“THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE MORO PROBLEM IN SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES"
By (late) Senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino delivered at the King Abdel Aziz University, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on May 12, 1981
A Brief History of the Muslim Struggle Over the last eight years as a result of the so-called Muslim Mini-War in the Philippines, more than hundred thousand Filipino Muslims have lost their lives, over two hundred fifty thousand have...we come as refugees in the neighbouring Sabah State of Malaysia, and more than one million have been displaced and rendered homeless. On the other side, according to President Marcos himself, about ten to 11,000 thousand Filipino soldiers have been killed over the last eight years as a result of the battle in the Southern Philippines. These grim statistics have not captured the headlines of the world press and as a result world opinion has not been mobilized. The Philippine government under President Marcos calls the Muslim fighters as rebels, he calls them outlaws, he calls them insurrectionists, and he calls them secessionists or far worst – traitors to the Philippines. The Muslims on the other hand see themselves as patriots, as holy warriors, birth right of self-determination from infidel attacks. It is a most unfortunate that Filipinos are fighting against Filipinos today. I have come all the way from Boston precisely to urge our brothers especially the Moro National Liberation Front and the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization to start their unity effort so that as one Muslim nation they will be able to present a more formidable force with any negotiation with the present government. This evening I would like to announce to you that the MNLF under Chairman Nur Misuari and the BLMO under Sultan Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman have finally joined forces and together they will now continue the struggle for the freedom of our Muslim brothers in the Southern Philippines. Chairman Misuari heads this joint group together with the leadership of Sultan Lucman, will be rallying most of the Muslims not only here but in our country so that once united they will be able to present their case better in the halls of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and before the Philippine government, and will work towards the resumption of the Tripoli Agreement and international bodies like United Nations. However, before I go into this, I would like to give you a brief history of the Muslim struggle. This struggle has gone for almost four (4) centuries and may be the last chapter of the classic encounter of the crescent and the cross. It is true that this conflict has many ingrain rivalry, and political antagonism, but all these reasons, a radically different understanding of each side as toward the conflict is all about. My point is the Muslims look at it from another angle. They cannot seem to agree on what they are saying and we have this incessant conflict. I will just cite an example to what happened last February. According to the best reports, there is an island outside of Jolo known as Pata Island. This island has about eleven thousand people. According to the reports, the military sent a battalion of soldiers to that island to inventory firearms of the people of the island. However, the soldiers came from Luzon and do not understand the customs of our Muslim brothers in the south, occupied the mosque in that island. After they occupied the mosque, they got some pigs and dogs and started making “Lechon” (grill) inside the mosque. Now you know that pork is one of those prohibited foods in the Muslim religion. But they did not notice that they were in sensitive situation and so, they started cooking inside the mosque which naturally enraged the people in the village. And I
started bombing. But our Muslim brothers fought and resisted the coming of Spaniards and denounced the Spanish faith. the Spaniards tried to set up their control. they tried to establish political control and convert the natives into Christianity. the Sultan repudiated the Treaty and declared “Jihad” against Spain. for example. my dear friends let us look back at the little history. Now. So upon his death. some say five hundred. some say one thousand but the truth is many civilians died in the encounter that followed the massacre. and signed a Treaty with Sultan Pangiran. Some say two hundred. The army. he found a flourishing Muslim Sultanate in northern Sumatra. You and I know that the Muslims in the country have pre-dated the Christians in that country. The Philippines. The year when Spanish came to the Philippines they fought this Muslim vigorously because as you will know. Many of us do not realize that Islam came to the Philippines two hundred years before Christianity so that the forces of Magellan arrived in our shores when Islam was already all over Mindanao and there were already many Sultanates in many enclaves of Luzon. the Spanish Authority commissioned Captain Esteban de Figueroa.” In 1578. When the Muslim warriors attacked Spanish enclaves.” one who perform a sacred act in defense of Dar-ul Islam. This is the beginning of the conflict between the Christians and the Muslims because the Spaniards saw in the Muslims another threat to their hegemony. Arab traders as early as 9th century have become dominant in the vigorous Southeast Asian center with the religion of Islam. At this juncture. Therefore. arrest Muslim priests and stop Muslim missionaries coming into the Philippines from Borneo. Most of the other Filipinos who had no religion were taken as hostages and converted into Christianity. At the end of the 13th century. according to Marco Polo. We don’t know how many civilians have died. Whenever Spanish conquest was successful in Muslim areas. the ruler of Manila was a Muslim leader called Rajah Suleiman and this man controlled all the headwaters of Manila Bay. there were individuals who would carry the war of “Jihad” on their own and Spaniards call them “huramentados” (amoks) while the Muslims call themselves “Mujahids. He was ordered to burn Mosques. the Spaniards who came to the Philippines already fought the Muslims in their own homeland. however temporarily. the “huramentados” are buried as “Shahids” which was the Arabic for martyrs. strafing and shelling the civilians in that island. when they found out that their soldiers were killed. And when they came to the Philippines and found the same Muslims. This was to be repeated for over four hundred years of Spanish conquest in the Philippines. Spain was occupied by Muslim Moors for many centuries and this occupation ended at the famous battle of Granada in1492. Captain Figueroa had succeeded. renewed this hostility and again fighting broke out. the Spaniards call them “pirates” and “barbarians” but to the Muslims it was a “Jihad” against an infidel.understand that one soldier got drunk and raped a Muslim woman. a lot of shoot-out occurred and now we don’t know how many people were killed. the abode and territory of Islam. The next thing we knew there was a shoot-out in that area and about one hundred and sixty to two hundred soldiers were completely massacred killed. the capital of Sulu. who lost the campaign against the Muslims. In fact. Subsequently. on the other hand. Islam came to the Philippines 200 years before the coming of Christianity in 1521. As soon as Captain Figueroa left. This is now history. Part 2: American Plan to Eradicate Muslim Religion and Customs
. The Muslims were the only ones who fought for four hundred years thereby staving off what Spaniards wanted to call a “complete conquest. He captured Jolo. the incident started because there was a misunderstanding of the cultural habit of that region and mere misunderstanding has caused this conflagration and this has contributed to the bloodshed in our country for the last eight years. By the middle of the 14th century.
” he fell instantly from the impact and that was the beginning of American Colt 45. the Spaniards before them.” General Leonard Wood. wrote and I quote: “It will be necessary to eradicate all their customs. which has not existed. simply a few customs which are nowhere. General Summer. the Americans who came later. the US government has as one of its goals the complete fusion of a group of Filipino Muslims and a majority segment of the Filipino Christians. law and government may be secular model to Americans. You will find that here in the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. had one goal – to integrate this community.” and to the end the Muslim failed to integrate into the body system. so now we have the Spaniards setting up a tradition. the Americans have small guns. You will recall that the Americans in World War II have an American caliber 45. The system of educations.” So
. Here.” According to our own Dr. a US military commander in southern Philippines. the Americans came in and followed the Spaniards and when the Filipinos came in they followed the Americans and the misunderstanding continued. you do not have a separation of State and Church. nothing has been found worthy of codification and imitation. left.. when Luzon was getting crowded and part of the Visayas was also getting crowded. a little or nothing.” the “Carpenters Agreement. their Muslim religion will be a serious bar to any efforts toward Christian civilization. the church and state are indivisible. The Church and the State are one because this is the will of Allah and this is the Muslim tradition.” The Americans.. The very notion of the separation of church and state but this a Christian idea. American secular schools. wanted to enforce a strict separation of church and the state but this American tradition was seen by the Muslims as threat to their own traditions. young man. American laws. “Go south. progressive and humanitarian in the eyes of Americans but they are not in the eyes of the Filipino Muslims. made his observation and I quote: “The Moros and other savage peoples have no laws. There was the “Bates Treaty. also wanting to conquer the Muslim communities and integrate them to the greater community of Christians. This misunderstanding is to play into subsequent Filipino governments who inherited the American tradition. because the south is the land of promise. In other words.When the Americans came to the Philippines. by 1928. American political organizations may be enlightened. When they shoot Muslim “Huramentados” they could not stop them and these “huramentados” kept on coming with their bolos (swords) and so the Americans devised a gun strong enough that when it hit the “huramentados. in general. the Americans came in. decent and civilized laws are enforced. There could not be a better example of fundamental deference in how events are to be understood. the first American Governor in the southern Philippines. at most. many Americans came and many Generals distinguished themselves. The Americans failed to subdue the Muslims and they were many treaties that followed. Mauyag Tamano in his book. Many of you do not realize that this American 45 caliber was discovered and actually invented for the Moro Wars in the Philippines. Before that. bringing in their own cultural tradition. but they are certainly not to the Muslims. two aspects of the same reality. and better for humane. they followed what the Spaniards were doing. What is worst. for the Muslims. the American administration together with Filipino administration started moving Filipino settlers to the south. The idea was. They also wanted to govern the entire Philippines from Manila and so when the Spaniards. but this community cannot be integrated because the Muslims felt they have their own national identity. Their institutions which stand at the very center of God’s revealed Will for man. and I quote: “…by 1917.
When Americans came and tried to impose their law. cunning.” which has become a tradition. The Muslims were practicing the Qur’anic law where they can have polygamy and therefore they responded and they said. they held virtually an opposite image of a popular Christian Filipino opinion. “We are Muslims. As a result. as a second-class citizen in a Catholic country. the Muslims feel that they are in fact morally and culturally superior to the Christians who after all eat pork. my friends. about two hundred years. My friends. when our families were living in the enclaves. the government and the church were separated. We had our “Balagtasan. the Muslims today have concentrated at most in five provinces. Because of their faith.what happened is that thousands of settlers came into Mindanao. the father will say. Muslims rejected the integration policy which meant assimilation into the Christian
. Under American system. the Indian was always the villain. Under the Muslim system. as tricky and violent. lawless. we who had been fighting for our Darul Islam and now a minority in our own region?” And that. Part 3: Muslims Portrayed as Backward and Violent People The Muslims are portrayed primarily because of their religion as ignorant and backward people. and where they control all of Mindanao before. in short. In our society. The Americans brought in their laws which are Christian and said in all marriages there should be one wife. is the answer to the crisis that we now face. Therefore. the government and church were one. In the American system. We called a Moro a pirate and a barbarian – slave trader. “What have we done to deserve this? Why is it that we who fought the Americans. The Muslims had to illustrate their Islamic identity.” we had our own “Zarzuela” the “contrabida” (villain) was always the Moro. Can we now redress this grievance? Can we now make-up this neglect and should we continue in this fratricidal warfare that will spill the blood of the Filipinos? Let me be more specific. your Christian ethics?” This was the cause of the clash. Why should we follow your tradition. cruel. and there were pirates coming in. “You go to sleep or the Moros will take you. beware of the Moro pirates. and perpetuate abuse after abuse on the Muslim people. we who fought the Japanese. They had a very bad image. When the child is not going to sleep. six are now Christians and one is a Muslim. the entire family will reject that proposal and say we cannot get married to a Moro. worship images. this was being perpetuated from generations to generations by word of mouth. savage. for every six persons in Mindanao. The Americans wanted to teach English but the Muslims wanted to study Arabic. minorities in other six provinces and therefore. Today. by majority of courses in our school history books and by popular drama as in our Christian north. They are over-sensitive and ultraconservative. five were Christians and one was a Muslim. In the Muslim system. But let me go in focus to what has happened to us in Luzon and from the Visayas because I think many of us here are Christians and came from Luzon and Visayas. our Muslim brothers did not want to follow the Americans. the laws are civilian and secular. The Muslims who were in Mindanao were pushed away from the coastal regions and then when the Philippines became independent. this clash was to continue and this became the bedrock and the reason for the conflict. We told our children in the Christian north. treacherous. as having a low-grade civilization. the saying in our country was “a good Moro is a dead Moro” and you will also note that when a Moro will ask to marry a Christian girl. for every seven persons in Mindanao. Due to the fighting and warring during the Spanish times. In the American history. the Moro was always the villain. the laws were part of the Qur’an and they drew their own ethics and their own laws from the Qur’anic law and from the sayings of the Prophet. Eventually. our Muslim brothers are asking. Their picture.
they were left behind while the Christians go to school and developed themselves. the Filipino Muslims make pilgrimage to Makkah. In the thirteen provinces of Mindanao. if they will come back to the Tripoli Agreement. If the Philippine government will return to the Tripoli Agreement. they broke off and Mr. my friends. In a very real sense. under the aegis of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. they did not go to school. my friends. our Muslim brothers said “that is a violation of the TRIPOLI AGREEMENT. our President did not implement it to the letter and instead of discussing this with the Muslim leaders. Number one. then we will make an appeal to our Muslim brothers to come back to the table so that we can discuss our problem rather than shoot it out. If we do not negotiate. we are going to give them autonomy in those regions. We will be able to set up their own security forces and they will be able to govern themselves.culture which led to their non-inclusion into the mainstream of development which in turn created economic disparity between the two communities and persist today. then the entire Christian north will support them in the claim and once we would like to propose affirmative actions on regions in Mindanao. one is region 9 and region 12 and they removed three provinces. by our definition of affirmative action will increase your school to four every year so that income between the two communities will be close at the end of the century. Naturally. thus is history of the two peoples which so fired the conflagration in the southern Philippines. when this Agreement was not implemented. they get better and better in business and the Muslims are falling behind and then they lose their land and then they lost their mineral claims and then they were driven away. there will be a return to the bloodshed and more people will die. What do I mean by this? If our region in Mindanao are under-developed and they are entitled to only one school. because the Muslims refused to integrate. their values and their sense of history. can we solve this problem? What could be a solution? This evening. for a while there was a ceasefire and there was no killing. our Muslim brothers have given up the quest for independence and they will remain in the Republic provided they are given the Autonomy in the thirteen (13) provinces of Mindanao. hopefully will be able to bring peace to our troubled land. The question then. This was a very good beginning. I therefore would like to propose that the Philippine government return to the original Tripoli Agreement. Each is oriented towards a different wider community from which they drew their religion. I would like to outline to you a solution that I propose to the leaders of the Muslim communities led by Chairman Nur Misuari and Sultan Haroun Al Rashid Lucman. Instead of thirteen provinces. Marcos split it into two regions. an agreement was signed in Tripoli known as the TRIPOLI AGREEMENT. Only few Muslims actually succeeded while many Christians were succeeding under the new environment. their law. They regard the Philippines as a sort of a foreign infidel power devoted to the annexation of Muslim lands and the subversion of the Muslim people away from their faith. Over the decades. So. the Christian Filipino and the Muslim Filipino do belong to different worlds. Their orientation are entirely local or beyond there to the larger Islamic World. Unfortunately. we will note that in 1977. But we promised our Muslim brothers that if they will come back to the negotiating table. Because they did not go to school. while the Christians gain more money. The Tripoli Agreement talks of thirteen provinces and now you reduced into ten and what is worse. Mr. My point is. a number of Muslims have been attracted into a larger Filipino national identity but the great majority particularly in the rural areas has no sense of being part of the Philippines at all. The Christians went to the Vatican. you split it into two.
. Under this agreement. Marcos went on to implement it unilaterally.
And it is nothing more but to ask that the Filipinos be given the freedom to choose their governors that must govern them. If this will be achieved. We do not want to kill Mr. I have come to mediate and to ask and to plead that we should now join forces and hopefully once we are united. this new forging of unity. Syria to meet with Sultan Lucman and the rest of the BMLO members and with this new aggrupation today. The national government will always support them if they are entitled to by way of development. Number three. I believe the Filipinos now numbering to a hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred thousand here will increase to more than half a million. we will propose that the Muslims set up their own courts.
. you set up your regional forces. I believe the Muslim community should be allowed to call in their lawyers and set up their own civil code as against our own civil code. For my part.Number two. We will tell them. there will be no more fighting and therefore. Marcos is to return to us our freedom. funds for development could be secured ushering all over the Philippines. All Christian troops will be removed from those Muslim areas and we will let the Muslims police themselves. If they want to use Arabic to teach their children. their own madrasahs. educational institutions all over Mindanao so that the products of these institutions can come to the Middle East for better employment and if we appeal to the Organization of Islamic States. their own “Shariah” courts. I will be returning to Boston. If there are no more soldiers. and you set up your own police force. let him go to oblivion. With the assistance of the Islamic Conference. if they should also have their own courts. we will be able to disconnect the fighting. let them use Arabic to teach their children. then let him continue. That is all we ask. Mr. Marcos is to give us clean and honest election and if in the election he will win. Chairman Misuari has come all the way from his place in Tripoli and Damascus. And it comes in all ways that I discussed to you the possible solution. It takes two to fight. it will go along essential opportunities that will signal the beginning of the renaissance in the Muslim Philippines which some five hundred years ago was the center of the Filipino culture. learning and power. Marcos. this meeting. and they should also have their own schools? Their local autonomy should a Muslim and this should be elected by their own people. Why should we impose English or Tagalog. For my part. I find the our Muslim brothers will now have a strong voice in the international forum and as a result of this. All we ask from Mr. after stealing power now for sixteen years. we are removing the Christian troops. we can set up training camps. we will be able to present their case better. their own schools. happy in the thought that our Muslim brothers have finally found unity in their ranks. All we want from Mr. you police yourselves because we do not want any more conflict between Christian and non-Christian communities. We feel that if our brothers will be united and the hostilities will stop. But if he should lose. Marcos will listen to us. we believe that all Christian troops in Mindanao should be withdrawn from that area.