Table Talk: Muslim minority since time immemorial never wanted o be part of the Philippines PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 14 January 2012 14:09

BY Mike S Apostol

In a case study and book authored by a Malaysian Professor Kamarulzaman Askandar, who lives in Penang, Malaysia, entitled “Understanding and Managing Militant Movements in Southeast Asia”, it vividly describes the struggle of the Moro People starting from the occupation of Spain and America in the Philippines.

I was fortunate to be a delegate representing my office and my tribe, twice in Penang, Malaysia sponsored by the Malaysian government and the Japanese International Cooperation and Assistance (JICA) through the Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN). Our Last Conference in January 1, 2009 at Park Royal Hotel in Penang, Malaysia, historical records about Moro people in the Philippines were presented to the participants from all over Southeast Asia numbering almost 100 delegates. One Muslim leader Muhammad Al-Hasan  articulates his views, in the book of Professor Askandar, about Moros in Mindanao. He said” we Moros and Filipinos are two different people, adhering to different ideologies, having different cultures and nurtured by different historical experience.”

“We have contra-distinct conceptions of sovereignty. The Filipinos believe that sovereignty resides on the people, but we believe that sovereignty belongs to GOD alone. The Political, Social, Economic and Judicial institutions they inherited from the colonizers, organized on the basis of the separation of spiritual and mundane aspects of life, are incongruous with ours which are established on the postulates that life is a unity, GOD is the sovereign and man is his vicegerent.”

“Our culture, imbued with Islamic beliefs, tenets and principles is diametrically in contrast with what is known today as Filipino culture, which is the amalgamation of the residues of the colonizers’ cultures. Our art, architecture, literature, have retained their Asian character which is not true with theirs (Filipinos)”.
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In the book,  it was also written “the Muslims claim they belong to a separate nation by virtue of their distinct identity and long history of political independence. Following the national theory of secession, hey also claim they have “a right to self determination, including the right to a state”, a least in areas where they are in majority”.
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Indeed, historical accounts reveal that when the American Government promised the granting of independence to Filipinos, Muslim leaders registered their strong objection to be part of the Philippine Republic. In the petition to the US President, the people of Sulu Archipelago said that would prefer being part of the US rather than be included in an independent Philippine nation. In their declaration of rights and purposes, Muslim leaders meeting in Zamboanga City on February 1, 1924, proposed that the “Island of Mindanao and Sulu and the Island of Palawan be made an unorganized territory of the USA” anticipating that in the event the USA would decolonize her colonies and other non-self governing territories, the Bangsa Moro Homeland would be granted separate independence.  The Muslim leaders warned that “if no provision of retention under the US were made, they would declare an independent constitutional sultanate to be known as Moro Nation”. Perhaps this is the reason why the US ambassador was personally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to witness the MOA-AD signing that did not push through because Philippine Supreme Court declared it as unconstitutional. The Americans have an unfinished business with the Moro people.
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The book continues “even after their territories were made par of Philippine Republic in 1946, the Muslims continued to assert their right o independence. They consider the annexation of their homeland as illegal and immoral since it was done without their plebiscitary consent. Their assertions came in many forms, the armed struggle of Commanders Kamlon, Jikiri and Tawan-Tawan were signs of protest for being part of the Philippine Republic”. Those who joined the government used their new political system to pursue the vision of regaining Independence. Congressman Ombra Amilbangsa, filed House Bill no. 5682 during the Fourth Congress that sought the granting and recognition of the independence of Sulu. Then in May 1, 1968, the former provincial governor of Cotabato, Datu Udtog Matalam, made a bold move by issuing a manifesto of Mindanao Independence Movement calling for the Independence of Mindanao and Sulu and to be referred to as the Republic of Mindanao and Sulu.
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In their Moro Rally for peace in Cotabato and Davao on October 23, 1999,  in Marawi City on October 24, 1999 and in Isabela, Basilan on December 7, 1999 , they issued a manifeso clearly stating their position, it says “ …we believe that the only just, viable and lasting solution to the problem of our turbulent relationship with the Philippine Government is the restoration of our freedom, liberty and indendence which was illegally and immorally usurped from us and that we be given a chance to establish a government in accordance with our political culture, religious beliefs and social norms”. This declaration of intent and manifestation of Direct Political Act (2001) released by the datus headed by Magindanaw  Sultan Abdul Aziz Guiwan Mastura Kudarat IV calls for a UN supervised referendum to determine whether the Bangsa Moro people wanted independence. (Understanding and Managing Militant Movements in Southeast Asia and The Management of Public Policy Conflicts in Southeast Asia by Kamarulzaman Askandar Malaysia and Suwit Laohasariwong Thailand, Jan. 1, 2009)
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Scoop: After a careful study on the different views we gathered at the conference sponsored by the Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network, history will bear witness o the struggle of the Moro people. Whatever the outcome of the on-going peace talks and bargaining between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine Government, it is best that all arguments considered, it must be one that is just and fair to all people of Mindanao and not only the Bangsa Moro people. Even the leaders of the Moro people who originally  pursued their struggle peacefully respect the rights of other people by mentioning that “at least independence to areas where Moro people are the majority”. The MILF should stick to that line and there should be no interference from other countries in the peace talks.