Before the advent of the Spanish conquistadores in early 16th century, the country now known as the Philippines was ruled by Muslim datus, rajahs and sultans. No less that the premier city of Manila then was under the Muslim Rajahs: Sulaiman, Lakandula and Matanda. Panay was under Datu Puti, et al, Cebu under Rajah Humabon, Mindanao under the Sultanate of Maguindanao and Sulu under its own Sultanate, at the apex of which rule extended up to the Ilocos region in Northern Luzon. In essence, most part of the country was a colony of the Moro Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao.
By twist of fate, however, the Muslim Rajahs and Datus in the North and Central parts of the archipelago fell one after another to the military might and treachery of the Spaniards. Consequently, they lost not only their political power, but more so the budding religion of Islam which had just started to grow and freely accepted by the populace.
Spanish conquest was conducted on a three-pronged purpose: to colonize the people, grab the land and natural resources and plant the seed of Christianity by all means. Starting with Rajah Humabon and the Muslims in Cebu and the Visayas, Christianization was generally carried out at the point of the sword. By any standard, the ruthlessness of the â€œInquisitionâ€ against the Muslims in Europe could have been patterned after the forced conversion of Muslims in pre-Philippines.
Unfortunately for the steel-clad conquistadores, they met their match and were severely frustrated in Muslim Mindanao. Captain General Marquma summarized the Spanish frustration in his letter to the King of Spain in late 18th century, thus:
From this time these Moros have not ceased to infest our colonies. Innumerable are the Indios (Filipinos) they have captured, the ranches they have destroyed and the vessels they have taken. It seems as if God has preserved them for vengeance on the Spanish that they have not been able to subject them in 200 years in spite of the expeditions sent against them, the armaments spent every year to pursue them. In a very little while, we conquered the islands of the Philippines, but the little islands of Sulu, parts of Mindanao and other islands nearby, we have not been able to subjugate to this very day.
Two facts were clearly manifested by above short missive. First, Filipinos and Moros are different peoples; one is pro-Spanish while the other is a mortal enemy. Second, Spanish never conquered Moro territory or had no sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu.
After a mock naval battle between the USA and Spanish fleets off Manila Bay in 1898, an illegal Deed of Sale was consummated along with the signing of the Treaty of Paris of the same year. Spain sold someone elseâ€™s property to the Americans without the knowledge of the proprietors. Mindanao was included when Spain ceded the Philippines to the Americans for 20 million Mexican Dollars although knowing it does not have the legal authority. The Americans too were guilty of buying a â€˜stolenâ€™ property, for that matter they tried to atone for their sins by immediately entering into a treaty with the Sultanate of Sulu, twice in a span of ten years (Bates Treaty and the Carpenter Agreement). But upon realizing that the Sultanate was already a spent force, seemingly docile and subservient to American administration, they unilaterally and treacherously broke the treaty to rule the territory with an iron fist. Initially, the Americans promised to provide full security to the State so the Moro fighters turned in their weapons peacefully as proposed. But after having collected the Moro weapons, the true face of the ugly Americans was bared to the late regrets of the Moro people.
Bribery in Protocols
To convince the Americans that Spain had sovereignty over the Sultanate of Sulu, the latter showed the (Second) Protocol with Great Britain and Germany. In the First Protocol, UK and Germany turned down Spainâ€™s overtures for them to recognize the latterâ€™s control over the Moro territory. But when Spain offered vast concessions, a case of high profile bribery, in the Second Protocol, in exchange for their recognition of Spanish sovereignty, both UK and Germany relented. The UK was given full control of Borneo while Germany was to have full access to sea lanes and trade centres under Spanish influence or control.
Mailed Fist Policy
The Americans probably tried to avenge the frustration and humiliation of a co-West-European colonizer-cum-conqueror, by tempering the pride of the Moro freedom fighters. Historically, the Americans had to upgrade their sidearm from mere 0.38 caliber to 0.45 caliber to ensure a knockout capability against a resurgent Moro fighter who cannot be knockdown for up to seven shots from other light weapons.
After the Japanese occupation of the region in early 1940s, Filipinos intensified their lobby in US Congress for Independence. Although there were no Moro US- lobby for a separate homeland, nevertheless, Moro leaders and intellectuals were sending definite signals, through parliament of the streets and petitions, of their desire to be separated from the Philippines, either as a Moro province under continued American administration or as an independent Moro Nation. Congressman Robert Bacon even sponsored a bill in US Congress for this purpose, but was drown out by the strong Filipino-US lobby advocating Fil-Am parity rights. Parity right was another form of bribery for the Americans to concede to Filipino demands against the interests of the Moro people. As a result, the largest American Military (Air Force and Naval) Base outside of American soil was found only in the Philippines.
The Americans may have a fair hope of achieving a working relationship between Moros and Filipinos under an independent Philippines. Little did they know that the long drawn Spanish-Moro wars have embedded a stigma of irreconcilable relations between the Moros and the Filipino inheritors of Spanish legacy in the over 300-years war of attrition. Wittingly or unwittingly, the Filipinos cannot hide their sense of prejudice and vengeance for having suffered the wrath of Moro retaliatory raids, taking a number of their kinsfolk hostage, many of whom had been sold to slavery in various parts of the region between the 17th and 19th century.
During the Filipino-American war, after the 1898 infamous Paris â€œDeed of Saleâ€ , Filipino leaders had tried to invite the Moros to put-up an anti-colonial united front against the USA, but the Moro leaders did not respond favourably. This was a sign that Moros and Filipinos were of different breed and political persuasion, with the latter having served the ruthless Spanish colonial masters for so long against Moro interests.
Moreover, the Philippine Constitution, then and now, are greatly tailored towards Filipino interests and recessively detrimental to Moros, for all intents and purpose. With no Moro representative in the judiciary and executive high level branches of the government, the fate of Moro causes against Filipinos are already a foregone conclusion.
Therefore, the Philippines, a colony of the Americans that used to be a colony of the Moro (sultanate) Nation, have effectively become the colonizer of Muslim Mindanao, or Moro Nation.