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Scandals in history: Inputs for peace process (Part 5)


The authoritative sources I cited previously that Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered by Spain and therefore, were not territorial possessions of the Spanish Crown, provide us a valid ground to conclude that these two Sultanates were not legally sold and ceded to the United States as spoils of conquest.  Hence, it is logical to assert that if there was no conquest there was no Spanish sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu because according to experts in international law there is no such thing as partial sovereignty.  This concept of sovereignty is consistent with the Jean Bodin’s explanation found on pages 108-109 of the Encyclopedia International, copyright Philippines, 1929, Vol. 17 quoted as follows:

“The term has two primary meanings. It refers to the authority of a national government to govern its own people, including the right to enforce obedience to its will. The term is also traditionally used to refer to the independence of full-fledged states. Sovereign countries are not in whole and in part the jurisdiction of other states.”

The above-cited definition and explanation of sovereignty clearly supports the contention that since Spain failed to conquer Mindanao and Sulu, she never acquired jurisdiction or colonial possession of these territories.

Surrender and Withdrawal of Spanish Forces

It was admitted however, by various historians and American military officers that there were areas in  Mindanao  and Sulu which fell under the control of the Spanish Colonial Government of the Philippine Islands. Concrete evidences and testaments to this historical fact, were the various fortresses and garrisons that the Spaniards constructed in Cotabato,  Zamboanga, Tawi- Tawi, Lanao, and Jolo. But all these fortresses and garrisons were either abandoned, overran, recaptured, beleaguered, or immobilized by the revolutionary or the Sultanate forces before the arrival of the American forces on May 19, 1899.

This confirms the fact that there never was any historically recorded military encounter which took place between the Spanish and American forces in Mindanao and Sulu. If any one doubts this assertion, he is free to go over the chronicles of the Spanish-American war of 1898. Let me now cite historical events narrating the defeat, surrender, and turning-over of Spanish garrisons and fortresses in Mindanao and Sulu prior to the arrival of the Americans in the Moroland:

“ the datus had their final blow on the Spanish colonial forces in the Lower Cotabato Valley engagements when the elder Ampatuan killed Capt. Jose Ma. Villalon. The sword used in Villalon’s killing is still being kept inside the chest of the treasured valuables of the Ampatuan clan under the stewardship of Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal S. Ampatuan, Sr., the most politically powerful of the patriarch’s grand children.”- Nash B. Maulana, “ Muslim Politicians Then and Now,” Daily Inquirer.

“The Spaniards  left a sort of triumvirate in charge of Cotabato, consisting of Ramon Vilo, a Filipino, Celestino Alzona, a Chino; And Datu Piang, a Moro; representing the three races, the first being the President of the Council, as it were, and he gradually absorbed all the powers to himself left .”- Maj. Lea Fabiger, Commander of the US troops that occupied Cotabato later, described the chaotic manner of turn-over of the Spanish government to a triumvirate of native leaders.  

According to historical accounts of Peter Gordon Gowing, author of the book, Mandate in Moroland, copyright 1983, page 29, the arrival of the American troops in Jolo was an unpleasant surprise to the 30-year old Sultan Jama-ul Kiram who at that time just came from Siasi to receive the place officially from the Spaniards as an act of surrender to the Sultan’s sovereignty. He also expected the Spanish garrison of Jolo to be surrendered to him. But this was not concluded because some datus were not in good terms with the Sultan. Gowing further narrates:

“The Moros fought for home and country, for freedom to pursue their religion and way of life and for liberty to rove the seas whichever they would. For three hundred years, they made a shambles of Spain’s Moro Policy. Expert guerilla fighters, the Muslims exacted a heavy toll of casualties…they fought ferociously and their usual tactic was to wear down the attackers, obliging them eventually to withdraw.”

Another written testimony that the Spaniards never succeeded in subjugating the Sultanate of Sulu, is the commentary of Prof. Gregorio F. Zaide on page 360 of his book, “The Philippine Pre –Spanish Time” to wit:

“One of the bloodiest chapters in Philippine history deals with the Moro wars. These were sanguinary struggles between Spain and the Moros; they assume, in a way, the crusaders because the Spaniards (aided by the Christian Filipinos} fought as champion of the war and the Moros as paladins of the crescent. For all their vaunted strength, the conquistadores of Spain met their match in Islam warriors of Mindanao and Sulu because after 300 years of fighting preserved their independence, religion, and culture.”   

Vic Hurley, author of the “Swish of the Kris” published in New York by EP Dotton in 1916, wrote the following graphic account on page 152 of how the Sultanate forces routed the Spanish garrison in Tawi-Tawi:

“The little garrison at Tataan on Tawi-Tawi, for example, was slaughtered to a man by Sulu Moros and the ports of Bongao and Siasi were severely harassed that they were abandoned. The Spanish forces concentrated at Jolo, awaited relief by the United States Army.”

In Lanao the historical account of Dr. Rony Bautsita, author of the monograph entitled, “Gen. Vicente Alvarez: His Concept of National Unity, copyright 1979, narrates that in June 1894, a huge number of warriors organized collectively by Maranao datus, launched daily assaults on those territories captured and  occupied by the Spaniards under General Weyler. This broad coalition of Maranao forces conducted daily systematic operations and strikes against Spanish positions, fortifications, and installations causing heavy damages on the Spaniards. It was not only an outstanding military victory but a redeeming vindication for Datu Amai Pakpak against Gen. Valeriano Weyler.

The foregoing historical accounts from various sources and authorities are sufficient grounds to infer that Spaniards before the arrival of the American forces in Mindanao and Sulu, had already evacuated, surrendered, and turned over the areas they once controlled to the sovereignty of the reigning Sultans or the revolutionaries. This also undoubtedly marked the full restoration of the statehood and independence of Mindanao and Sulu from the Crown of Spain by virtue of the Law of Conquest before  the two  American warships steamed into the Zamboanga bearing two battalions of the crack 23rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army, under Capt. E. B. Pratt on May 16, 1899. In other words Mindanao and Sulu had reassumed their original sovereignties and independence as Sultanates from the Spanish Empire when the Americans made their first presence in the Moroland. Therefore, there was no more any justifying military necessity for the American forces to be  deployed in Mindanao and Sulu because these two sultanates had not declared war with the United States and the American Congress had not authorized their entry into these two monarchial realms as required by the 1787 US Constitution, pertaining to the matter of invading foreign territories and declaring war with other independent and sovereign states as in the case of the declaration of war authorized by the American Legislature on April 2l, 1898 against Spain.

By Clem M. Bascar

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