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Congress, root-cause first!


(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) Time and time and over and over again, we have been boldly and earnestly suggesting that for the Peace Panels to succeed in bringing about the right solution to the seemingly incurable and perpetual problem of belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu, they have to go back to its historical, legal, political, military, and diplomatic root-cause. Like a chronic disease, if its real cause is not scientifically diagnosed, we run the risk of giving the wrong medication or therapeutic intervention, which I believe has been the lingering and tragic reality associated with the Peace Process aimed at putting an end to the Mindanao Crisis. As it usually happens, wrong diagnosis of a crisis results in the treatment of its symptoms and not its cause, consequently making it chronic and insolvable.

This is exactly the case in the manner by which Congress of the Philippines has been addressing the Mindanao Crisis. For almost four decades now, Congress’ collective and habitual propensity is to immediately tackle and give top priority to the political demands and aspirations of the various belligerent fronts  in Mindanao and Sulu, without first objectively and with utmost due diligence determining through the method of scientific research ,the historical, legal, diplomatic, and military root-cause of this sanguinary and internicent conflict. Aberrationally, Congress seems to always give preferential attention and enact law to address the political demands of one major belligerent front and deliberately exclude the weaker ones or those who use peaceful means for their advocacy for any form of autonomy or self-determination, making the legislative process selective, fragmentary, isolationist, and glaringly biased for those armed groups who create the biggest threat to the security and stability of the country tending to encourage the proliferation and escalation of revolution and belligerency. 

 For me it is completely a paradox that in spite of the fact that we have as to date more than one hundred  universities and colleges spread all over the Philippine Archipelago whose academic and administrative personnel structures include the most competent and widely respected and credible historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, professors  and doctors of diplomacy, research, and development experts in all conceivable curricular fields and areas of specializations, the Congress of the Philippines in all their years of formulating, deliberating, crafting, and enacting laws aimed at resolving the Mindanao Crisis, has not officially considered commissioning, soliciting, or even  requesting selectively the assistance of even just the most prestigious, globally recognized, and accredited universities, most especially their research and development departments to conduct an honest-to-goodness, in-depth, comprehensive, impartial, independent, and scientific study into the historical, legal, political, cultural, sociological, anthropological, military and diplomatic root-cause responsible for the birth and escalation of belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu in aid of legislation, as valid and reliable information base for intelligent and judicious deliberation, and as empirical reference for legislative actions and executive and managerial decisions.

 Because, Congress has always sidestepped, ignored, disregarded, and took for granted the essentiality and imperativeness of formal historical research in knowing and understanding the root-cause of the Mindanao Crisis, it enacted several ineffective, inapplicable, and flawed organic acts leading to the establishment of sub-political entities that had very little historical, legal, anthropological, cultural, and political relevance and foundations. No wonder after spending billions and billions of taxpayers money, the so-called Peace Process is again in doldrums if not in limbo. Congress, should accept collective and institutional culpability, responsibility, accountability, and liability for all the organic acts it enacted which resulted in the establishment of dysfunctional or “failed political experiments.”

 And now, Congress after several legislative blunders in a row, is again poised to enact another organic act with practically no or very limited idea as to the historical root-cause of the Mindanao Crisis. I even doubt if 10 per cent of all the members of Congress have a functional knowledge and understanding of the linguistic origins, evolution, and operational definitions of just the three crucial terms contained in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), namely; “Bangsa,” “Moro,” and “Wali.”

 Let me just give Congress a brief historical narration  which I personally believe to be a major part of the root-cause of the Mindanao Crisis subject of course, to validation , verification,  rectification, or nullification by competent authorities if found to be grossly erroneous or patently false, to wit:

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 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, on August 13, 1898, 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 the Philippine Islands 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  under the unified command of Gen. Vicente Solis Alvarez, according to the historical account of a noted and widely- 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, undoubtedly 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 the areas they successfully conquered, colonized, and Christianized, for conquest at that time was still internationally recognized as a legitimate mode of acquiring ownership and sovereignty over a state or territory.

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 International 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 understanding means that the moment an occupying or conquering foreign power withdraws from the territories it previously exercised de facto control, the ownership of these territories automatically reverts to their original owners which occurred before the arrival of the American forces on May 19, 1899 in Jolo, Sulu.

Yet despite the fact that Mindanao and Sulu were not parts of the Spanish Colonial possession for they were not in their entirety conquered, colonized, and Christianized according to world-renowned authors and historians; and despite the explicit provision in the US 1787 Constitution prohibiting a war of conquest unless actually invaded by a power power, the American forces occupied Mindanao and Sulu which was considered by some critics as “criminal aggression.” Moreover, Mindanao and Sulu, were not covered by the Declaration of War issued by the United States Congress against Spain on April 25, 1898, and was not also part of the theater of war between the United States and the Philippine Revolutionary Government declared by Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo on February 4, 1899 following the shooting of three Filipino soldiers by the Americans. Historically, it was Pvt. William W. Grayson of the First  Nebraska Volunteers who fired the shot that started the Filipino-American War.

So the Mock War of August 13, 1898 for the capitulation of the City of Manila culminating in the cession and sale of the Philippine Islands by Spain to the United States for $20-million under Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris included as well Mindanao and Sulu just by lines and coordinates which were drawn erroneously missing out groups of islands belonging to the territorial domain of the Sultanate of Sulu for which another Treaty on November 7, 1900 in Washington D.C. was forged between the United States and Spain . For the relinquishment of these groups of islands, an additional amount of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND  DOLLARS ($100,000.00)  was paid to Spain . Worst, this was done without the knowledge and consent of their respective reigning Sultans, Rumma Bicharas, and adherents.

This to me, form part of the Casus Belli of the continuing belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu. The big question is: Is Congress now addressing this historical root-cause of the belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu comprehensively, scientifically, democratically, and holistically? Remember, we have been in the Peace Process for almost four decades now, with peace still hardly visible in the political horizon of Mindanao and Sulu despite thousands upon thousands of precious lives of combatants and innocent civilians lost, including children and women, plus the incalculable amount of patrimonial resources totally or partially destroyed as horrible consequences of the intermittent bloody confrontations between the GPH forces and the various belligerent and revolutionary groups operating in these two ancient monarchial states over a span of almost four decades now. Until now, not a single national legislator has ever asked the question: WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, ANTHROPOLOGICAL, ANCESTRAL, LEGAL, DIPLOMATIC, AND MILITARY ROOT-CAUSE OF THE CONTINUING BELLIGERENCE AGAINST THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES IN MINDANAO AND SULU?

Remember that Philippine Congress has already enacted laws aimed at bringing about genuine, permanent, just, and sustainable peace, prosperity, and development in Mindanao and Sulu such as Batas Pambansa No. 20 in 1979 creating two autonomous regions in Southern Philippines, namely: Western Mindanao and Central Mindanao; Republic Act No. 6734 for the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 1989; and in 2001, a  new Republic Act No. 9054 was enacted for the expansion of the ARMM. Unfortunately, none of these laws that the Philippine Congress has enacted so far brought about the kind of peace, prosperity, and development in Mindanao and Sulu as envisioned in these landmark legislative acts. On the contrary, the belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu has worsened with the birth of another MILF break-away faction, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), not to take into account the other terrorists groups actively, menacingly, destructively,  relentlessly, and uncontrollably operating in these areas.

Are we not learning anything at all from the legislative fiascos of the past. Is  Congress again on the verge of enacting another organic act that will just be declared a failed experiment several years after a new sub-political entity shall have been established? What is your guarantee that this proposed law you are crafting now, will be the panacea of the belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu? By the way, is the root-cause of the Mindanao Crisis now fully addressed by Congress? If not, then you are not solving the problem, you are actually complicating and perpetuating it as you have been doing for almost four decades now. CONGRESS, WHAT ABOUT THE REAL ROOT-CAUSE OF THE MINDANAO CRISIS?

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