On The Explainer last Tuesday (which you can watch online on YouTube) I presented a series of maps based, in turn, on maps you’ve already seen on previous entries, to argue along the lines of there being a basis for the territorial claims of the Moros. At the same time, looking at the past basis for today’s territorial claims also runs smack into the reality on the ground.
Starting with the present ARMM:
Then showing the areas proposed for inclusion by plebiscite next year:
And including areas proposed for inclusion by plebiscite in 25 years:
You get an idea of the (officially stated, and demarcated, anyway) claims of the MILF on behalf of all Moros.
And then comparing the total area with the historical extent of the Sultanate of Sulu, and the Blumentritt map, etc.:
The area seems to match almost exactly.
But the problem lies in that area overlapping territory that is now dominated by non-Moro ethnic groups:
Add to this, the following map (the B’Laans are not Muslim) which includes areas proposed for inclusion in the BJE after 25 years:
Now if this wasn’t a stark enough representation of the situation, one of the Young Moro League members in my show pointed out that their professors made reference to another map, which did not restrict Moro territory to the areas in the Blumentritt map, but pretty much covered most if not all of Mindanao; and furthermore, that the Blumentritt map overstated the territory of the Lumads. All I could answer was that I have yet to see the map they saw, but what I’d presented was information pretty much agreed upon by various contemporary maps.
But a recent entry in Bangsamoro Blog delves into the issue and essentially details the position raised by the Young Moro League member on my show:
The Bangsa Moro Homeland or territory must be composed of, at the MINIMUM, the areas specified in the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. Nothing less.
At most, it should be the land territory of the Sultanate of Maguindanao, Sultanate of Sulu, Rajaship of Buayan, the Maranao Confederacy and other Moro datuships as of 1898, the signing of the Treaty of Paris between America and Spain. This is because Spain had absolutely no right to cede what was not theirs. The Americans realized this and so they signed a separate treaty (the Bates Treaty) with the Sultan of Sulu.
Or, let the territory be according to the Moro Province created by the Americans which comprised all territory lying south of the 8th parallel latitude except Palawan and the eastern portion of the northwest peninsula of Mindanao. This includes the whole of Lanao, Davao, Cotabato, Zamboanga and Sulu before these provinces were dismembered later.
But Palawan was given to the Sultan of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei at the same time as Sabah. If Palawan could not be part of the Bangsa Moro homeland, it should be given back to its first owners — Brunei — or be part of the Malaysian Federation like Sabah.
There was neither rhyme nor reason for the Americans to give the Moro province to the Philippines to form a Philippine Republic in 1946.
The Moro Province was NEVER a part of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 or 1898 or the Philippine Republic of Aguinaldo.
A cursory glance at history — real history not the fiction of Most Filipino historians — show that the Moros and Indios were never one people. Never until 1946. But the various Moro rebellions and the MNLF and MILF wars show that the Moros are not satisfied with being a second-class citizen in the Philippine Republic.
The ARMM territory is not recognized by most Moros as the totality of their Homeland.
Again, as I mentioned in my previous entry, what matters less is that there is a history that could contest the history that informs the argument above (the participation of Moro leaders in the drafting of the 1935 Constitution; in the 1st and 2nd National Assemblies, and election in the first nationally-elected Senate in 1941 and thereafter), and more that the history has been accepted as The Truth by those who espouse it (one member of my audience afterwards pointed me to the book, Nation Under Endless Tyranny, as the most widely-read and thus, influential, book they and other Moros read; it was written under a psuedonym by Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF peace panel chair); in which case, there is no room for debate. Stripped of its offensive rhetoric, and of its defensive enumerations respectively, what Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr’s speech advocates is the supremacy of secular law, while Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman argues from the perspective of Muslim religious law; the basic incompatibility of the two views was demonstrated on my show, too, where one member of the Moro League simply stated that if Sharia Law were made supreme in Moro areas, things would go a long way to calming down.
That being the case, let’s focus on the argument above making the case for the Moro homeland being defined either by the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 or by the old Moro Province established by the Americans.
The Moro Province is portrayed in a Wikipedia Map and here’s a detail for easy reference to the ethnic map above:
Now what has further complicated the situation is suspicion over the intentions of Malaysia and now, of other countries usually considered allies of the Philippine government. On my show, Dean Jorge Bocobo brought up an interesting point concerning the Russian invasion of Georgia, which has been producing some interesting news articles and analysis indeed. See Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks (a topic I’ve been interested in since I read a policy paper on the People Liberation Army’s cyberwar strategy in the late 1990s) and Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili’s ‘calculated gamble’: When he moved troops into disputed South Ossetia, the young leader adored by Washington put his nation in a precarious position. For a domestic reaction, see The Pelican Spectator. And this video:
Let’s start with Uncle Sam. The other night, the story went, Sen Arroyo: “Why was US at aborted MOA-AD signing?” which makes me want to ask, with all due apologies to the other (fictional) Joker:
(image is the masterpiece of Billy Añonuevo, many thanks for permission to use it!)
But seriously, folks. Here is a very interesting map (from Strange Maps) showing how the Americans thought the world ought to be divided, in terms of spheres of influence, after World War II. The “New World Order” map, it’s called.
The American sphere of influence is in blue. The British, in orange. The Russian, in pink. Europe is a federation in purple, Scandinavia a federation in green. As it turns out the Russian portion pretty much conforms to the way things turned out. American ambitions and their reckoning of their interests are spelled out clearly (South America is a Federal Republic). What’s interesting is that the British Empire is reduced to a shadow of its former self, its Caribbean possessions transfered to American influence or control, India independent, scattered trading posts left in an Africa basically otherwise a Federated Republic, Southeast Asia seems to be a gift to Britain, with the former Dutch East Indies firmly placed under British control but Burma, Thailand, and Indochina given over to Chinese control and influence.
Notice, however, the Philippines. Let’s zoom in on our part of the world:
The Philippines, a protectorate under this American postwar vision includes extensive portions of present-day Indonesia (the Commonwealth government-in-exile had seriously proposed the union of the Philippines and Indonesia in 1943 and this caused great consternation with the Dutch, until the idea was quietly dropped; but it would resurrect two decades later with proposals for Maphilindo) while all of Borneo is apportioned to the British. Additional American protectorates are Taiwan (Formosa) and Hainan off the coast of China. The various islands comprising Guam, Nauru, etc. seem to be a gigantic federation that marks the American security perimeter in the Pacific.
this is all to point out the Americans like to think in terms of spheres of influence, and we like to think we sit comfortably -and importantly- in the American sphere. Thing is, from the time America decided on a Europe First policy in terms of prosecuting World War II, Asia has been the secondary front and Europe, the primary one. And whatever importance we had in American strategic thinking diminished to the point of barely existing, after the closing of the US Bases. I’ve mentioned in the past that even with the War on Terror, the United States has pretty much been content to leave Southeast Asia to its own devices, with Australia taking up the slack (strikingly reminiscent to the 1942 map assigning most of our part of the world to the British Commonwealth). A couple of years back, in a think tank conference on the region in Washington, the darling of American policymakers was the President of Indonesia and the Philippines mattered mainly in terms of the threat to regional security posed by the JI.
If you look at a map of the Pentagon’s strategy for the War on Terror:
You will see that the Philippines does fall within the sort of global picket fence American strategists have erected to contain threats to their security. You will see, however, that what they foresee as a future hot spot lies within the territory of Indonesia and does not include the Philippines -we enter the picture only in so far as we contribute to managing that potential flashpoint, or hastening its eruption.
If you measure the significance of a country in terms of aid and where that aid’s concentrated, then American aid is significant by Philippine standards but modest and even negligible by American standards; if you peg it, as most figures suggest, at about $60.5 million, it’s peanuts; even if you factor in that the amount (the overwhelming majority of which is targeted at Mindanao) is worth double or even treble that, in terms of benefits to the local economy and savings to the Philippine government and military (there are other costs and funding devoted, for example, to military operations and exercises), they are still far from sizeable in comparison to neighboring countries or elsewhere America’s invested in the world.
If there’s a concern in our part of the world, it’s less JI and more the People’s Republic of China. I wrote about this in my June 2007 entry, New Asian Alliance and there’s additional stuff in my Inquirer Current entry, The China Card.
While the Quadrilateral Initiative, which I’ve written about, focuses on China, it has also laid down the basis for a latter-day SEATO in our region, composed of the USA, Australia, Japan and India. Except for India, it’s the three (US, Japan, Australia) who were most noticeable in the aborted signing ceremony in Malaysia. They have all established ties with the MILF in particular and Muslim Mindanao in general. They have, to put it simply, gotten their foot in the door, and this means whatever happens, they have established a basis for having a say in the eventual outcome of the RP-MILF negotiations. This cannot please Malaysia.
For more on this, including its pressing strategic concerns, see Eagle Speak and this map, which shows naval flash points the alliance has been wargaming (note the flow of oil past Palawan and Mindanao):
But blogger the nutbox, in an extremely interesting entry, puts forward some intriguing information and ties in what I’ve put foward, above, with what’s going on in Mindanao:
What many don’t know is that no less than US Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte discreetly came to Manila right after the Supreme Court temporarily halted the signing of the controversial GRP-MILF agreement last week. Prior to that, rumor has it (I can’t really confirm this) that US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney went to Bangkok to meet with President George W. Bush, who was then en route to China for the opening of the Olympics, to brief him on the Bangsamoro issue. Ambassador Kenney, by the way, had been meeting with MILF leaders before this whole imbroglio broke out.
These only prove the fact that the United States’s involement and stake on the Bangsamoro issue is deper than we all thought. And as always, the Americans would do all it takes- even thread dangerous waters if need be- just to pursue their national interest.
I believe the United States is coddling- if not outright aiding- the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in exchange for major pro-US concessions.
As early as 2003, the United States Institute of Peace, which is funded by the US Congress, has been involved in the “peace process” in Mindanao. Among their activities is the creation of a so-called “peace constituency,” which entails disseminating “information” about “ancestral domain” and the history and culture of the so-called “Moro” people to government leaders, policy makers, university students and even soldiers.
This campaign, as far as I’m concerned, only aims to aid the idea that the “Moros” constitute a people distinct from the Filipinos. Not only is this idea faulty, it is also very dangerous because it gives the MILF the moral ascendancy to take up arms and it further sows division between Christian and Muslim Filipinos (I’ll talk about these in another post).
Also, despite the clear existence of a discreet alliance between the MILF and the extremist terrorist groups in Mindanao, Washington has consistently moved against designating the MILF as a terrorist organization.
More importantly, the US has been very supportive of the creation of the BJE. In fact, Ambassador Kenney even witheld her announcement of an aid package for Mindanao worth 25 million dollars when the Supreme Court TRO stopped the signing of the GRP-MILF agreement, as if the signing was a pre-condition for the package.
Now, in geopolitics, everything is quid pro quo. The quid from the US to the MILF is this apparent support of the creation of the BJE. What, then, is the quo from the MILF?
Under the GRP-MILF agreement, the BJE is to have complete control over the natural resources of the region, along with the authority to enter into any form of economic cooperation ventures with foreign countries, as long as they don’t not constitute direct agression against the Republic of the Philippines.
In other words, the BJE can let the United States explore the energy reserves in the Sulu Sea and the Liguasan Marsh. And exploration, in turn, could give the US the opening to maneuver for exploitation of those resources. We all know that in this era of economic competition among global powers, energy- whether fossil-based or from alternative sources- is very vital. Not to mention the fact that Minsupala is actually a key route for oil exports from the Middle East to Northeast Asia and the United States.
Secondly, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu has stated that the seperatist group is open to the possibiity of the United States establishing a military base within the territory of this proposed BJE. Now this is a price the US would move mountains to get.
First of all, the United States has troop concentrations in South Korea and Japan, but not in the ASEAN region. A military base in the proposed BJE, therefore, would complete Washington’s efforts to encircle and contain the Chinese, who have been actively doing alarming maneuvers in the South China Sea lately.
Secondly, such a military base would give the Americans the springboard they need to intensify their campaign against the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which is believed to be based in Indonesia. You see, the Americans need such a springboard badly, and they can never expect to get one in the teritorries of Malaysia and Indonesia. In the status quo, the Manila politicians, the mainstream media and the Constitution make it hard for the Americans to establish such a springboard in Mindanao. This is why the best way for the US to get this springboard is through this BJE.
The benefits the United States will get from supporting the creation of a BJE, therefore, are economic and geopolitical in nature.
Note, however, that as of this writing, none of my colleagues in the media have been able to confirm if, indeed, Negroponte’s been here lately or if the US Ambassador did give a briefing to Bush in Bangkok. I am also skeptical about the United States going all-out to support the creation of a Bangsamoro State, because doing so complicates matters in a part of the world the US would prefer to keep quiet as it has major things to attend to in Afghanistan and Iraq. but what it cannot afford to do, is to appear inconsequential in anything that happens; and if the Philippine government concludes a deal with the MILF, then for reasons of prestige and more pragmatic considerations, the US has to seem to matter -to all sides. See New Philippine Revolution:
This is the reason why US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was there all throughout the peace talks, to make doubly sure that the GRP and the MILF really come to terms with each other. Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro in his interview over at Private Conversations on ANC says that the real interest of the US in those talks is to ensure regional security. Why?
If the Mindanao conflict spills over the rest of the region, it threatens the US mainland. A radicalization of young Moro fighters in Mindanao poses a very serious risk in the security of America. Remember that past World Trade bombers trained and even used the Mindanao corridor as a springboard towards the US. The possibility of Mindanao becoming a regional hub of terrorism is very high if these peace initiatives fail.
But I do think that American energies aren’t just aimed at keeping a lid on things in Mindanao; I believe their priorities includes containing another Muslim nation in our part of the world.
I’ve been thinking about the question of who will gain the most from the creation of the BJE and I think there’s only one answer: Malaysia. (My own views on Malaysia as far as Mindanao’s concerned can be found in Search for an Honest Broker in Mindanao). therefore even if the United States has larger incentives for supporting Federalism in the Philippines, its playing footsie with the MILF also gives it leverage when it comes to the country that used to be the sole patron of the MILF: and that’s Malaysia.
If you look at this map:
The Muslim World is in green. If you look at our part of the world, the two contenders for dominance of the Muslims are Indonesia and Malaysia. The Philippines has traditionally allied itself with Indonesia versus Malaysia, but in recent years the Philippine government has fallen under the influence of Malaysia.
Malaysia itself considers Sabah it’s Achilles heel, and since the 1960s has supported secessionist groups among the Moros to keep the Philippine government busy while it embarks on the late 20th and early 21st century version of the Philippines’ own colonization of Mindanao. Except this time, its the Malaysian government pursuing its own version in Sabah. After its influence waned with the MNLF, which gravited to Indonesia and which concluded a peace deal with Marcos and his successors, the Malaysians have taken to funding and giving political support to the MILF. At the very least, this keeps Manila perpetually off kilter; it might actually pay off in terms of a nominally Philippine-affiliated but in reality, pliably pro-Malaysian client state in a future Bangsamoro; it could, at best, result in outright annexation as part of a Greater Malaysian Federation stretching from the border of Thailand, to the borders with Singapore and Indonesia, to the vicinity of Davao -or beyond. This would make for a large, extremely wealthy, country that would keep that other perennial Malaysian rival, Indonesia, off kilter, too.
You can trace these things on a regional map:
A Malaysian-friendly Bangsamoro client state (which even now, its future leaders politely point out will decline to bring up any embarrassing questions concerning Sabah, regardless of how the old sultanate’s borders and territories are used to justify expanding the ARMM in Mindanao itself; and which one Moro blogger, as quoted above, could very well be allowed to incorporate Palawan into it) would also be well-poised to project its claims into the Spratleys area:
You can easily imagine the Philippine flags being replaced with Malaysian flags, expanding the scope of the Malaysian claim, based on its expansion of its sphere of influence to the Bangsamoro portion of Palawan, for example.
Consider, finally, from a global perspective, blurry brain‘s views in the draft of an article he posted in his blog:
Another thing that must be emphasized, particularly when read in the context of news that flags of independence have been waived by the MILF, is that there IS NO JUSTIFICATION UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR THE CREATION OF A SEPARATE LEGAL ENTITY. What is really disturbing here is the impression circulated by some parties that the right to “self-determination” could serve as the basis for creating (or eventually creating) such a separate entity and that by doing so we are being a “good international citizen” complying with “modern interpretations” of international law. This is complete crap. If a separate Moro republic is created, it is simply because we allowed it and recognized it for some inexplicable reason. There is simply no international law that requires or compels the Philippines to agree to a separate entity carved from its national territory…
In any event, as I wrote previously, the right to self-determination applies only with regard to colonial peoples. It is essentially a right against colonialism and foreign military occupation. IT DOES NOT GIVE LICENSE TO SECESSSION. It is well worth reiterating, again and again if need be, that the right to self-determination does not allow a minority group to secede and become an independent State.
This right to self-determination could be found in the United Nations Charter, the two 1966 Covenants of Human Rights, several General Assembly Resolutions, such as GAR 2625, as well as GAR 1514 of 1960 (or The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Territories and Peoples). It must be emphasized that the latter Resolution pointedly states: “Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” Indeed, insofar as cultural, religious or ethnic minorities are concerned, no general rights under the ambit of self-determination are actually applicable to them. International law justly recognizes (even if our government doesn’t) that the demands of political stability and territorial integrity of States are simply too important.
The maintenance, therefore, of the Philippine’s territorial integrity takes priority over any right, whether it be collective or individual, including those claimed under self-determination. As succinctly put by former UN Secretary General U Thant: “The United Nations has never accepted and does not accept and I do not believe it will ever accept the principle of secession of a part of a Member State.”
Which brings us back to the MILF. From the very start, I pointed out that the signing of the agreement with the government was the real and ultimate prize for that group. To a certain extent, the intervention of the Supreme Court thwarted that objective. The question is what the MILF will do next.
Has he selectively gamed the possibilities? On the surface, no. After all, the outcomes depend on what both the government and the MILF do, in response to certain developments.
Manuel Buencamino, in his column the other day, Just a piece of paper?, looks at what the MILF itself has said, and he says there is no ambiguity in what the MILF intends to do:
It’s obvious that the MOA is more than just a piece of paper that provides a “psychological boost” for the secessionist group. There is no turning back once the Arroyo administration signs the pact.
If the current government or any of its successors do not implement the accord “in the guise of following the Constitution,” the MILF will raise hell.
Ameen told Luwaran, “This is plain lokohan [foolishness] and the MILF cannot allow this to happen.”
The MILF will make war if it does not get the MOA it wants. This is obvious from the veiled threat published August 6, 2008, in the MILF’s Luwaran:
“The MILF has told the government of the Republic of the Philippines that its options to solve the Moro problem are reduced to only two: choose Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol and his company, who are pushing for war, or to continue the path of peace with the MILF.”
The MILF can count on the support of Malaysia in case hostilities break out over the MOA. Malaysian mediator Othman Andul Razak, talking to the Associated Press on May 2, 2008, said, “If the government wants the talks to progress, it can do it. It can think creatively. But if it wants to stick to the constitution, things will not move.”
Othman characterized the Philippine position on Constitution processes as “harping on technical points.”
Malaysia cannot be blamed for acting in its national interest. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) controlled by the MILF will serve as a buffer state between the rest of the Philippines and Sabah.
The MILF has denied it promised Sabah to the Malaysians in exchange for support, but the May 7, 2008, statement of Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, sounds equivocal.
“Never for a single moment did we talk about [the Sabah claim]. With Malaysia as facilitator, it is only practical for us not to bring that up or include Sabah in our proposed homeland. We are silent on the issue. We never said it belongs to the Bangsamoro people, just as we never said it does not belong to us. It is a nonissue for us at this point,” he said.
The MILF and the Malaysians are acting in their best interests; is the Arroyo administration acting in the best interest of the nation?
The growing consensus, much to the fury and alarm of people emotionally invested in the RP-MILF agreement like Montesa (or Rudy Rodil: both surely sincere people but one wonders if they aren’t so close to the problem that they have lost all sense of perspective on the loyalty the rest of the country expects them to demonstrate to the Republic), is that the administration was neither negotiating in good faith, or with a clear comprehension of the implications of the deal, domestically and internationally. Read Yen Makabenta’s A peace that could lead to war. See, also, Miko Samson’s rebuttal of the view proposed by the government negotiators, that the Constitution is a trifling detail that shouldn’t get in the way of the historic agreement they (the negotiators) achieved. See also Moroland’s Weblog for recriminations within the Moro community.
As I told the young Moros on my show last Tuesday, my fear is we will be much further away from peace, because of an agreement that its negotiators claim brings us so close to achieving that peace. Mon Casiple in his blog, shows why the proponents of the agreement (whether foreign supporters like Mennonite peace builders) may be alienating a larger peace constituency:
In the present situation of a lameduck presidency with huge popularity deficit, any campaign for the public approval of the MOA-AD will meet stiff resistance.
What I am saying is this: Federalism may need to be revisited if it is touted as the framework solution to the Bangsamoro demand for their right to self-determination and to the question of just and lasting peace in Mindanao. It may bring more problems than it solves.
The only political path the peace process can take under the present situation is for government to undertake widespread and intensive national discussions, not to sell the MOA-AD but to discern the national consensus (particularly the limits of national concessions), go back to the negotiating table, and redraft a document based on this consensus. For the MILF, the same process should likewise be done among the Bangsamoro people, including the MNLF and other political groups within the community and bring their own consensus to the negotiating table. For the peace advocates, the main thing is for them to take a step back, to undertake the same national discussion with all stakeholders, and to disclaim their own biases in order to achieve a just and lasting peace based on a national consensus of all major stakeholders.
An entirely different topic -in that the proposals deserve serious consideration and debate- is the switch to Federalism. Ging Gagelonia, blogging At Midfield tackles one reason why the debate’s become poisoned by suspicions concerning the President’s motives. She took advantage of a resolution engineered in the Senate by Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.:
Pimentel says he has specified in the very title of the Senate resolution the limited scope of the Cha-cha train itinerary so that it will not have “side trips” that will tinker with other contentious changes in the 1987 fundamental law.
Pimentel also bellows that the Senate and House of Representatives will vote separate and not as a single chamber when they convenes as a constituent assemly.
But those are parameters as far as Pimentel is concerned. He himself is the first to admit that in this early stage of GMA’s Cha-cha push, the administration-controlled House could still throw in various alternate resolutions to complicate the debates before the two houses of Congress are able to pass an acceptable constituent assembly measure before the Cha-cha train leaves the station.
As for the proposals put forward by Pimentel, blogger Snow World (hat tip to Jester for pointing it out) zeroes in on the proposals and The Jester in Exile makes short shrift of them in two entries: Lazy Legislature and Ivory Towers of Power. I have my own reasons for agreeing with The Warrior Lawyer calling the President’s move “the Federalism of Convenience.” It isn’t something that has excited her except when politically expedient.
When I proposed to the President that she hold her 2004 inauguration in Cebu, it was on the basis of her making a symbolic, but meaningful, commitment to Federalism by doing so. It was endorsed by administration officials on that basis. But as it emerged, the President decided to be sworn into office in Cebu, not because of Federalism, but as a “thank you” for the province and city delivering their votes to her. You can see one reason I believe she suffers from a failure of imagination and the kind of approach she has to politics. you could see it again in 2006, when genuine and committed exponents of Federalism like Jose Abueva found themselves used -and abused- by an administration that found them a useful smokescreen for what it really wanted: lifting term limits and shifting to the parliamentary system.
And there you have it: she has a region rattled, governments scrambling to keep up, a situation unraveling, and for what? An expanded menu of political options under the smokescreen of a concept she neither fully comprehends or has ever genuinely subscribed to.