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GPH does not own Mindanao and Sulu

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(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) I wouldn’t mind if people would again call me names such, “wise monkey,” “creator of chaos,” “charlatan,” or purveyor of falsehood for writing this article. I have long accepted and lived with this unsavory reputation. However, just to soften or lighten the negative impact of these monickers prejudicially attached to my name, may I quote two internationally respected and acclaimed authorities  attesting to the historical truth that Mindanao and Sulu were not colonial posessions of Spain by virtue of conquest for which reason I am boldly asserting that the Republic of the Philippines until now does not legally own Mindanao and Sulu.

“THE SPANIARDS NEVER SUBDUED THE INHABITANTS WHO THEY CALLED MOROS; THEY WERE A FIERCY INDEPENDENT PEOPLE WHOSE CULTURE WAS THE MELTING GROUND OF SEA TRADERS, SHELL PRODUCERS, FISHERMEN, PIRATES, AND SLAVE TRADERS.”- NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, VOL.11, COPYRIGHT 1989, P. 381.

‘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.”-GREGORIO F. ZAIDE (RECOGNIZED AS THE FATHER OF PHILIIPINE HISTORY), AUTHOR OF THE TEXTBOOK ENTITLED, PHILIPPINE HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT, COPYRIGHT 2004, P. 63.

I will only give way or yield to the argument that Mindanao and Sulu are legal components of the Republic of the Philippines if these two authorities I cited above shall have been refuted and declared by competent and internationally recognized research and history experts to be charlatans and liars. Let me lay the historical premise in defense of my assertion that Mindanao and Sulu still belong to the “Moros,” the generic term used by the Spaniards and also the Americans to refer to all the indigenious inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu.

Contrary to the popular notion that the Spanish sovereignty over Mindanao, Sulu, and the Philippine Islands was surrendered to the Americans on August 14, 1898, a day after the conduct of that morally and militarily questionable  Mock War between the ground forces of Spanish Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes and  US Army Commander, Gen. Wesley Merrit as scripted and choreographed by a Belgian Consul, Edouard Andre, it was at Fort Pilar, Zamboanga, that the ultimate and decisive battle for the defense of Spanish sovereignty took place and finally collapsed on May 18, 1899. It was on this historic date when the last Spanish Governor-General Diego de los Rios surrendered and turned over the sovereignty of the Spanish Crown over Mindanao, Sulu, and over the Philippine Island in accordance with the formal military traditions, ethics  and laws of war following the capture of the biggest Spanish fortress in Mindanao, Fort Pilar, by the Zamboanga Revolutionary Army composed of  Voluntarios, Deportados, and native warriors {most notably with manpower and logistical support from  Hadji Abulla Nuno, a hihgly respected Muslim leader of Taluksangay}  under the unified command of Gen. Vicente Solis Alvarez, according to the historical account of a noted and highly respected historian, Dr. Rony Bautista and confirmed by no less than the former Chairman of the National Historical Institute (now National Historical Commission), Esteban A De Ocampo, quoted in part, as follows:

“The capture of the Spanish fortress by General Alvarez throws new light into why the Americans were forced to proceed to and stay in Sulu although the specific order of American General Elwell S. Otis was  for the troops to occupy Zamboanga. It was important to the American colonial interest to have a firm control of it because the Spanish governor-general Diego de los Rios had established in Zamboanga the de jure sovereignty of Spain over the Philippines; and the transfer of Spanish sovereignty to Filipino hands.”

The surrender of Gen. Diego de los Rios, the last Spanish governor-general of the Spanish Colonial Government of the Philippine Islands on May 18, 1899 at Fort Pilar, Zamboanga, undoutedly and irrefutably marked  the full recovery of sovereignty and independence of Mindanao, Sulu, and the Philippine Islands from the Spanish Crown. By virtue of the Law of Conquest, the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao (Mindanao), recovered fully their statehood, the same legal basis used by the Spaniards in acquiring possession and control over some areas they successfully conquered, colonized, and Christianized.

Even if there was no actual surrender of Spanish sovereignty by General de los Rios to General Alvarez, the order of the Spanish Crown to evacuate all colonial forces from Mindanao and Sulu during the early days of May, 1899, as contained in the annual report of the US War Department, 1 Part 4, p. 131 of Gen. Elwell Otis, such evacuation of Spanish forces, unmistakably marked and indicated also the time of the full recovery of the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao of all the areas previously conquered and occupied by the Spaniards.This was also the time when these two Sultanates fully regained and re-assumed their statehood which occurred before the arrival of the American forces in Mindanao and Sulu for the Internatinal Law of Conquest succinctly states that “ Conquest does not, per se, give the conqueror plenum dominium et utile, but a temporary right of possession and government” which to my personal understaning means that the moment an occupying or conquering foreign power withdraws from the territories they previously exercised de facto control, the ownership of these territories revert to their original owners which occurred before the arrival of the American forcess on May 19, 1899 in Jolo, Sulu.

With the foregoing historical facts, it is logical to infer that the occupation of the American forces starting May 19, 1899, was contrary to the 1787 US Constitution because of its explicit provision prohibiting a war of conquest “unless actually invaded by a foreign power” and the reality that Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered by Spain and were not her colonial possessions but were included in the sale and cession of the Philippine Islands to the United States under Article 111 of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris only by lines and coordinates. Besides, the US Congress only authorized war with Spain and her colonial possessions, the declaration of war of which was officially issued on April 25, 1898. Mindanao and Sulu were not covered by such declaration of war issued by the US Congress and therefore, were not parts of the theater of war between Spain and the United States. There was absolutely no military necessity for the American forces to occupy Mindanao and Sulu for these two states were not also military or political components of Gen. Emilio F. Aquinaldo’s First Philippine Republic which declared war with the United States on February 4, 1899.

Since  Article 111 of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris was the only diplomatic document used by the framers of the 1935 Philippine Constitution as the historical and legal basis to define its national territory, it is my contention that the inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu, was also without  validity for these territories were not colonial possessions of the Spanish Crown by virtue of conquest or other modes of acquisition and ownership leading me to further postulate that until now Mindanao and Sulu still belong to the royal heirs and adherents of these two ancient unconquered Islamic kingdoms. This being the historical fact, the Republic of the Philippines, most especially Congress, does not have the right to enact any law that will create a political entity without the expressed consent of the de jure owners of the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, the royal heirs and adherents.




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