The perils of partition

My column today, Mindanao is both a local and national concern, takes exception to one part (while I tend to agree with the rest) of commentary, Making and unmaking Mindanao by Miriam Coronel Ferrer. There has been much trepidation about how today’s ARMM elections would turn out (latest: Ballot box snatching mars ARMM polls–Comelec: Failure of elections mulled in some areas).

My column also points to and includes a reference to “Belligerency status” concept is obsolete by lawyer Soliman Santos, Jr. I quoted an extract from the entry on Belligerent Status from “Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know” (Roy Gutman) but if you’d like to know more about International Humanitarian Law, please visit The Crimes of War Project. The possibility of escalating violence in the area can’t be discounted, and an awareness of how the international community views conflict, and the laws that govern conflict, should concern us all. A Day in the Life of RJ was moved by a comment concerning the Lumads -forgotten third party in the current tensions in Mindanao- and pleads,

Lost in this love-hate relationship, we have somehow forgotten that beyond the issue, beyond the discussions, beyond the “technicalities.” there are real people, real people that are truly affected. People whose lives hang by a thread, earnestly and patiently waiting for attention and assistance. While this issue is discussed in closed doors, in fancy halls and air-conditioned rooms, there are people who have become nomads in their own land, walking the ground in fear but braving it just the same — all because they have no choice, they are stuck there. They are waiting. Some hoping for salvation. Some have abandoned all hopes for such. Some indifferent as a result of witnessing too long a war  numb to anything that is and will probably happen. Some say this BJE is a mere guilt-trip by the government, due largely to the fact that Mindanao has been neglected for a long time — regardless if it were intended or not. Well, I say so what if it is? Isn’t it about time we cared? Imperial Manila, we have a problem! Right now, that is not even relevant. Guilt-trip or not, the fact remains that help is needed and fast. Let me ask you, when does guilt happen? When is it felt? Have you ever felt guilty about doing anything righteous? Have you ever felt guilty about helping a friend? I don’t think so. Guilt springs from the acknowledgement of a wrong-doing — whether intended or not. So, if there’s guilt, then by God, let us do some guilt-tripping! If you call giving people what’s rightfully theirs “guilt-tripping”, then call it that. If you call making peace guilt-tripping, then call it that for all I care. Those are just “terms”‚”Terms” tend to be relative, ambiguous and easily misinterpreted. So let it pass. Let’s get past the concept of “terms” and work on something more universally understood — peace.

Today’s headline, Air Force planes bomb MILF lair: “Eyeball-to-eyeball” fighting in Cotabato and this earlier story, 80,000 flee as Moro fighters refuse to leave North Cotabato, brings to mind a past entry, Thoughts on Mindanao, in particular:

2. …I had a very interesting talk with a former official who has an intimate knowledge of both the peace process and the Department of National Defense. Here are some observations made by the official:

a. Conflict in Mindanao is “self-containing,” a curious term which I understand works along these lines: the military undertakes an offensive; the leadership of whatever Muslim group the military is targeting melts away, seeking safe havens in Palawan and Sabah; Muslim families in the affected areas immediately send their families to evacuation centers; the evacuation centers are overwhelmed; the UN begins to speak of a “humanitarian crisis”; foreign media arrives, to cover the humanitarian crisis; foreign and public scrutiny become so intense, military offensives must cease; peace, for the time being, is restored. It is a tired, old, predictable, and tragic, script but one that serves to prevent violence from spiraling out of hand.

I don’t see how the dynamics have changed, particularly since the military does not seem to have the element of surprise. In areas targeted for a military offensive, the MILF can melt away, while its troops engages its rivals in other areas, for example, in polling precints to disrupt the ARMM elections.

On August 9, the Inquirer editorial said the Supreme Court was in the delicate position of having to rule on the RP-MILF agreement without alienating public faith and confidence in it. Lawyers Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ (see The controversial GRP-MILF MOA) and Soliman Santos (see Will jurisprudence finally give peace a chance? in the PCIJ blog). seem inclined to argue that the Supreme Court actually has nothing to rule on, at present; that the Executive must sign the agreement, and then Congress should enact the laws and other things necessary to fulfill the agreement, before anyone can cry foul. At present, there is only the potential for mischief and both lawyers argue that the Court cannot rule on the basis of possibile scenarios. From overseas, blogger Left Flank seems inclined to support signing the agreement.

These will likely be unpopular opinions. Village Idiot Savant calls the agreement “the big sellout.” This seems to echo what people from the area are saying.

At the heart of opposition to the deal is the suspicion that there are deals within the deal, and they will result in a Muslim-dominated independent Mindanao. Increasingly, there’s been a lot of conspiracy-theorizing about the international dimension of the agreement, something that The Warrior Lawyer dryly recounts and which Amando Doronila takes up, in the broader context of international and domestic interests, too, today in a commentary.

Since the agreement, to put it bluntly, has the blessings of major powers, from the United States, to Australia, and including Japan (see Moro Views on Bangsamoro Affairs: the JICA has directly engaged the MILF and Moro NGO’s), not to mention Malaysia, everyone assumes that’s what’s in it for them won’t leave anything for anybody else.

Much ado is being made of USAID’s Mindanao programs which grew from 18.9 million dollars in 2001 to 54 million dollars in 2005. The official American policy is reproduced in Small Wars Journal and you may want to take a look at this colorful map of USAID programs in Mindanao as of March, 2008: ( or click here: USAID Ongoing proj. as of March 2008 provincial.pdf“)


A whole lot of projects!

This blog entry in bicycle diaries, who went to Muslim Mindanao on a US government grant, recounts local perspectives on the American presence in the area:

US foreign policy has given considerable military and diplomatic support to the Philippine government in its counter-insurgency war against two local Islamist groups: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, and Abu Sayyaf, one of al-Qaeda’s most aggressive affiliates in southeast Asia. The relationship between these two organizations is murky and controversial. Nonetheless, most Mindanoans with whom I spoke agreed that they are both outgrowths of the more secular Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF, which first appeared in the early 1970s to fight for Mindanao independence from the Philippines. Today, it is one of the few Islamic national liberation movements to have successfully laid down its arms to peacefully govern the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, or ARMM, with grudging support from the Philippine government.

What is not murky is the US military and diplomatic presence in the south and west of the island where the Philippine army is fighting both the MILF and Abu Sayyaf. And like US counter-insurgency polices a hundred years before, US support is again perceived locally as a paradox. US Special Forces units have operated in MILF territory since the summer of 2002. While training the Philippine army has been their official mission, there seems to be little doubt locally that they are conducting the military operations themselves. In Marawi City, known as the only Muslim City in Mindanao, I met with one of the founders of the MNLF, the unofficial minister for propaganda for the ARMM. He not only reiterated this position, but also forcefully added that the CIA was responsible for both creating and arming the MILF and Abu Sayyaf to defeat the MNLF.

These and other conspiracy theories abound throughout the island despite the generally successful efforts of US public diplomacy. In addition to the roads and clinics built by US Special Forces and USAID, the State Department has reached out to local and regional peace groups working to sustain Zones of Peace where the Philippine army and the MILF have negotiated cease-fire agreements.

the question of course is whether American aid and assistance is concerned solely with neutralizing Islamic Fundamentalist groups like the JI or whether the Americans believe their interests are best served by having a Muslim client state in Mindanao.

An argument gaining currency is that the Americans believe they’d be better off negotiating with less than 10 million Moros than a Philippine government with a constituency of 90 million and which has been notoriously unreliable to boot. Aside from security, there would economic benefits for the United States (and Australia, and Japan, and Malaysia) from access to natural resources the Americans presumably mapped out as far back as a century ago (see this pre-1935 map):


I’ve said before that I think all sides are capable of posturing and that what may be noisy may not necessarily go beyond a previously agreed-upon, face-saving verbal aggression among the participants. But people have a tendency to be carried away and when politicians discover a gift for rabble-rousing, things can then get out of hand. Christian politicians thundering about mobilizing citizen militias, AFP officers sending ultimatums, MILF officials saying one thing but doing another: all may be winking at each other behind the scenes but their constituents don’t know this, and all you need is one small confrontation to erupt for the whole thing to rapidly degenerate into open fighting.

With our government handicapped by several realities, most of them harsh, such as the government knowing its forces are ill-equipped, poorly led, and with weakened morale; and that they are dependent on supplies from the Americans who may have other priorities than supplying an AFP hell bent on liquidating the MILF (one reason: the MILF has a tacit alliance with the Americans against the JI).

On the other hand both Christian and non-MILF Muslim leaders know that if the MILF carries this off, then it will be poised to prove to all comers that it can take them on, and that the regional powers will back it at the expense of the Philippine government.

I have written about the documentary Partition: The Day India Burned, in Inquirer Current but here it is, again, for you to view and because it places in context the points I want to raise at this point.

In the case of British India, the leaders of the Hindu majority proved incapable of reaching an agreement with the Muslim minority because while the Muslims proposed a state with weak national powers, the Hindus were set on establishing a state with strong central powers. The British proved too weakened by war to arbitrate or impose their will. They even had to abandon the Princely States, the various principalities that had directly established relations with the British Crown. I will return to some points concerning the Indian experience but for now, you may want to familiarize yourself with two Wikipedia articles, as good a start as any: Partition of India and Political integration of India (additional question: could Operation Polo have served as a model for the planned invasion of Sabah in the 1960s?). The failure of Nehru and Jinnah to resolve their differences is a cautionary tale; and I’ve long argued we have much to learn from the Indian experience.

It keeps disappearing from the web, so once again, here is my article “Repulsion and Colonization,” from 1996. In it, I pointed out Cabili’s objection to the Convention having a special provision concerning Muslim areas in which their representation would be determined by law.

If you recall the arguments made by some Muslim warlords concerning the 2007 elections, they insisted that their culture stresses obedience to those in authority, and so they essentially practice bloc voting. It’s interesting that in the Sultan Sa Ramain’s speech that I reproduced in my previous entry, he responded to delegate Jose Cabili as follows:

Last week, my co-Delegate, Mr. Cabili, spoke about the extension of suffrage to Mindanao and Sulu. With respect to that, I think the Delegates representing Mindanao and Sulu should be asked as to whether complete suffrage should be extended to the people of Mindanao and Sulu.

In view of the Sultan Sa Ramain’s reply to Cabili, and Cabili’s subsequent refusal to sign the Constitution it seems to me that the delegates did this as a concession to Muslim leaders, which infuriated the Christian (and possibly, more democratically-oriented) Cabili.

In Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910, historian Patricio Abinales (who is from Mindanao) made short shrift of the belief that Moro resistance to the Americans was both widespread and protracted:

Surprisingly, the pacification process was fast and relatively easy. There was hardly any resistance from the various indigenous communities in the Cordilleras, while Muslim resistance was scattered and unsustained. At the middle of the first decade, the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao” had become very stable and peaceful areas.

A major reason for the American success was the cooperation extended by Muslim and Cordilleran leaders to the Americans. They regarded colonial rule as a means of protecting themselves against Christians and “lowlanders.”American military officials reciprocated this cooperation by resisting the efforts of Filipinos to extend their power to the “special provinces.” A working relationship eventually developed between these community leaders and the Americans whereby the former were given minor posts in the provincial government (“tribal wards” in the case of the Muslims) in exchange for agreeing to recognize American sovereignty. U.S. army officers who administered these areas also became their protectors against Filipino leaders, doing everything they can to limit the presence of Manila and the Nacionalista party in the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao.”

The only major resistance came from the Muslims at the hills of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak, when the army declared a ban on weapons and raised head taxes. American military superiority prevailed and over a hundred Muslim men, women and children were killed. Politically, however, these actions eroded the army’s standing and opened up an opportunity for Quezon to attack military rule in Mindanao. After the massacres, the army was forced slowly to concede authority to Manila and the Filipinos. The army’s powers were also clipped once the U.S. Congress authorized its partial demobilization, and once the American president ordered its withdrawal from the special provinces and its replacement by Philippine Constabulary units. Many American officers also preferred to continue their military careers in the U.S. mainland, seeing very little prospects in just limiting themselves to the Philippines. All these problems emboldened the Filipinos to assert their political presence in these special provinces. This was something that a weakened military government could not repulse anymore. In 1913, the army conceded its power to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, a body controlled from Manila and by Filipinos. The Cordilleras’ status as a special province was also terminated and the Nacionalista Party began recruiting its first “Cordillerans” to join the organization.

Two major features therefore characterized the first decade of colonial rule. First was the full and effective unification of Las Islas Filipinas under American rule, and second was the division of colony into two major zones of administration reflecting the histories of their respective populations. These two zones were eventually unified under the Filipinization policy, but the distinctiveness upon which they were based continued to affect overall colonial development. Muslims and Cordillerans remained staunchly pro-American and anti-Filipino, while Christian “lowlanders” continued to mistrust and maintain a low regard for these “wild tribes.”

The book “Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines (Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies , No 26)” (Thomas M. McKenna) zeroed in on Cotobato to describe how among Filipino Muslims, there was an interplay between outsiders, the Muslims as a whole, and among the Muslims themselves, between their leaders and the followers and subjects of the traditional leaders:

The new datus of the colonial period were able to enhance their traditional status because of the power and wealth rhey had obtained through collaboration with American colonial authorities. With the early abandonment of the policy of indirect rule, their political positions were not predicated on any official American recognition of their traditional right to rule Cotabato Muslims. Instead, they were bestowed with ceremonial offices -as municipal district president, assemblyman, or (occasionally) senator- as tokens of their political ability to mediate between ordinary Maguindanaons and an alien colonial authority, and as rewards for their political willingness to ensure Muslim compliance with colonial aims. In return for these services they received, besides the trappings and privileges of office, the opportunity to exploit new potential sources of wealth. Thery also retained control over the agrarian sector during the colonial period. They were nonetheless a dependent and sectional elite. Commerce was almost entirely controlled by the Chinese, and public administration remained exclusively in the hands of Christian Filipinos.

Dean Jorge Bocobo offers up dramatic readings from the book in his blog, Philippine Commentary, if you want more. Suffice it to say that Bocobo relishes pointing out a point raised by McKenna, which is that the “Moro” identity was itself a legacy of the American era. Blogger reason is the reason points to the column today of Noralyn Mustafa, who points out the more authentic identity of Muslims in the Philippines is whether one is Maguindanao, or Tausug, etc.:

Then I tried the same survey with the term “Moro.” Some were visibly amused, some asked what it meant, some said that they heard the word in “Tagalog” movies, especially when a “juramentado,” properly swinging a kris dripping with blood, was featured.

When the Moro National Liberation Front (of which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is supposedly a “splinter group”) concocted the term “bangsamoro,” ostensibly to unite the different ethnic tribes that were members of the MNLF, as well as the population of Mindanao and Sulu, I thought it wise to first ask my mother, through force of habit actually….

…Would she have agreed to being called “bangsamoro”?

I don’t think so. Although she had lived in Jolo from her 17th birthday up to the day she passed away in October 1996, she insisted she was a “Zamboangueñâ‚” She was born and raised in what is now Zamboanga City, in the ancestral home in Magay, the only “Muslim” house in a Christian neighborhood referred to as the “brick house” because of its brick tile roof.

She went to school in what was formerly known as the “Moro Settlement School,” later named St. Albans School, managed by the Episcopalian (Anglican) church, affiliated with the Brent School system, where she was a member of the tennis and basketball teams, and was placed in the soprano section of the school and church choir.

Although she worked as a teacher in Sulu until she retired, it was a must for her to go “home” to Zamboanga whenever possible, and years of speaking Bahasa Sug never diminished the fluency of her Chabacano (it is spelled with a “b” in the Spanish dictionary).

Now, would she have agreed to having some barangays in Zamboanga City included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity? I certainly don’t think so.

The Spanish authorities requested my grandfather to be the wazir of Sultan Haroun Al-Rashid of the Palawan royalty, probably to make him more acceptable to the Tausugs, in order to settle a bitter rivalry in succession between the more popular Datu Amirul Muhminin (who would be proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the last sultan of Sulu) and his brother.

In Palawan is a town called Batarasa. It is named after a sultan of Sulu.

Would I agree to having Palawan included in the BJE?

I don’t think so. It is Tausug ancestral domain. And I am a Tausug.

Let me be clear about my interpretation of events (which I do not claim to be the definitive one by any means; this is only by way of explaining my approach to the problem).


I think it’s clear that what separated the Sultanate of Sulu (the only one of the major Muslim kingdoms to survive into the modern era) from the rest of what we today consider the Philippines, is that until the twilight of Spanish colonization, it managed to preserve at least nominal sovereignty over its territory. This is supported by maps from the era. It is supported, further, by President Aguinaldo recognizing that sovereignty by inviting the Sultan of Sulu to incorporate his realm into that of the infant Philippine Republic, an invitation that was declined even as the Visayan Federal State accepted a similar invitation from Aguinaldo.

Whether Spain, in turn, up to that point having established a protectorate over the Sultanate of Sulu, handed over the sultanate with the rest of its Philippine territories is actually irrelevant. American sovereignty was extended over the Sultanate of Sulu through a combination of conquest and attraction, and made binding by means of treaties. The Americans, in turn, oscillated between separating Mindanao from the Philippines or keeping it part of the Philippines. This, in turn, led Christian politicians to cultivate some traditional Muslim leaders who then signed on to the concept of Filipino nationhood.

In return for political privileges and the assertion of their status, leaders like the Sultan Sa Ramain became fixtures in the corridors of power: in the first national senatorial elections, in 1941, the Sultan was elected senator (the parceling out of seats in the Nacionalista Party slate, at a time that the country was basically under the one-party system, points to how party elders were very conscious and particular about making sure every constituency was kept happy).

but at the same time the political leadership set about, quite consciously, to keep Mindanao by settling it and thus preventing other nations from claiming it (this was a period of Japanese settlement in Davao, after all) on one hand, while strengthening the powers and authority of the government by reducing, in turn, the powers and prestige of the traditional Moro leadership.

This article, Kris v. Cross, from Time Magazine’s June 29, 1936 issue points to an opportunity that presented itself to the Philippine government:


Nine days prior, from Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago, His Highness Padukka Mahasari Manaluna Hadji Mohammad Jamalul Kiram II, Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Judge of Agama, lineal descendant of the Prophet, had ascended to enjoy the limitless quantities of gold, jewels, silks, dates, rice, spitted lamb and beautiful women which await the Faithful in the Mohammedan Paradise. The Sultan, who for some years was the only sovereign reigning under the U. S. flag, lived on the tribute of his 500,000 Moro subjects, plus his pension from the Philippine Government, plus his land rent from British North Borneo Co. With this wealth the Sultan kept a primitive court where he enjoyed the favors of scores of wives in his youth, several in his old age, although he begot no offspring. Three nieces, however, he adopted as his daughters. No sooner had he died than one of them, Princess Dayang Dayang,* began to quarrel with Hadji Butu, the late Sultan’s grand vizier, over who was to succeed Kiram II. Dayang Dayang won the first round. Since the Sultan’s corpse was rapidly putrefying and could not be buried until a new ruler had been chosen, she secured the appointment of her husband Datu Umbra as Sultan pro tern. Meantime, datus (princes) of the Sulu islands had been advised by Grand Vizier Hadji Butu, ablest and best educated of the Moro patriarchs, to enthrone Datu Rajamuda, only surviving brother of the late Sultan.

On the same day that the National Assembly met in Manila the datus assembled at Jolo, determined to make Rajamuda Sultan. Again the wilful Princess got the best of Hadji Butu. She informed the visiting princes that according to tradition a Sultan of Sulu could not be chosen except by unanimous vote. Therefore they must wait until every datu from the farthest Moro island had arrived. The followers of Rajamuda called her by the names of she-animals. They declared she planned to make herself Sultana or —almost as unforgivable an insult to a warrior race—get the job for her husband, Datu Umbra, or her father-in-law. Datu Amil-bangsa. The princes grumbled, but the proclamation of Rajamuda’s accession was withheld and the throne continued last week to tremble in the balance.

To this day, the heirs of the last Sultan have been unable to unite; one factor may be that the Philippine government in 1936, the year of the last acknowledged Sultan’s death, abolished the state subsidy to the sultanate and refused to recognize a successor.

In the same year that the Sultanate of Sulu passed into history, the National Assembly enacted Commonwealth Act 141, amending and compiling the laws on lands in the public domain.

Both actions -the refusal to intervene in the succession crisis among the last Sultan of Sulu’s heirs, and passing a law that firmly placed the authority of the Philippine government in the line of legal succession to American and Spanish authority, recognized as paramount by Muslim rulers in the past- was a strategy that would have been familiar to state-builders like Mustapha Kemal Ataturk or the ruling Congress Party of India. It was a policy encapsulated by Manuel Roxas in 1922:

Said the Speaker of the House, Manuel Roxas: ” We have encroached upon the rights of the Governor General because in that guise liberties are won.”

He might as well have said that encroaching upon the traditionally-asserted rights of former monarchs is also how nation-states are built.

The implications of this and subsequent laws, are clear explained in More Road blocks: conflict of rights by Patricio P. Diaz in MindaNews:

While the Bangsamoro people have historical rights to their Ancestral Domain and land, the Christians in the provinces, municipalities and barangays that are proposed to be included in BJE have earned rights — property right to their lands and the right to belong to the political jurisdiction of their choice. This conflict of historical and earned rights is at the root of the storm of protest in North Cotabato and the cities of Zamboanga and Iligan.

The Christians have earned rights to their lands under homestead laws, through government settlement programs, or by purchase. To their credit the MILF leaders have given the assurance that they will respect lawful ownership of lands by the Christians.

Yet, the Ôexcept-clause” in Consensus 3 on “Concept and Principles”‚ “except when … other forms of possible usurpation or displacement for force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions” is not reassuring and a source of anxiety and fear for many. And they are determined to die for their lands.

Political right is as sensitive as property right. By their own choice, people live together in a barangay, municipality and province where, led by their elected leaders, they labor to live in peace and contentment. The present protests are expression of resentment and anger for what they believe as undue interference in their political right.

Their leaders are saying this: In the ARMM plebiscites of 1989 and 2001, we voted to stay out. Why will we be included in BJE to be asked of our option again in another plebiscite in 2009? Their message “why trifle with our political right? ” is clear.

To Illustrate

Why are they protesting? Only barangays and whole municipalities with predominant Muslim population are being asked to join BJE. Most of the protesters are not included.

Correct. But they contend that, first, many of the areas included are Christian-dominated; and, second, the stability and territorial integrity of their province or municipality will be adversely affected — hence, violating their right to remain stable, intact and progressive.

To illustrate, here is what will happen to North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and Iligan City. The conflict of political rights is clear.

Cotabato: 18 municipalities. Two whole municipalities, Pikit and Kabacan, will be included in the JBE. Four others will be badly dismembered — Banisilan will lose 18 of its 20 barangays; Carmen, 17 of 28; Matalam, 12 of 34; and Pigcawayan, 20 of 44.

Except for Mlang and President Roxas that will lose three and one barangays respectively, four others will lose significantly — Alamada, six out of 17; Aleosan, 7 out of 19; Midsayap, 19 of 57; and Tulunan, 7 of 29. Only Antipas, Arakan, Libungan, Magpet and Makilala will remain intact.

This is what will happen in 2009. In 2034, or thereabout, the province stands to lose to BJE all its municipalities except Antipas, Kidapawan, Magpet and Tulunan with 22 barangays. The storm of protest in Cotabato is being condemned. Should it be?

Sultan Kudarat: 12 municipalities. All of its 10 municipalities will be included in BJE, leaving only Isulan, its capital, minus three of its 17 barangays and Tacurong City. In 2034, Isulan will be completely absorbed in BJE, leaving only Tacurong City.

While the province has a population of about 20 percent Muslim, there is no protest from there. It has a Muslim governor and one of its two congressional representatives is a Muslim.

Lanao del Norte: 22 municipalities. Six municipalities — Baloi,Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangcal — that voted YES in the 2001 ARMM plebiscite are considered part of the core area of BJE and

they will no longer take part in the plebiscite in August 2009.

The whole of six other municipalities will be included and they will take part in the plebiscite. Of the 10 other municipalities left, Kauswagan with 13 barangays will lose 12; Linamon and Magsaysay will lose all their barangays. That leaves the province with Baroy, Kapatagan and Lala intact and Bacolod, Kolambogan, Maigo and Tubod slightly affected. In 2034, Bacolod will be completely absorbed. The province will only have six municipalities.

The province has a population of 35 percent Muslim. But with a Muslim governor and one of its two congressional representatives a Muslim, there is no protest there.

Iligan City: 44 barangays. Only eight of its 44 barangays will be included in BJE. But these are the largest with a combined area of 82 percent of that of the entire city. Besides, they are the source of the city’s agricultural products. That no other barangays will be taken in 2034 is obviously not consoling to the city residents and leaders.

Looking at the above, how will the three provinces and Iligan City survive? In 2009, Tacurong City and Isulan may as well be annexed to South Cotabato, thereby abolishing Sultan Kudarat, and Lanao del Norte be abolished with its remaining municipalities given the option to be included in BJE or realigned to Misamis Oriental.


MOA-AD is founded on sound concepts and principles. But as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so concepts and principles are only as good as their actualization. The storm of protests that met the publication of the agreement shows the need to reexamine its contents in order to reconcile conflicts and to remove obstacles blocking the peace process.

But let me return to the unraveling of the partnership between the leadership of Christian and Moro Filipinos, and what may be the event that blew the lid off the festering contradictions of that partnership.

The elections of 1949 -immortalized by the line “first they voted in Lanao, pati na aswang pa daw!” in the Mambo Magsaysay– revealed the patchwork nature of this alliance between traditional leaders. As the rest of the Philippines became more modern, the shared values of the Muslim and Christian political old guard -to maintain the appearance of democracy while winking at each other as to how their authority was derived through undemocratic means- became increasingly untenable.

On a national scale this led to the prewar politicians suffering an electorate debacle in 1953, with a brief restoration in 1957 but with the momentum for the younger generation restored with Macapagal’s victory in 1961. It took a little longer for Muslims and the delay meant that younger Muslim leaders not from the traditional aristocracy, but also influenced by Western thinking and the demise of colonialism, could look to secular Arab nationalism, with Gamel Abdal Nasser as their inspiration.

The decline in the influence, prestige, and legitimacy of the old Muslim royalty (McKenna suggests their claims to old pedigrees was itself something of a fraud) led to the rise of secularist intellectuals like Nur Misuari, and new warlords like the Dimaporos and Sinsuats of the modern era. The story of the decline of the old, and the secular, nationalist, aspirations of the new Muslim leaders -who created in the 1970s for Muslims what Rizal had created for Christians in the 1870s, the concept of nationhood (“Filipino” and “Bangsamoro” respectively) would then collide with what has come to subvert the nationalist-secular order in places like Egypt: Islamic fundamentalism, one of the ideological divides between the MNLF and the MILF.

But the reality is whether one proposes and another person contests, an interpretation of history, everyone has to acknowledge that what matters is what the majority subscribes to. I’ve pointed to the dominant narrative in Some readings on Mindanao, and that dominant narrative does not view the commitments of the traditional Muslim leadership as legitimate, and therefore, whatever partnership existed between them has been retroactively declared null and void by today’s Muslim leaders.

This Wikipedia map showing the historical extent of Moro territory and the present-day Moro provinces (in yellow), and the present-day Muslim areas in red, contradicts the maps I showed in previous entries:


But in the end, it does not matter if the claimed areas are based on fact or fable. First of all, because poorly-educated Christian Filipinos, leaders and followers alike, can’t argue othrwise; and second, even if they could, the leadership of the Moros believe it to be so, and will fight to make it so again.

The Bangsa Moro Blog is not coy at all as to the ultimate territorial aspirations of at least some Muslims in Mindanao:


But let me point you, finally, to Philippine Politics 04, who points out, in turn, that even as the MILF may be courting Uncle Sam, some of the Christian politicians talking so bravely about the integrity of the Republic, had planned to secede from the Republic themselves.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

155 thoughts on “The perils of partition

  1. I continually amazed at how vibrant the Filipino blogosphere is, and that MLQ3 links back to me.

    As a ignorant outsider fascinated by these events, I would ask if the Moros and other minorities on Mindanao can provide welfare to their own and administer “whatever” sort of political arrangement would arise from these proceedings. I am concerned about the possibility that international corporations and foreign governments will take advantage of the territory, but I’m inclined to back a majority that wants separation.

  2. I pledge allegiance to the Flag
    of the United States of America,
    and to the Republic for which it stands:
    one Nation under God, indivisible,
    With Liberty and Justice for all.

    Remember those words brave bloggers, before you bent over and offered your behinds to big hairy uncle sam.
    For those seemingly brave bloggers, actually just brave enough to blog unseen but don’t have the guts to face the enemy, shame on you!!!

  3. It seems to me now that there could be no peaceful resolution to this issue. All possible “peaceful” settlements, wherever you look, are bound to bear worse consequences. Whether we like it or not, it will have to be settled in the old-fashioned way: war.

  4. Soon enough, I should see another blogpost entry saying that the crazy America neocon thinking has polluted the Luzon-folks (or is it the Mindanao folks????) — War is a positive — war good for the economy.

  5. And talking about war…. are you keeping track of Russia’s war-response? Over 2,000 dead already, and this excludes the dead soldiers dead. Over 2000 civilians from russian artillery and bombs — hitting apartment buildings at that. Putin is one son-of-a-bitch!!!

  6. A question for Manolo (or any of the locally based Filipinos,) apart from the MILF and AFP skirmishes, do you sense a growing hostility between the ‘Christian’ and Muslim populations (beyond posturing of their respective leaders)? Is there a growing ‘bring it on’ mood for war (like how it was before World War I) or is it more like the grudging acceptance that war is inevitable that preceded World War 2?

  7. [Apologies if double posted]

    A question for Manolo (or any of the locally based Filipinos,) apart from the MILF and AFP skirmishes, do you sense a growing hostility between the ‘Christian’ and Muslim populations (beyond posturing of their respective leaders)? Is there a growing ‘bring it on’ mood for war (like how it was before World War I) or is it more like the grudging acceptance that war is inevitable that preceded World War 2?

  8. I’m not sure what happened to my comment, so I’m re-posting:

    People are wondering why, after almost signing the MOA on ancestral domain for the Bangsa Moro, the government could go to battle/war with MILF just so easily.

    Of course, the rule of law must be enforced, but it could have been emblematic if there were some ‘peace talks’ made during the pendency or interim period of the Supreme Court’s TRO. Of course, its ‘damn if you, dumb if you don’t’ situation.

    Now, it begs a question; is it ‘mea culpa’ for the government or “meron pa ba” ibang plano???

  9. UP n, Russia has a different prez now.

    The Bangsamoro blogs has just pointed the obvious to you people. They never thought of themselves as one of us, so why give in to their demands? What we need is more conquest. If we don’t want to loose more soldiers, then we should arm more Christian civilians in Mindanao. This should “inspire” stability. The army is always in and out, which is the cause of the “ebb and flow” of war. With the permanent militarization, heck the MILF, I believe, will eventually just fade away.

  10. Methinks GMA has actually succeeded, she’s started something almost sure to need a declaration of Martial Law. Yoda says, “Pawns and Puppets, these moros are.”

  11. Someone must show GMA how to get out of this situation that she created. Maybe a resolution from both houses of Congress telling GMA to backout from the MOA. GMA can then use that resolution as a reason to save face. It will also spare the SC from coming up with a convoluted ruling.

  12. Manolo, thanks for this post and related entries. We need more of them to educate us, the mainstream media, the economic and political elites, the Christian majority, etc., of the Moro narrative.

    Btw, the “except clause” that Patricio Diaz thinks is a sore spot in the Moa-AD, is basically a cut-and-paste from The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA). IPRA which implements the various provisions in the Constitution on indigenous people and the IPs’ rights to ancestral domain remains a law of the land for more than a decade already.

  13. Point out to where there are oil and gas resources and their delivery systems and you will note the worst problem areas in the world. Georgia is no exception. The BP pipiline runs near the capital of Georgia. The whole expansion of NATO was meant to isolate Russis from their former colonies. The Big Bear has sent a clear message that they are not going to allow the U.S. to extend their influence right to the new Russian borders. The American should realize the entire history of that region extends back centuries with the old Russian Empire

    Central Asia, M.E, Iran, countries that are around the Caspian sea, S.E. Asia are all in the center for the competition for resources that has replaced the Cold War. Conflict has broken out all over the place.

    Behind this is the need for the BRIC’s for energy reosurces and the drive by the G-7 to keep their dominance led by the U.S. Saling pusa and Las Islas Filipinas. Brazil is moving to self suffciency with ethanol and offshore oil resources but India and China are strategically dependent on imports while Russia is once again all powewrfull due to high energy prices,deep reserves of oil and gas and their reserves of strategic nuclear weapons. Europe will be more dependent on the Russians for their energy needs.

    The U.S. and their British allies will be isolated and Europe and the rest of the developing world will be outside the influence of both Anglo -Saxon countries

    Both the U.K. and the U.S. are going through what Greenspan called the once in a century crisis again.

    The dollar empire is tottering and can only be kept alive by extending the dollar hegemony.

    The big question now is will the world continue to bail out the U.S.?????

  14. hvrds:

    I think you have generally a good point about how the competition for resources is exacerbating conflicts in places like Mindanao and the Caucasus.

  15. Who would you believe? Gorbachev or the Bush/Cheney combo?
    Salbahe talaga yung dalawang Kano.

    “The Georgian leadership flouted this key principle.”

    “What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against “small, defenseless Georgia” is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.”

    “Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a “blitzkrieg” in South Ossetia.”

    “In other words, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was expecting unconditional support from the West, and the West had given him reason to think he would have it. Now that the Georgian military assault has been routed, both the Georgian government and its supporters should rethink their position.” Mikail Gorbachev

    The MILF perceives that the U.S. is behind them in their quest for a homeland. So they are now telling the ROP to change the rules of the game just for them.

    In essence a gun to the head of the ROP. How are you going to have a rational discussion on Federalism now?

    Where is the leadership of the ROP in all this. Nowhere.

    A crippled Presidency at a time of crisis…..

    Look at the opposition. Just as pitiful.

    This is one time where history is racing at warp speed and the government and opposition are still on foot pedal power.

  16. The Philippines has Big Mike and GMA while the U.S. has Bush and Cheney.

    Financial capitalism U.S. style has hit a brick wall and now the entire world economy is at the knife’s edge.

    The Knife’s-Edge Economy
    by J. Bradford DeLong

    The End of Financial Triumphalism?
    by Kenneth Rogoff

    “There are, indeed, big differences in growth strategies, which make different outcomes highly likely. The first difference concerns how growth itself is conceived. Growth is not just a matter of increasing GDP. It must be sustainable: growth based on environmental degradation, a debt-financed consumption binge, or the exploitation of scarce natural resources, without reinvesting the proceeds, is not sustainable.”

    “Growth also must be inclusive; at least a majority of citizens must benefit. Trickle-down economics does not work: an increase in GDP can actually leave most citizens worse off. America’s recent growth was neither economically sustainable nor inclusive. Most Americans are worse off today than they were seven years ago.” J. Stiglitz

  17. I am not sure if I can speak for the majority of Filipinos but I think am.

    i am articualting the minds of the majorityThe silent majority who believes that GMA will not extend her term .

    Shes only pushing for the Chacha to save lives of Pinoys which will be lost in a protracted war with Moros.

    Lets us move on. We the silent majority. Let us not be carried away by emotions.

    Let us forget Hello Garci scandal, tapos na yun. Nakadaya na.

    Let us forget fertilizer scam. Nakakulong na si Joc joc.

    Let us forget, ZTE, na cancel na un at nag-resign na si Abalos.

    Let us forget the kidnapping of Lozada. Di naman siya pinatay.

    Let us forget forcible disappearances and abductions. Di naman natin alam kung patay nga sila. Where are the bodies?


  18. cvj,

    a friend of mine, a christian born and raised in davao is currently hiding out in manila. their organisation, financed by ausaid, has temporarily closed their office since their company driver was shot dead (by a muslim) over a simple road altercation last week. their office has also been receiving death threats. it seems this whole fiasco has created a legitimacy vacuum. is mindanao on the verge of anarchy?

  19. What about the rights of these people and their claim to Mindanao?

    B’laan (or “Bla-an”,
    Teduray and the Ubo.

  20. sparks, that means that GMA has succeeded in changing the game again, i.e. fostering ethnic division among the people in order to keep power.

  21. cvj: from “..a christian born and raised in davao is currently hiding out in manila…. since their company driver was shot dead (by a muslim) over a simple road altercation last week” one is to conclude “… that GMA has succeeded in changing the game again”??.

  22. [Apologies again if double-posted.]

    UPn, the relevant sentence from Sparks’ comment (at 1:36 pm) would be “it seems this whole fiasco has created a legitimacy vacuum. is mindanao on the verge of anarchy?”

    As i commented over at Filipino Voices, right from the time Gloria Arroyo brought up her ‘Imperial Manila’ rhetoric right up to today’s MOA-related crisis, it has been in the interest of the present leadership (both the GRP and the MILF) to divide up the Filipino people every which way except along class lines. That’s because heightening divisions along regional, ethnic or religious boundaries conveniently distract attention away from the distinction that matters which is the division between rich and poor. Sad to say that their gambit seems to be working.

    You should already be familiar with that approach as you have been using it yourself in your past comments.

  23. to me. “….company driver was shot dead (by a muslim) over a simple road altercation last week” is a sign that MILF is not able to provide law-and-order now, so what good can they be????? Unless the MILF sanctioned the violence against the AusAid staff, which further echoes the question — what good is the MILF?

    [… In contrast, the Kurd-administered area of Iraq has flourished under “home rule”…. MILF and BJE has nothing to promise to Mindanawans!!! ]

  24. We Filipinos suffered from an incurable disease as “blame-game”. We love to point our fingers to someone else wherever there is a crisis in our hand. We even blame the U.S. which left us long ago so we can govern ourselves. Yes, we blame the U.S. including GMA and her minions for our misery except ourselves.

    If we look hard enough, the U.S. was able to unite a continent of 50 estates and counting (Marianas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, etc), while we cannot even unite a country the land mass of which is even less than the entire land mass of California. America has a diverse culture and mixture of this and that minority from all over the world and it has a score of religions but it was able to maintain a working harmony, no one State tried to secede except during the 1776.

    Here we are in the 21th Century.

    We should take our lessons from the Americans. “In unity there is strength”. While America wants more territories and colonies, and would not want any State to secede, we want to parcel out our country between the Christians and the Muslims and give up Mindanao to the Muslims.

    If GMA wants to have peace with the MILF knowing that MILF was only using it as a strategic reason of advancing its final struggle for a Mindanao Republic, it was because we did not register our opposition strong enough to be heardt except by offering our disguised punditry and foul language. We should have stormed Malacanang and demanded that it withdraws from offering this ARMM deal to the Muslim not because we do not respect the Muslims but because the idea of one nation and one flag transcends over parochial concerns of tribalism and wardlordism.

    We even forfeit our political self-will and destiny by asking the court to rule on this MOA-AD between the government and the ARMM as if the Court can arbitrate a purely political decision which is reserved to the people as their inherent right to self-determination and governance.

  25. Gloria Arroyo Wants To Dance The Cha Cha (Charter Change)Again!

    We were already cheated in 2004. Are we going to allow Gloria to get away with Cha Cha and extend her reign indefinitely???

    As our hero Dr. Jose Rizal put it so bluntly : ‘Tal pueblo, tal gobierno’.” (As the people are, so is their government).

  26. no one State tried to secede except during the 1776. – jcc

    Eleven Southern States tried to secede in 1861 to form a separate ‘Confederate States of America’ which led to the US Civil War from1861 to 1865.

  27. GMA made a mistake here. There was not much protest from civil society when the MOA came out. Now that she included CHA-CHA in the ring again expect demonstrations in the coming days.


    Lets us move on. We the silent majority. Let us not be carried away by emotions.

    Let us forget Hello Garci scandal, tapos na yun. Nakadaya na.

    Let us forget fertilizer scam. Nakakulong na si Joc joc.

    Let us forget, ZTE, na cancel na un at nag-resign na si Abalos.

    Let us forget the kidnapping of Lozada. Di naman siya pinatay.

    Let us forget forcible disappearances and abductions. Di naman natin alam kung patay nga sila. Where are the bodies?

  29. cvj, thanks, i notice that after i posted it and cannot correct it. 1776 i think is the signing of the u.s. constitution…. anyway thanks

  30. “Now that she included CHA-CHA in the ring again expect demonstrations in the coming days.”

    ho-hum. zzzz

  31. jcc, you’re welcome. btw, i agree with your last two paragraphs (at 9:59 pm). Whether or not the Republic holds together boils down to a political question.

  32. I agree with Ricelander. The best solution is WAR. The Philippine government should be brave enough to call an all-out war against the Bangsa Moro. The Bangsa Moro peoples (yes with an s, because we were never one but many) will then be forced to unite and fight — just as we did against the Spaniards and against Marcos.

    C’mon. Bring it on!

  33. whose to blame in this crisis?

    people? or politicians? ( assuming that politicians are not people)

  34. Ricelander & bangsamoro:

    You are playing exactly into the plan of GMA: encourage the escalation of violence until it justifies declaration of martial law, allowing her to rule by decree legitimately. Then we’re all screwed.

  35. greater economic and political autonomy, that’s the root of the problem.

    they’re secessionists because manila has not given them enough economic and political power to exercise self-assertion.

    just look at cebu, they were proto-secessionists before, but when they got what they ‘really’ want they’re now ‘assimilated’ to a large extent.

    let’s just have a federalist setup, because honestly, different people from the different areas of the Philippines doesnt really care how other areas fare.

  36. just look at cebu, they were proto-secessionists before, but when they got what they ‘really’ want they’re now ‘assimilated’ to a large extent. – Liam Tinio

    This is interesting, please elaborate. What did the Cebuanos ‘really want’ that they got and when?

  37. @cvj

    greater political power through the osmenas, garcias, and the aboitizes. first, during the late 50s during president osmea’s period, and second, today during the period of president GMA. by giving them posts in the government, and giving them additional economic leeway, they have brought prosperity to their people and their provinces.

    it was what was conceived for the ARMM during ramos’ time through misuari and for the ampatuans and sinsuats during GMA’s time. however, unlike cebu, the ampatuans and sinsuats were not too keen on ensuring that their privileges will lead to improvements for their people.

    paglas should have been a great model but he has the benefit of not having enmity against the milf. maybe it is due to the hostilities between the fundamentalist MILF and the secular ampatuans and sinsuats have them focus on acquiring arms instead to ensure their safety and dominions.

    its an irony really, that even if the ampatuans and sinsuats have almost half of all the firearms in maguindanao, they remain afraid even at the confines of their homes.

  38. Liam, thank for your explanation. The model you advocate seems to be one of power-sharing with regional Oligarchs. Who’s Paglas?

  39. frombelow :

    Lets us move on. We the silent majority. Let us not be carried away by emotions.

    Let us forget Hello Garci scandal, tapos na yun. Nakadaya na.

    Let us forget fertilizer scam. Nakakulong na si Joc joc.

    Let us forget, ZTE, na cancel na un at nag-resign na si Abalos.

    Let us forget the kidnapping of Lozada. Di naman siya pinatay.

    Let us forget forcible disappearances and abductions. Di naman natin alam kung patay nga sila. Where are the bodies?


    Do you believe this kind of writing helps you advance whatever advocacy you are driving at ? How? ?

  40. Is ethnic pride really worth more than economic prosperity? We non-Muslims are always being dissed by Muslim Filipinos as “conquered” whilst they are “brave” warriors who fought back invaders, foreign and domestic, for four centuries.

    True, since my ancestors had their ass handed to them by the Spaniard in the Battle of Bankusay, we had to carry that tag of “conquered, colonized” peoples. But what these haughty Muslims fail to see is that we’ve been relatively prosperous even as we were the “subjugated slaves” of the Spaniards, and then Americans, than Muslims, who I’m afraid are living worse than their ancestors have. And their poverty has a lot to do with pride and inadmission of defeat, even in the face of genoicide of their people.

    Pampanga and Katagalugan had the first hospital, universities, roads, western form of government in the whole Philippines since we surrendered to the Spaniards. They were among the first to study in the West. Among our people are the first ordained indio Catholic priests. We still have the highest GDP and per capita income of all the Filipinos.

    As Muslim warriors were going amok and their villages burned and women and children starved, guess who was raiding the villages with the Spaniards? Kapampangan mercenaries. The Spaniards have taken the poorest of our farmers, paid them to fight against whoever the Spaniards wanted them to fight, while our barangays lived in relative comfort, under the protection of the Spanish crown. This was made possible because we surrendered and made a deal with the devil-our loyalty to Spain for Spanish soldiers and muskets to pacify Aetas (who then were terrorizing villages in Pampanga).

    I say bravery only decimated the Muslim people, as the Cebuanos and Tagalogs and Kapampangans of this nation, first among the indios to surrender to foreign invaders, have seen their numbers multiply and now overwhelm Mindanao. Muslims should take heed and learn from our experience. Sometimes, it takes a courageous man to admit defeat. Our ancestors have-they thought of their wives and children when they laid those bolos down. Is bravery really worth it when your women and children are displaced away from your homeland peddling wares on the streets of Luzon and Visayas?

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