Musing on Mindanao

In Philippine Commentary 2004 Elections Fernando Poe Jr.(FPJ) vs Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) , Jorge Bocobo has been focusing on Mindanao and the Moros.

This reminds me of Repulsion and Colonization., which I wrote back in 1996.

A problem that modern Moro nationalists have is that their forefathers were strongly pro-American, and were used by the Americans as a wedge against Christian Filipinos. Christian Filipinos, on the other hand, have done to Mindanao what the Americans did to Native American Indian lands in the USA -colonized it.

A useful example to understand the Mindanao problem is the experience the British had with the Indian princely states in the days leading up to India’s independence.

British control of India was due to conquest and treaties. Parts of India were taken over from the British East India Company, while other parts were ruled by virtue of treaties signed by the British with various Maharajahs. As Britain was winding down its colonial rule, it faced a problem between the Congress Party of Gandhi and Nehru, the Muslim Nationalists led by Jinnah, and the various Indian princes who felt they had a personal and direct relationship with the British sovereign as Britain’s allies and vassals. Britain ruthlessly ignored its various treaties with the princes and simply negotiated with the political parties; princes were limited to choosing between India or Pakistan but not maintaining their own sovereignty; problems arose when, for example, the ruler of Kashmir, who had a different religion from his subjects, wanted to choose one side while his people were more fitted to joining the other side; one possible option, to simply continue as an independent state separate from both India and Pakistan, was not allowed to prosper. Hence the continuing fighting over Kashmir.

The Spaniards only had small outposts in Mindanao. It was the Americans who, through a combination of ruthless warfare on one hand, and clever diplomacy on the other, not only soundly defeated the Muslim princes in Mindanao, but then tied them to their overall Philippine colony on the other, through a system of treaties.

The Muslim princes had signed similar treaties in the past, recognizing Spanish suzerainty, albeit nominally; the difference in the 20th Century was that American sovereignty was not only recognized, but enforced. And, after the initial defeats, accepted enthusiastically by the Muslim princes in Mindanao.

The direct relationship, then, between the Muslim princes and the Americans meant that they had an understanding independent of whatever was going on in the rest of the Philippines. The concept of the Filipino, which only emerged after 1870 and was a creation of Rizal and the propagandists, was alien to the Muslim princes who retained the original orientation of the inhabitants of the Philippines: tribal, feudal, personal, and colonial.

The Muslim princes echoed their Indian counterparts in bewailing the colonizer’s accomodations with secular politicians. And yet eventually, from the 30s to the 60s, they were coopted into the larger, national political system, which is why you had succesful, and influential, Muslim senators such as Domocao Alonto. However, with the crumbling of the overall national political system in the 60s and 70s, came the crumbling of the Muslim Mindanao feudal order. Marcos saved it by doing to the Muslims what the Americans did: killing all opposition, while bribing the traditional feudal families with perks and privileges, including fostering warlords.

My personal, unpopular, belief is that the history of Mindanao itself, and the history of Muslim minorities in other nations, makes it impossible to integrate Muslims into a Filipino state. We have tried since the 1930s but only turned ourselves into little brown imperialists in the process.

Muslim Mindanao should be given independence, with an indemnity to set any such state firmly on its feet, and then securely cordoned off. If possible, Christian areas in Indonesia should be swapped for our Muslim areas and then people might actually then -and only then- learn to live in peace.


2 pings

    • prem on April 16, 2004 at 7:07 pm

    People (especially in NCR) have been mislead by articles (news, op-eds) that Mindanao (as in the whole place) is a very bloody place. where Christians and Muslims cannot co-exist. What is at stake are not only the million lives of Christians who migrated to Mindanao (that includes my family) but the stability of the the Muslim government. Take a look at ARMM. And giving off Mindanao is a big loss (financially). The idea is “impossible” but if it were hypothetical a transitory government in Mindanao is worse than Iraq.
    The people (in NCR) who did not recognize the cultural aspects of the issues sorrounding the rebellions are to be blamed (special mention ERAP and GMA).

    • Taga Mindanao on April 9, 2004 at 1:29 am

    We’re not just talking about land, but lives of people in Mindanao. You’re not even from Mindanao! What an arrogant (ignorant?) statement from a typical Quezon.

    In the era of globalization, peaceful coexistence is the only way. Making national/cultural fences is a thing of the past.

  1. Hay, I second the motion. Where peaceful co-existence within a single state is not possible, it might be with two independent states. But greed will not let that happen. And I am NOT referring to the Moros and the Muslims.

  1. […] a large Muslim minority can be successfully integrated into a state dominated by another religion (I ventured this opinion back in 2004): unless secularism becomes entrenched. But since we seem to be leaving secularism more and more […]

  2. […] a large Muslim minority can be successfully integrated into a state dominated by another religion (I ventured this opinion back in 2004): unless secularism becomes entrenched. But since we seem to be leaving secularism more and more […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.