located. It was ruled by Rajah Solaiman and assisted by Rajah Matanda. Tondo then was ruled by Rajah Lakandula. Records has showed that these Manila chieftains where of Bornean origin. In fact, their relationship with the Sultan of Borneo was categorized as very closed to each other.
Rajah Solaiman who led the fight for freedom and independence, declared to the foreign aggressors the following words: ” WE WISH TO BE THEN FRIENDS OF ALL NATIONS. BUT THEY MUST UNDERSTAND THAT WE CANNOT TOLERATE ANY ABUSE. ON THE CONTRARY, WE WILL REPAY WITH DEATH THE LEAST THING THAT TOUCHES OUR HONOR.”Unfortunately, on June 3, 1571, Rajah Solaiman perished at the historic Battle of Bangkusay, a place off the coast of Tondo, but he left with a patriotic landmark in his defense of freedom and independence of the country. The next to fall, despite of a fierce defense by the native inhabitants, was the Muslim principality of Mindoro in 1574.
Then came the short-lived Magat Salamat Uprising in 1587. Emerging victorious over the pockets of resistance were the Spanish conquistadors. So that within a span of 11years, they were able to overlord the territory of Luzon and Visayas. Legaspi, who was appointed as the first Governor-General, had made Manila as the seat of Spanish colony in Luzon and Visayas, which was collectively called as “Filipinas” or “Philippine Islands” eventually.
”Salah Jubair succinctly wrote “it is necessary to clarify, contrary to popular perception, two important points in history: Firstly, the first group of people whom the Spaniards in 1570 called “Moros” were those in Manila and environs and not the Islamized natives in Mindanao and Sulu and secondly, the first Moro-Spanish War was not fought in Mindanao and Sulu but right in what is Metropolitan Manila.
”THE MORO-SPANISH WAR:
The 377 year of Moro-Spanish War represents an uninterrupted bloody war which had been fought by the Moros against the Spaniard’s attempt to subjugate them as a people. At first, the Spaniards thought that Borneo was more of a threat to the Manila colony than the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu. So they invaded Borneo in 1578. However, after their Bornean expedition, the Spaniards had turned their eyes on the Moros in the South, particularly, Sulu which they were suspecting of having an alliance with the Borneans.
The Spanish colony towards the Moros was basically spelled out in the instructions of Governor-General Francisco de Sande to Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa in May of 1578. Figueroa was officially commissioned to subdue the Moro Sultanate of Mindanao and Sulu.
It was clear then from the instructions given to him, Spain sought to achieve two things with respect to the Moros of Mindanao namely: 1. Get them to acknowledge Spanish sovereignty over their territory. 2. Promote trade with them, limiting their trade to the Philippine islands and exploring natural resources of Moro land with a view to their commercial exploitations. 3. Bring an end to Moro “piracy” against Spanish shipping, and an end to Moro raids on the Christianized settlements of the Visayas and Southern Luzon. 4. Hispanize and Christianize the Moros, along the same lines followed with respect to other lowland Filipino (Indio) groups.
According to Dr Peter G. Gowing, the last line Spanish policy was the reason if not the root of the Moro’s fierce resistance to the Spaniards and their Christianized Filipino allies. Capt. Figueroa was instructed to order the Moro chief not to admit any more “preachers of the doctrine of Mahomet since it is evil and false, and that of the Christianity alone is good.” Ad-dressing himself to the “Lord of Mindanao, ” the instruction includes: “You shall tell him that our object is that he be converted to Christianity and that he must allow us freely to preach the law of the Christians, and the natives must be allowed to go and hear the preaching and to be converted, without receiving any harm from the chiefs.
”Furthermore, Figueroa was instructed to ascertain who the preachers of Islam were so that they can be arrested and brought them before the Governor-general. He was also commanded to destroy any Masjeed he founded “where that accursed doctrine has been preached and you shall order that it be not be rebuilt. “As he was instructed to meet force with force and to punish the Moros as he deemed best “taking special care not to trust them…..,” the Moros responded to such designs with violence and warfare. In 1596, during the initial Spanish campaign in Buhayan (Buayan) in the heart of Mindanao, Figueroa met his disastrous defeat.
The erstwhile Spanish conquistador suffered death at the hands of the Moro warriors led by Datu Ubal (Mangubal in Moro tradition). The initial Spanish campaign in Mindanao had ignited and caused the series of bloody encounters between the Moros and the Spaniards, in which,it was carried up to the coming of the Americans in 1899.
In retaliation to the Spanish cruelty, the Moros had carried out the war to the Spanish settlements in Luzon and Visayas. In 1599 led by Datu Sirongan and Datu Salikula of Mindanao, the Moros raided the northern islands and return home with rich war booty including several captives. The Moro actions had created fear and anxiety among the Spanish and Filipino settlements in Luzon and Visayas.
In succeeding years, the Moro buccaneers harassed Spanish shipping, and so were dubbed “pirates”. But to the Moros they believed they were fighting a war in defense of freedom and independence. Thus, Sultan Kudarat I, after his ascension to power to the Sultanate of Mindanao in 1619, declared a Jihad against Spain whom he had emboldened more than ever the Moros to fight for home, country and Islam. Their expeditions carried Jihad to the coasts of Visayas and Luzon.
From then on, the Moro war vessels periodically raided, killed and plunders Spanish settlements. Thus, it was dubbed really a bloody war. The Spaniards counter move was seen in their series of punitive expeditions against the Moros. The expeditions were made up of Spanish-led Christian Filipino forces. Which eventually, the Spaniards had succeeded to establish forts in Moro homeland, however, their colonies were only confined inside their fortified garrisons. They failed to subdue the Moros who were periodically attacking their forts.
From the 18th up to the 19th centuries of Spanish successive engagement in the “Moro Wars”, it was never followed by effective and permanent occupation of the Bangsamoro ancestral homeland. The American historian Dr. Najeeb Saleeby rightly observed that “the Moros fought for home and country, for freedom to pursue their religion and way of life, and for liberty to rove the seas whichever they would.” For over 300years, they had made a shamble of Spain’s Moro policy.
Even with the importation of Spanish war vessels in the middle of the 19th century did not stop the Moro raids of Spanish and Filipino settlements of Visayas and Luzon. Despite of being guerilla fighters, the Moro exacted a heavy toll of casualties, however, when entrenched in their ‘cota’ (fort) they simply could not be rooted out.
When situation demanded they would have readily killed their wounded and gave no quarter to the Spanish and Christian Filipino enemy. They fought ferociously, and their usual tactic was to wear down the attackers, obliging them eventually to withdraw. At the close of the 19th century, the Spanish colonial power in Luzon and Visayas was threatened by the Filipino Revolution of 1896 and the coming of the American colonial power in 1898.
Subsequently, the Treaty of Paris was concluded on December 10, 1898 between the United States of America and Spain wherein the latter had ceded to the Americans her former colony in Mexico, Honolulu and the Philippine Islands with the amount of $20 million. With this treaty, the Spaniards abandoned their colony in the north by virtue of the Treaty of Paris. So that the Moros of the south remained a free and independent people. Thus, they were not subjugated by their conquistadors.
The Bangsamoro people of Mindanao were already enjoying freedom and independence when the Filipinos declared a revolution against Spain in 1896. When the Americans arrived in the Philippine islands in 1898, the Philippine Revolution was already in progress in Luzon and Visayas. The so called “Spanish-American war” was also nearing its end.
For instance, Commodore George Dewey, commanding the American naval flotilla, defeated the Spanish Pacific Squadron during “Battle of Manila Bay” on May 1, 1898. Subsequently, the United States of America assumed the authority in the Philippine Islands by virtue of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. But the Filipinos, who declared the independence of the First Philippine Republic on June 1, 1898, had to fight a new imperialist power.
Maverick as it was, the Americans sought the forging of the Bates-Kiram Agreement on August 20, 1899 with a view to neutralizing the Moros of the south while they were still engaging the forces of President Emilio Aguinaldo in the north.
After three years of Filipino-American war, the Americans were able to crush the Philippine revolution and declared a general amnesty in 1902. The Americans, after having a unilateral abrogation of the Bates-Kiram Agreement, had now turn their eyes to the Moros of Mindanao.
In May 1899, the first US Army contingent landed in Jolo, Sulu. The US troops had also occupied Zamboanga on November 16 and followed the Cotabato areas in December. This began the American occupation of Mindanao which ended in May 1920 when the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was abolished as a government unit.
For all practical reasons, the American occupation of the Moro land was a direct affront to the freedom and independence of the Moros. The lesson from the Spanish policy of subjugation was still fresh in the minds and hearts of the Moros. With the Americans, the Moros have had similar views, as a threat, and a change of colonial master which had the same intention with that of their predecessor, that is, to subjugate them as a people.
Thus trouble had erupted as early as May 1899. But this time, the next generation of Moros took the cudgel. Soon various confrontations flared up in Mindanao and Sulu. This led J. Ralston Hayden, an American writer, to note that “never during the entire continental expansion of the United States had armed encounters been as frequent and serious as that between the Moros and American troops.”
The Moros’ determination to defend their religion and country had prompted the American colonizers to comment that “THE ONLY GOOD MORO IS A DEAD MORO.” Record has showed that there were at least 20,000 Moros who were killed in action from 1899 to 1916. From 1904 to 1906 alone, the Moros suffered about 3,000 killed as against 70 Americans.
Large-scale engagements were recorded between the American troops and the Moro warriors in several parts of Mindanao and Sulu from 1902 to 1935. The most serious were those staged by Panglima Hassan, Datu Ali, Datu AmpuanAgaus and Jikiri.
Shortly after the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth Government on November 15, 1935 with Manuel L. Quezon as the first President, the Moros had viewed it as the transfer of colonial government to a new master. It could be noted, therefore, that Mindanao and Sulu were forcefully annexed to the Commonwealth government. Again, the Moros rose in arms in defense of their freedom and independence.
The most serious armed rebellion that took place in Mindanao was happened in June 1936. It was spearheaded by Hadji Abdulhamid Bungabong of Unayan, Lanao del Sur and lasted for several years. The Moros fought gallantry and heroically in a series of wars called “COTA WARS”. The grievances were contained in a petition letter sent to the President of the United States of America. The issues presented 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.
4. Islam must not be curtailed in any manner.
The uprising lasted until the dawning of the Japanese interregnums in 1941. The Moros were once again caught in the crossfire between two colonial masters. But now between the Americans and the Japanese which saw its peak from 1942 to 1945.
In 1946 it saw the final annexation of the Moro land to the new Philippine Republic. Historians, in the likes of Salah Jubair, have succinctly observed that “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 the Moro traditional power structure effete and almost obsolete.”
”The main casualties were the sultans and datus, whose authority had been squelched to the extent, that they had become mere symbols of the past and mute relics of history,” he pointed out. “The sultan-people direct dealing, ” he continued “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.”
Elaborating that the disintegration of the traditional socio-political order and the ever-tightening imposition of the secular-materialistic concept of life bequeathed by the Americans, Salah Jubair said that it has created an extensively 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.
These crops of Moro intellectuals 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 was 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 fore doomed from the start.
But there is no gain slaying 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 Americans cobweb and continued to become subservient to the whims and caprices of the new colonial masters.
Failing to achieve their aspiration to be free and independent during the American colonial days, the Moro parliamentary struggle dragged to the post-war Philippine administrations. Couple with some isolated disturbances, armed clashes between Moro warriors and government troops were reported in various parts of Mindanao.
The off-and-on armed skirmishes continued to plague the countryside in open defiance of government authorities. Whatever it may said about the post-war pocket uprisings in Mindanao and Sulu, it could be attributed to the fact that the Moros have never abandoned their desire to be free and independent from the clutches of neo-colonialism in their sacred and ancestral homeland. Nurtured by socio-cultural discrimination, the most known of these uprisings were those led by Kamlon Hajji, Abdulmajid Panondiongan, Tawantawan and Hadjal Uh. It took billions of pesos from the national coffers in quelling these insurrections.
Such that amid cries of national neglect and apathy, Congressman Ombra Amilbangsa of Sulu Province had gone to extent of sponsoring a bill in Philippine Congress in 1961 which sought to declare the independence of the Province of Sulu from the Philippine Republic. The Moro solon was disgusted by the chronic ills and inequities prevalent in the Philippine society where the Moros were the direct victims. His bill did not merit the attention of his colleagues in Congress and his move was simply dismissed as a “drama” or “attention-calling.”
MORO STRUGGLE CONTINUED:
In 1968, the then Governor Datu Udtog Matalam of the empire Cotabato Province created the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) seeking the separation of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawitawi and Palawan from the Republic of the Philippines and to establish an Islamic State in the sacred and ancestral homeland of the Bangsamoro people. But the dream and aspiration of the grand old man of Cotabato failed.
Finally in 1972, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its military wings, the Bangsamoro Army led by Prof. Nur Misuari went public declaring armed struggle as its principal instrument in the formation of a Bangsamoro Republik encompassing Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawitawi and Palawan. It sought to liberate Moro people and homeland from Philippine colonialism.
The reverberating sounds of the firearms and mortars of the Bangsamoro Revolution led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) pressured the Philippine government under the then dictator President Ferdinand Marcos to entered into an agreement with the MNLF leadership in December 23, 1976. The agreement was known as “Tripoli Agreement of 1976.” It sought to establish an autonomous government for Muslims in South of the Philippines under its sovereignty and territorial integrity. But Pres. Marcos grossly violated the letter and spirit of the entire agreement.
Then President Corazon (Cory) Aquino catapulted to the Philippine presidency in 1986 because of the Peoples Power Revolution against Pres. Marcos, she created the Autonomous Region Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but still failed to finally solved the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao and its islands.
Until in 1992, when President Fidel V. Ramos became president of the Philippines after President Cory Aquino, his government negotiated with the MNLF leadership which resulted to the creation of Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) on September 2, 1996. But still the Bangsamoro dream of freedom and independence became more obscure. It was because of the fact that all agreements entered by and between the MNLF and GRP are only a showpiece of the Philippine government in order to smokescreen the oppression, colonization, exploitation and extermination of the Bangsamoro people. This regional set-up of government is nothing but an adjunct of the Filipino colonial government. It is being used by the Philippine government to further fortify the Filipino colonialism over the Bangsamoro people and their ancestral homeland.
So that when the MNLF leadership compromised the liberty and independence of the Bangsamoro people in December 1976, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), chaired by the late Ameril Mujahideen Ustadz Salamat Hashim went public assuming and leading the JIHAD FEY SABILILLAH of the Bangsamoro people for final liberation, freedom and independence, nsALLAH SUBHANAHO WA’TAALA.
Late Ustadz Salamat Hashim, then Ameril Mujahideen and Chairman, Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said and we quote, “Any solution less than full independence of the Bangsamoro people will not work. Past experiences since the be-
ginning of the annexation of the Bangsamoro homeland to the Philippines in 1935, have proven that the Bangsamoro Muslims could not live a normal life under a corrupt and secular government and that the two nations, the Bangsamoros and the Filipinos, could not get along with each other because of their distinct religions, customs and traditions. It will be for the best interests of the Bangsamoros and the Filipinos if both are free” and quote.
Wasalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuho.