(This is the 2nd instalment of Sultan Firdausi I. V. Abbas’ opposition to the “amended” Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Senate Committee of Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.)
The new provision on the Bangsa Moro identity in the Marcos provision is ridiculous:
“Article II Bangsamoro Identity
SULTAN Firdausi I.Y. Abbas, President of the
Muslim Bar Association of the Philippines, Inc.
(MUSBARAP) with Secretary Leila M. De Lima,
Secretary of Justice pledging the support of the
MUSBARAP to her senatorial aspiration.
SEC. 4. Bangsamoro People. – Those who at the time of conquest and colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards considered themselves natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao, whether of mixed or of full blood: Provided, That the foregoing profess the faith of Islam shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro. Spouses and their descendants, at their option, shall also be part of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. This provision shall not in any way derogate from the provisions of Article IV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”
We have pointed out that this provision is pernicious. It negates the legacy of the Bangsa Moro. It was the people of the north called Indios by the Spaniards, it was Luzon and the Visayas which the Spaniards conquered and not the Bangsa Moro. The conquest of the north has no relevance in the determination of Moro identity. This provision is a travesty-a gross distortion of history which records that the Bangsa Moro were never conquered and have the distinction that among all the Malay peoples, only they humbled the foreign invaders.
This historical distortion is debunked by historians who aptly wrote: “CONQUEST OF MINDANAO AND THE MOROS was pursued by the Spaniards for over three centuries to no avail. The Moros retained their faith, culture and institutions.” (Blair and Robertson, “The Philippine Islands”).
As late as the 1930s, the Filipino leaders in Manila were still conspiring to colonize Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. On June 16, 1936 President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth laid down the government’s Mindanao policy: “The time has come when we should systematically proceed with and bring about the colonization and economic development of Mindanao. A vast and rich territory with untapped natural resources is a temptation to enterprising nations that are looking for an outlet for their excess population… if, therefore, we are to conserve Mindanao for ourselves and our posterity, we must bend all our efforts to occupy and develop it...”
Even when the Americans administered Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, the American government still acknowledged sovereign attributes of the Sultan of Sulu as duly documented in the letter of Governor General Frank W. Carpenter to the Director of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes on May 4, 1920: “It is necessary that there be of official record that termination of the temporal sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu within American territory is understood to us to be wholly without effect or prejudice as to the temporal sovereignty, ecclesiastic authority of the Sultanate beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, especially with reference to that portion of the island of Borneo, which as dependency of the Sultanate of Sulu, is understood to be under lease by the chartered company which is known as the British North Borneo Company.” Under international law, only a sovereign can have a dependency.
Historian PETER GOWING in his book MUSLIM FILIPINO HERITAGE AND HORIZON pointed out: “ARMED INVADERS – SPANIARDS, AMERICANS, JAPANESE, AND CHRISTIAN FILIPINOS – always outgunned the Moros but the invaders never succeeded in crushing the indomitable spirit of the Moros. They never subjugated the Moros. Everyday thousands upon thousands of Moros in hundreds of mosques and countless homes kneel in abject surrender to ALLAH. No lesser power, certainly no power on earth can ever bring them to their knees. THIS IS THEIR HERITAGE.”
The dismal failure of the Spaniards to conquer Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan is an integral part of the position of the Bangsa Moro to assert their right to self-determination, that Spain had no legal right to include the Bangsa Moro homeland in the Treaty of Paris of 1898 wherein Spain sold Las Islas Filipinas to the the United States of America for Twenty Million (US$20,000,000) dollars.
Landmark Case of Carińo
This position is supported by no less than the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of CARIÑO vs. INSULAR GOVERNMENT, G.R.No. 2689, March 25, 1907. This was an application to the Philippine Court of Land Registration for the registration of certain land by Mateo Cariño, an Igorot – a native of Benguet in the Philippines. The application was granted by the court on March 4, 1904. An appeal was taken to the Court of First Instance of the Province of Benguet on behalf of the government of the Philippines, and also on behalf of the United States, those governments having taken possession of the property for public and military purposes. The Court of First Instance found the facts and dismissed the application upon grounds of law. This judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the Philippines, G.R. No. 2869, March 25,1907 (7 Phil. 132).
The Philippine Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the lower court that Mateo Cariño and those from whom he claims his right had not possessed and claimed as owners the lands in question since time immemorial and that the land in question did not belong to the petitioner, but that, on the contrary, it was the property of the Insular Government.
The case was raised to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, 212 U.S. 449 (1909), February 23, 1909. Justice Associate Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote the opinion of the court -
“Every presumption of ownership is in favor of one actually occupying land for many years, and against the government which seeks to deprive him of it, for failure to comply with provisions of a subsequently enacted registration act.
Title by prescription against the crown existed under Spanish law in force in the Philippine Islands prior to their acquisition by the United States, and one occupying land in the Province of Benguet for more than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris is entitled to the continued possession thereof.
-- The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor General, in his argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or military government of the Spanish Crown... Whatever may have been the technical position of Spain, it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and was a mere trespasser when the present government seized his land. The argument to that effect seems to amount to a denial of native titles throughout an important part of the island of Luzon, at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted and had not the power to enforce.
-- As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was recognized in the Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty.”
The Bangsa Moro homeland was never subjugated by Spain. It was in the possession and ownership of the Bangsa Moro for centuries and could not have been legally sold by Spain which did not even have a paper sovereignty over it to the United States of America.
This Marcos provision distorts the historic identity of the Bangsa Moro as an unconquered people and further requires a Moro to profess Islam before he can qualify to be called a Moro. This is manifest ignorance of Moro political institutions- of the concept of the word Moro. While the word Moro was borrowed from the word Moor, the Muslims who conquered Spain and ruled most parts of it for four hundred years, is not synonymous with Muslim.
Before the mid 1960’s, it was a word which the Moros rejected for it was a derogatory word synonymous with hurementado, bandit, killer, pagan etc. It was in the mid sixties that the word Moro was made popular by the Moro student activists who also coined the phrase Bangsa Moro. It is a political term which means an inhabitant of the Bangsa Moro homeland or a resident thereof who has historical presence – meaning that his forebears lived in the area. There are many scions of royal families of the Bangsa Moro homeland who are not Muslims. Some of the grandchildren of Sultan Jainal Abirin of Sulu, of his daughter Dayan-dayang Indah Taas who was married to General Luis Delgado are Catholics. The Cabilis of Lanao are regarded as Moros but they are Catholics too. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have fighters who are Catholics. They are however as Moro as Misuari or Murad.To be continued
(The writer is the President of the Muslim Bar Association of the Philippines, Inc., Chairman of the Bangsa Moro Party and Chairman of the United Filipino Movement .)