Cultivating peace in Mindanao

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Last of three parts

IN THE Kiram-Bates Treaty, it was emphatically made clear that the US would be a sovereign power over the Sulu archipelago, and Uncle Sam could occupy some places there but with due compensation for the owners. The funny part (there was fun already during that time) in the provision is this, “The United States agreed to pay a monthly salary to the Sultan and nine of his “datus.” The Sultan is an employee of Uncle Sam.

Well, the Sultan (Jamalul Kiram II) did not make fun of himself by not understanding the meaning of “sovereignty.” The Americans benefited a lot from this drama while buying time. They could not be arrogant in Mindanao while their soldiers are still fighting the soldiers of Aguinaldo in Luzon, and playing poker strategies with the elite leaders in Visayas.

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They could not just take for granted the Muslim “juramentados” (the disciplined loyalists of Allah), not those “who ran amok” as fabricated by the Americans.

When the Filipino-American War ended in Luzon and Visayas (after a sweet deal with the leaders); the Americans used “brute force” (cruel and without human consideration to those who joined the Muslim resistance). Dreamland Mindanao (Moroland) tasted blood under the direct control of the Americans. (To God be the Glory!) To short cut history, Mindanao and Sulu were placed under the control of Filipino leaders in 1920.

It was in the Master Plan of the Americans to send more Christians and farmers from Luzon and Visayas to neutralize the Muslim population in Mindanao. It was sometime in 1960 that the Muslims realized that they are the impoverished minority in their ancestral domain. In the 1990 Census of Population and Housing, the Muslim population was only 19 percent, and the non-Muslim population reached up to 81 percent. Can Muslims be happy about it?

In 1980, the Muslim leaders were surprised to see that the productive lands in Mindanao are in the hands of Christian Filipinos from Visayas and Mindanao. (You can ask a former senator.) The mayors and governors in many provinces and towns are no longer the natives of Mindanao. The multi-national corporations are in control of trade, commerce, industry and politics (and military also?) … B.F. Goodrich, Dole Corporation, Del Monte Corporation. There was fun really. I do not say among wolves.

The virgin mountains were deforested and the naked truth was revealed as proven by the recent floods and landslide. Whom do you think grabbed giant concessions in the region? Ask those who are in Congress (Senate and House of Representatives). I don’t want you to bleed while reading my column. There were 64 Muslims (March 17, 1968) who were mercilessly riddled with bullets (massacre) in Corregidor Island by you know who. “Operation Merdeka.” In Indo-Malayan, means “to set free.” It was aimed to take over Sabah in North Borneo, Malaysia.

And now probably you very well know why Malaysia is so interested to mediate in the peace process. Your wild guess is as good as mine. We laid our claim of Sabah in 1962. Once in our history, the Sultan of Sulu had sovereignty over Sabah. President Diosdado Macapagal used diplomatic means. President Ferdinand Marcos over acted by using Rambo “fight-and-fight” mentality. (I’m sorry to say that Sylvester Stallone.)

Mindanao tried to make peace by using the wisdom of his leaders through insurgency starting from Datu Udtog Matalam (Muslim Independence Movement). This inspired the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). There was the “Ilaga and Barracuda” bloody gladiatorial fight in the plains of Mindanao. That did not bring peace. The “Tripoli Agreement” was perceived to be a light at the end of the tunnel. That did not materialize. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) did not bring the elusive peace. Now, we are back at the negotiating table again.

All of us are trapped in a claustrophobic atmosphere and its well-crafted moment of disturbing surrealism. We look forward with genuine hope that the inconsequential sequel would really spell out the peace that we want for Mindanao. We can always pray for peace and it has to happen. It has nothing to do with the politics of men and the avarice of some leaders. Plant peace and let it grow.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 11, 2014.

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