“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan, ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.”-Jose P. Rizal, Philippine National Hero. Is this the reason why the Mindanao Crisis has remained insolvable for almost half a century now because of our deliberate avoidance of or aversion to its historical root-cause?
More than 15 years after the surprise occupation of Mindanao and Sulu by the American forces, Gov. Frank Carpenter of the Moro Province still considered Mindanao and Sulu as separate territories from the Philippine Islands when he officially issued the following statement:
“Any study of the matter, however, superficial, cannot but bring forth convincing arguments that it is to the material interest of the Philippines that Luzon and the Visayas make whatever of present sacrifice maybe necessary to extend such financial aid to the public services in Maguindanao-Sulu that the latter may quickly be made in fact a part of the Philippines.” Source: Peter Gordon Gowing, Mandate in Moroland, 1983, p. 267.
This is another corroborative written statement by the top American administrator of the Moro Province pointing to the fact that Mindanao and Sulu were not colonial possessions of Spain and were not political sub-divisions of Las Islas Filipinas or Philippine Islands. Frank Carpenter, a civilian, served not only as the last Governor of the Moro Province from December 15, 1913- July 23, 1914 but also retained the governorship of the moroland when it was renamed Department of Mindanao and Sulu which included the whole of Mindanao but excluding Lanao.
Gregorio F. Zaide who is popularly recognized as the Father of Philippine History and internationally renowned and multi-awarded historian, researcher, and author, confirmed the fact that most of Mindanao and Sulu were excluded from the Philippine Islands during the Spanish colonial period when he clearly wrote the following narration:
“Most of Mindanao and Sulu were excluded from Philippine territory during the Spanish times. Spain claimed sovereignty over them, but only a few coastal areas were really under its control. The Moros were not conquered.” - Source: Philippine History and Government, authored by Gregorio F. Zaide, Copyright 2004, p. 63.
While it was very evident that Governor Carpenter wanted the quick incorporation of the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu into the body politic of the Philippine Islands, taking an entirely opposite political proposition was the second Governor of the Moro Province, Tasker H. Bliss who ardently and forcefully advocated for the creation of a separate politico-military government for these two ancient sovereign states. Governor Bliss’ administration of the Moro Province was popularly dubbed as “The Velvet Glove,” 1906-1909.
Governor Bliss was so convinced that the emnity between the Moros and Filipinos constituted an insurmountable roadblock if the Moroland would finally be incorporated into the body politic of the Philippine Islands. The conviction of General Bliss up to the present remains an incontestable security and socio- political reality since he was appointed and officially assumed the governorship of the Moro Province on April 16, 1906 more than a century ago. This must be one of the reasons why the Governor- General of the Philippine Islands at that time, John F. Smith, recommended for the exclusion of the areas inhabited by Moros and other non-Christian tribes from participating in a popular election for the choice of delegates to the Philippine Assembly which was approved by then President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House on March 28, 1907.
The Philippine Assembly whose members were chosen through popular election from the different areas not inhabited by Moros and other non-Christian tribes was the first Legislative body of the Philippine Islands created by the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 by the American Congress in the early years of the American occupation. The election was held on July 30, 1907 in compliance with the Proclamation issued by the Governor-General, James F. Smith about nine years after the Philippine Islands was sold and ceded by Spain to the United States in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris for $20-Million. Deductively, the Philippine Assembly was purely composed of delegates coming from areas inhabited by Christians in the Philippine Islands.
The other islands which were missed out in the technical description of the territorial limits of the Philippine Islands (Cagayan de Sulu and Sibutu groups of Islands) were subsequently relinquished by Spain to the United States in another treaty signed in Washington, USA, on November 7, 1900 for an additional amount of $300,000.00 These groups of islands also historically belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. Mindanao and Sulu which were not colonial possessions of the Spanish Crown and not parts of the Las Islas Filipinas or Philippine Islands, although not explicitly mentioned in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, were covertly included in the coordinates defining the territorial limits of the ceded territory (Philippine Islands), which in my opinion, is the primary root-cause of the more than four decades of armed struggle for self-determination waged against the Republic of the Philippines by the various liberation fronts because the cession of these two unconquered Sultanates was done without the knowledge and consent of their respective reigning Sultans, Councils of Elders, and adhrents. Here is what the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Arts, Vol. 11, 1994 wrote about this commercial and diplomatic transaction between Spain and the United States:
“The Muslims did not know that the treaty of Paris which had ceded the Philippine Archipelago to the Americans, included their land as well.”
Governor Bliss’ idea of Mindanao and Sulu as independent and separate territory from the Philippine Islands under the American Flag was vigorously endorsed favorably by the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce which at that time was made up mostly of American businessmen. The Chamber presented a Resolution to the Secretary of War, William Howard Taft and several visiting US Congressmen appealing that Mindanao and Sulu be formed into a territory of the United States by act of Congress.
Based on the historical accounts of Peter Gordon Gowing, noted American researcher and author of the book entitled “Mandate in Moroland,” in August, 1906, the Americans residing in Mindanao expressed vigorously their collective desire not to be included in the government of the Philippine Islands. This was published in a strongly-worded editorial of “La Vida Filipino,” a Filipino newspaper in July 1906 which questioned the Americans for the creation of the Moro Province. Part of that editorial, is quoted as follows:
“ The Commission (Philippine Commission) in creating the Moro Province, evidently wanted Mindanao and Jolo considered separate and almost independent territories from Luzon and the Visayas. This has been accentuated by the passage of the Philippine Bill by Congress which specifically placed the affairs of the province outside the jurisdiction of the future assembly. Then there is this petition presented by the American residents of Mindanao to the members of Congress who visited the Philippines in August last, in which they ask for the creation in Moroland of a government independent from Manila.”
Although some contradicted the report that it was during the governorship of General Bliss that Mindanao and Sulu experienced relative peace, written accounts substantially pointed to the fact that it was only he who manifested extraordinary and determined effort to put an end to the bloody confrontations between the Moros and the Americans giving his biographer the justification and reason to confer upon him the honorific title as “The Peacemaker.”