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“Moros” to be conquered by law



These are the exact words used by a highly respected and internationally recognized Muslim author, SALAH JUBAIR, on page 13 of his popularly read and referentially-utilized book, entitled, “BANGSAMORO- A NATION UNDER ENDLESS TYRANNY,” which clearly and unmistakably confirms that it was the Spaniards who originally gave the monicker “MOROS” to refer collectively to all the native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu. This confirmation by a reputable and credible Muslim author, shatters the  speculation, assumption, and belief that the word “Moros” is linguistically or dialectally endemic in Mindanao and Sulu. This historical truth about the term “Moros” as a brand name given by the Spaniards to all the native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu was also adopted by the Americans when they took over possession of these once upon  a time two separate, distinct, independent, and sovereign Sultanates. Inarguably, the aboriginal and now the descedant inhabitants of the moroland since time immemorial, have always firmly, consistently, and proudly maintained their shared belief and proudly-cherished reputation that they were not conquered and colonized by the Spaniards.

This  collective notion or claim that they were not conquered and colonized by Spain, from the standpoint of the Law of Conquest, is impliedly taken to mean that Spain never acquired legal possession and sovereignty over their homelands and that the sale and cession of Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States under Article III of the Dercember 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris were commonly interpreted by the “Moros”, to be grossly fraudulent for such commercial transaction was consummated without their knowledge and expressed consent. This was the primary bone of contention and historical cornerstone used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) when they jointly launched the war for the  liberation of Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, and North Borneo in the early 70s against the Republic of the Philippines.

So it came to pass that from the on- and -off military confrontations between the GPH and these two liberation fronts, the Peace process was put in place to address and resolve the what came to be popularly known globally as the Mindanao Crisis. Out of the series of peace talks, organic acts came about as legislative products of the long, protracted, and expensive diplomatic process mostly held in foreign countries first earnestly and vigoriously pursued by the GRP preferentially with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The unilateral decision of the  MILF not to partipate in the maiden round of peace negotiations was attributed to the irreconcilable differences between MILF leader Hashim Salamat and MNLF Founder and Chairman, Nur P. Misuari over ideological and political issues and matters.

The peace negotiations with the MNLF resulted in the setting up of a prototype autonomous political entity in Mindanao and Sulu pursuant to the GRP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement in 1976. It first became a sub- political reality  with the enactment of Republic Act  6734 as amended by Republic Act 9054 otherwise known as the ARMM Expanded Organic Act.

The peace deal between the GRP and the MNLF was critically viewed and  largely considered by the MILF as  unacceptable based on the  principal reason that the Philippine government downgraded their struggle for liberation to just the grant of autonomy comprising only those territories that would vote “yes” in a plebiscite held for the purpose. Unfortunately however, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  (ARMM) from its birth to the present has always been attended and hounded by issues and allegations of graft and corruption and mismanagement which eventually ended up being branded by the present political leadership as a “failed  experiment” for which another round of peace negotiations came into operation no longer with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) but with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). What is shockingly surprising in this second round of peace talks, is the fact that the same argument articulated by the MILF against the establishment of the ARMM, is now being used by the MNLF to stay out of GPH-MILF Peace Deal that will abolish the ARMM and in its place, establish the new Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as envisioned in the draft BBL. The MNLF has practically re-assumed or reverted to its original struggle for the liberation or independence of Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, and North Borneo.

Unfortunately, like the peace negotiations with the MNLF,  the MILF starting from the MOA-AD which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, to the approval of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and now, the proposed new Bangsamoro Juridical Entity Bangsamoro (BJE) as provided for in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),  it is very obvious that the GPH has always dictated the direction, flow, and outcome of the Peace Process. Virtually, in my own personal appreciation and judgment, the MNLF and MILF are the biggest losers in their identical struggle for self-determination not only in the battlefields but also at the negotiation table. For me in particular, the most remarkable diplomatic achievements of the GPH/GRP Peace Panel over the two major belligerent fronts are the following:

1. keeping the negotiations  for self-determination within the parameters and supremacy of the Philippines Constitution which is tantamount to the MNLF and MILF’s official diplomatic admission that Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan are legal components of the Republic of the Philippines as stipulated originally in the 1935 Constitutions based on the historical cession and sale of Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States as parts of the Philippines Islands under Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris;

 2. the diplomatic success of the GPH/ GRP Peace Panel in  persuading the MNLF and MILF to come under the ambit and supremacy of the Philippine Constitution which is tacitly construed to be the renunciation of their belligerent status and their pledge and allegiance to this Republic as bona fide Filipino citizens;

3. the GPH/GRP Peace Panel was able to maneuver diplomatically for the inclusion of the phrase “at the time of conquest and colonization” in Article 11, Section 1 of the draft BBL which defines the “Bangsamoro Identity.” This legal provision has practically put to rest the long held belief or claim  of the “Moros” that they were not conquered and colononized by Spain making Mindanao and Sulu really colonial possessions of the Spanish Crown by virtue  of conquest; and

4 another notable diplomatic victory credited to the GPH/GRP Peace Panel was its success in convincing the MILF to adopt the Regalian Doctrine as the legal basis for the “wealth sharing arrangements”  between the central government and the  the new Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).  The  acceptance of the Regalian Doctrine by the MILF is deductively another admission that the “Moros” were really conquered and colonized by Spain because the regalian formula of wealth sharing is also fundamentally anchored on the concept of conquest.

 Summing up the entire process of  peace negotations with both the MNLF and MILF, it has always been largely a lopsided “ diplomatic victory “ for the GPH and never a case of “win-win” or mutually beneficial solution to the Mindanao Crisis as others  perceive it to be or would want us to believe. The MNLF and MILF whose original hard-line claim that Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, and North Borneo belonged to the unconquered “Moros,” were figuratively if not literally, reduced to the status of “beggars” in their own homeland as obviously evidenced by the fact that both Liberation Fronts were presumably left with no other option but to accept a highly disadvantageous Peace Deal reduced to its” barest minimum” in terms of political autonomy and territorial jurisdiction contrary to the claim that a “huge compromise” has been granted to the MILF under the draft BBL.

 From my own perspective, analysis, and conviction, when the draft BBL shall have been enacted by Congress and duly approved by the President, the final conquest of the “Moros” by the Republic of the Philippines shall have been achieved not by the military superiority of the AFP but by the supremacy of our Basic Law.

 I however, hold some serious reservation and doubt that this documentary  admission of “conquest and colonization” of the Moros  under Article II, Section 1 of the draft BBL which explicitly defines the Bangsamoro Identity, would be accepted and concurred by the rest of the natives of Mindanao and Sulu who continue to frown upon, reject, and oppose the “Moro” monicker given by the Spaniards due to the many negative and derogatory connotations and implications attached to it.

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