How Do You Solve That Problem When the Cause Is Not Recognized?
Unless an adjustment in the posture of the peace protagonists into a more realistic one is initiated, any effort toward an appeasement of the Muslim unrest in the Philippines will just stay futile, for, there is no exact meeting of the minds of the government and the Muslims—that is, the majority and the minority—as to what is precisely the problem that needs solving. As expected, the desire to solve the problem and achieve peace, will remain just that—a desire. There is never a problem solved even by argument geniuses unless there is a prior identification of THE problem. That is, of course, a basic mathematical rule of thumb that participants giggly enjoy violating as well as gaining advantages from. They appear as all-agog and as concerned peace advocates and report the “points of achievements” as a good media mileage. But at the recesses of their minds, this is nothing but a perfectly vicious but enjoyable little circle. They cannot wait to do it again and ‘exhaust” all their energies in, in the “pursuit of peace”.
And the Muslims always remain the butts of this.
What borders on asininity is that the government panel, whoever the chosen members are and whichever Muslim group it is dealing with, is bent on arriving at a solution from that standpoint, which is a simple euphemism for their passion to ram their solution down our throats. But while some Muslim panels have been “touched” by the government in its attempt to ensure that its solution get across—which makes it more ludicrous—many Muslims are now wary about the government hunky-punky.
By “exact meeting of the minds” is meant the recognition of the very problem that leads to the unrest and then the concoction of an apropos solution, in that everyone must ready his face to get splattered with mud in the process in order for him to stare at the problem face to face.
The Muslims have always had their steam fueled by an unbreakable Islamic dogma and a keenly claimed right version of history. Islamic teachings dictate that Muslims in an adversarial situation with a non-Muslim majority that happens to orchestrate a form of religious suppression (hence, in a state of dar al harb) are enjoined to fight against the oppressors. For this purpose, a total of 33 Qur’anic verses can be collated and all together made as bases for arriving at the why, when, how, who and even the prize of it; they are scattered as follows: a total of 7 verses in Surah II; 4 verses in Surah IV; 2 verses in S. VIII; 9 verses in S. IX; 3 verses in S. XXII; 5 verses in S. XLII; 2 verses in S. XLVII; and 1 verse in S. XLVIII. Therefore, in the Philippines non-Muslims should not wonder why Muslims have always resisted against all invaders, right since Magellan alighted in these islands up until now. And elsewhere in the Islamic world where a semblance of suppression is done, similar Muslim reactions are observed, with some even done so extensively that the West calls them “acts of terrorism”.
Rightfully the confrontational status is to last till victory (when dar al harb is transformed to dar al Islam), or a total defeat (when the Muslims get subjugated and have no choice but to submit to the oppressors and accept conversion, which has never happened). In between, a state of war or, at least, non-recognition, exists.
Defense of Islam as used here goes much beyond the realm of Islam as a religion that serves as a source of the knowledge of God (Ma’arifa). Islam is a way of life, hence, defense encompasses the community, family, home and land, as well as traditional, political and cultural values already so instilled in the Muslims’ hearts and minds even if they might have been originally pre-Islamic.
RELIGIOUS SUPPRESSION ?
The government’s (or the majority’s) posture has always been as unbending and firmly established because of the belief that the constitution should be adhered to (in spite of its being originally Christian-influenced, not to mention dictated). Then a mindset that has remained noncompliant because of Hispanic zealotry and an adopted value that denies a rectification of historical error both give a strong support to the stiff claim that dismemberment of the country should never be allowed. Apparently this is based on the belief that this country has been legally and historically solid right from the start, which is precisely not right, as what the Muslims have been trying to put across. The historical basis is actually not difficult to discern, but the government people, representing the interest of the majority, have their minds influenced by the Spanish dictum that grew out of bigotry, and which in itself was rooted upon the Spanish hostility towards the Moors.
The psyche that maintains the attitude of each side—which recognizes the other as the enemy—guarantees a sure flop of any solution born out of pretexts, and whose purpose is only to render a first-aid treatment of a chronic sore. For, while the Muslims’ continuum of resistance has been kept alive by the obligatory antagonism to any religious suppression, the government side all along has refused to admit that the animosity has been engendered by the difference in religion, or more precisely, by the emotions that go along with it. Why the government adopted such attitude regarding this issue is, at the most, ambiguous. Some have conjectured that it avoids being accused of religious intolerance, permitting it to hide its head ala-ostrich from the eagle eyes of the OIC, hence assuring itself ample oil supplies from the oil-rich Muslim countries, a shrewdness the OIC unfortunately seems not to mind at all.
It is quite obvious that the attitude of each side does not fit quite well into the other for the peace machinery to purr well. The insistence of the so-called peace wizards to keep on adopting similar stance only translates to making nincompoops out of us, and will be for a very long time without the necessary change.
However, people with a panoramic view (especially history writers) readily recognize religion as the prime mover of both sides in the conflict. There are Peter Gordon Gowing, T.J.S. George, Lila Noble and Kenneth Bauzon, who can guide us in recalling our historical past and making this outlook sink into our thoughts.
PRE-SPANISH ERA: The Islamization Process
The pre-Spanish people of these islands had themselves socially organized into small baranggay communities under the leadership of a village elder, or a datu’. The society was kinship-based and hierarchical, and had broad common cultural traits. This being observed to be the general pattern in all settlements, it is fair to conclude that the communities had something common to hold onto in terms of needs for some tactical alliance. Of course there were baranggay-to-baranggay variations in terms of legal codes, literary and artistic traditions and trading conventions (T.J.S. George). The general set-up would prove to be compatible with Islamic religious patterns (Bauzon). But even before the coming of Islam, the people were known to have a concept of the Supreme Creator.
Islam was introduced to Sulu initially by Tuwan Masha’ika before the 13th century. His marriage to Idda Indira Suga, Raja Sipad’s daughter (Saleeby), started the strings of Muslim generations that propagated in Sulu. However, Islam became more understood and established when Karimul Makhdum arrived in Sulu in 1380 (Saleeby). The two Muslim teachers, but more especially the Makhdum, have been considered Awliya’ or Sufists, who were also called Ahlul Suluk or People of the Path (Al-Attas, The Mysticism of Hamza Fansuri) and who included the subsequent Sufi teachers who arrived to teach, from which term Suluk or Sulu sprang, which later transformed to Suk and Sug (Bangahan).
It has been claimed by Muslim chroniclers that Islam was welcomed with joy and relief (George). Najeeb Saleeby even quoted a manuscript that showed that the people were very impressed by the visitors’ supernatural ability. Islam then spread and made Sulu a major trading partner of the maritime powers at that time. In fact when the first Sultan, Shariful Hashim, set the Sultanate of Sulu in the middle of the 15th century, Sulu became an Islamic power while at this time Manila and Cebu were still in a struggling stage.
Bauzon in his book, “Liberalism and the Quest for Islamic Identity in the Philippines”, explains that the facility with which the ancient people had embraced Islam was due to the adaptation of the religion to their customs and traditions, which means that Islam did not attempt to make drastic changes. The original social set-up, the baranggay, became the root of the sultanate through confederation, and made them generate into an Ummah in the land, which brought them pride to declare the area as dar al Islam. This engendered kinship and sense of brotherhood with other Muslims in the world and made Islam an ideology. Sulu nation evolved and had all the makings of sovereignty.
THE COMING OF THE SPANIARDS
There is no doubt that the passion for Catholicism was the primary drive behind the Spanish colonization. We can trace this to Charles I and Ferdinand Magellan and later to Charles’ son Philip II and Legazpi. When Charles became the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519, he assumed that he was an instrument chosen by the Almighty to promote the supremacy of the Catholic Church (George). So when Magellan set his sail after obtaining the patronage of Charles, his mission was appropriately to check Muslim sea power in Africa and India. In Cebu, he initiated the conversion of the local leaders and men into the Catholic faith. Then he met Lapu-Lapu, who resented his cross and interferences and caused him his death. (There are some claims to the big probability that Lapu-Lapu was Muslim, or at least Islam-conscious).
Charles’ passion, however, was nothing in comparison to that of his son Philip, who generated rigidity and tyranny and was ruthless with non-Catholics, earning him the monicker “Black Legend” among the protestant countries. In spite of his Catholic zealotry, he married four times, according to T.J.S. George.
Legazpi, Philip’s explorer, recognized Manila as the target instead of Cebu when he arrived in 1565, for the place would make an ideal command post. The Manila Muslim ruler, Rajah Sulayman, would not submit, but nonetheless welcomed Legazpi and his men with dignity, which had led into a friendship that was solemnly established through a blood compact. This would prove to be one of the antecedents of treachery between Spaniards and Muslims, for before even the blood used in the compact could dry up, Legazpi sprang to attack Rajah Sulayman and conquered Manila, forcing the people into Catholicism. Ironically, treachery as a dishonor has never been imputed to Legazpi or the Spaniards by those western writers; always the Muslims were being unfairly called the traitors, even if theirs were just reactions in a tooth-for-a-tooth confrontations. Yet, from these events, and generally during the Spanish occupation, the Spaniards were primarily the merciless ones to the extent that, even the Christianized Indios who subsequently revolted, had hated the Spaniards so much that in disposing three friars they had captured in Imus, one was doused with petroleum, another was cut into pieces and the third one pierced through his body with a bamboo split (George).
Hispanization was done side by side with the conversion of the natives to Catholicism. With military force as the Spanish winning factor, a big portion of the northern people became Christianized, becoming the so-called Indios. A clear sectarian line effectively dichotomized the natives, with the unconverted and unconquered half pejoratively called Moros because of their similarity in religious fervor with the once-Spanish-tormentors, the Moors, for whom the Spaniards still had a built-in wrath.
The naming of the conquered portion of the islands Filipinas (from Felipe) or its anglicized form Philippines, was passionately motivated by the basic drive to Christianize. Philip was like an icon of Catholicism, and impressing his name on everything and everyone the Spaniards had conquered amounted to a catholic trade marking. Incidentally, the spin-off term Filipino to refer to the people was first applied to the full bloodied Spaniards born in the Philippines (which would correspond to the Creoles). This later included the half-breeds, and finally, the Indios. The parameter that would qualify one to be called Filipinos was obviously the Catholic religion. The unchristianized people, as one can see, were never called Filipinos. Going by the context, therefore, we do not qualify nor deserve to be called one, for we do not belong. In fact, as claimed by Bauzon, the term Filipino, more than anything, formalized the psychological, cultural and political division between the two peoples. It would therefore follow that between Magellan and Lapu-Lapu, the former had better bases for claiming proximity to the Filipinos; Lapu-Lapu never had any.
Perhaps the basis for the subsequent encompassing of the unchristianized natives by the term Filipino was the illicit sale of the Philippines to the Americans by the Spaniards, but which included even the unconquered area, which was not a vassalage of Spain. The sale, in effect, illegally subsumed the latter. For US$20 million, the Americans gladly consummated the transaction as embodied in the Treaty of Paris, never mind if the Moro portion was not legally part of it. Were it not for military coerciveness, no amount of stretching the moral and legal flexibility could make that anomalous sale binding because it involved “some commodities that were not part of the commerce”. Therefore, historically and religiously, and morally and legally, the unchristianized areas and peoples were not Filipinized.
The new Whites had their own shrewd plan on how to subjugate the Muslims, whom they compared to their Indians back home but were looked with more disdain. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” shifted to a new battlecry: “The only good Moro is a dead Moro”. The Moros confronted the new white oppressors with similar determination as they did the Spaniards, for to them these Americans were just new replacements in the same team, and no new rules were set in the game. Meanwhile, the Americans started with their own brand of inferno which the Moros fought hard against with whatever they could, producing unsung Moro heroes and writing Moro history that have not been fully brought to light because of the distortion the white people have effectively crafted.
WHY THE CONTINUED RESISTANCE
What moves a Muslim to pursue a prolonged and continuous resistance, by tradition, is primarily the defense of his religion and his family honor and dignity (Martabbat), and this would last for as long as necessary. As described earlier, this is a comprehensive defense that is bolstered not just by values but also by Qur’anic dogma. The first ever conflict that involved Muslims on account of this issue was during the incipience of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the Messenger of Allah, when he and his supporters had to engage their pursuing adversaries who were from their own city of Mecca, which culminated in the Battle of Badr (Muhammad Fathi Bakkoush, The Great Battles of Islam). This would, of course, start the series of battles that they had to fight during the early Islamization process, which spilled over into later times as Islam made its inroads into Africa, Asia and European continents.
The root of resistance in the domestic arena has been basically similar, which is the onslaught on Islam. This was intensely commenced by the Spaniards and later happily taken over by the Americans. Some people, however, have come in with their preferred explanations, mostly self-serving, and have created an entanglement of the causes, most of which being used to muddle the issue. T.J.S. George tried to pry it loose in his Revolt in Mindanao, and came up with “assault on Islam” as still the basic provocation. Others in his list: “an oppressed minority asserting against the majority”, “a result of economic and social grievances”, “immoral politicians and their politics”, “foreign meddlings”, “communist influence”, “CIA role”, and “government ineptitude”.
Except for communism, which is dogmatically diametric to Islam, all the other factors could be rightfully considered as auxiliaries to the predominating religious fervor. Singling them out and playing their respective role up would be like paying unnecessary attention to the twigs, bushes and trees that make up the forest; they do not make any difference, for from a distance the forest has a glaringly overwhelming presence.
Spain believed that Islam was a false religion, in that it was an embodiment of everything hateful. Apparently this was carried out with all fierceness since a royal letter of instructions, dated 1565 and signed by King Philip himself, was sent to the colonial administration in Manila, to wit: “We give you permission to make such Moros slaves and seize their property. You are warned that you can make them slaves only if the said Moros are such by birth and choice…But in no way or manner shall you enslave the Indios.” (George). Because the year 1565 was only the arrival of Legazpi in Cebu, logically Philip had not had enough bases for judgment as to the nature of the Moros. The bigotry therefore was generated from the Spanish abomination of the Moors who had ruled them for about 800 years.
The Spanish campaign against the Moros was not carried only in the battlefield. In the christianized areas where they had lorded it over and where their words were the law, they primed the minds of the Indios that the Moros were the natural enemies of the Christians. These were done during religious instruction, town rallies or assemblies; and through the Moro-Moro, a theatrical presentation used to depict Spaniard-Moro encounters, with the Moros ending as the slay-worthy villains. The result was a mass hysteria triggered even by a mere mention of the word “moro”. All Christian natives also now had looked at the Muslims with indescribable hatred. They even became the core of Spanish warriors against these erstwhile brothers of theirs, and per dictation from their Spanish masters, they carried out similar ferocity, relishing merciless massacres, and even chained and branded the Muslims in captivity. Corollary to this, if the prejudiced Max Soliven (may he rest in peace) of the Philippine Star were any smarter, he should not have written this line in his column of April 12, 2000: “Remember the attitude of the Moro fundamentalists who’ve been taught to hate Christians from infancy—and that slaying of Christian infidel is the fastest passport to paradise.” This superannuated guy had apparently confused the cause and the effect in the issue.
The Americans were as merciless and as red-hot as the Spaniards in ensuring the subjugation of the Moros. They perpetrated massacres, as for examples, during the uprising of Panglima Hassan (1901), the encounters in Bud Dahu’ (March 1906), Bud Bagsak (1913) and Langkuwasan, all in Sulu; face-offs with the Maranaw groups of Bayabaos, Boayan and Macius; and the confrontations with Datu Ali (1903) and Datu Alamali (1913) in the Magindanaw area. The Americans had as much bigotry for the Muslims as the Spaniards had.
The above accounts have more than exceeded the criteria for religious and ethnic cleansing. And yet, this would be just the start, for each side’s unchangeable belief has caused an abrasive inflammation which has waxed and waned itself into the MNLF era and style. Because war and direct conversion of the Muslims had terribly failed, a more practical tactic was devised. Concocted by the Jesuits, the plan was to show to the Muslims how the Christian way of life was lived, which was purported to entice the former who would hopefully abandon their “barbaric” ways. This would entail sending Christian elements to Moro areas, and so prisoners, social outcasts and those who did not have any means of livelihood, were “sacrificed” as pioneers in this plan, which now doubly served as a solution to the unemployment problem besetting some sectors of the Filipinized society. This had become a blessing in disguise, and Filipino presidents like Quezon down to Magsaysay had enjoyed this plan. Subsequent administrations had their own similar programs. This diluting technique of the government carried out the Jesuit-mechanism of christianization process through social and cultural ways, since as mentioned, actual proselytizing supported by sadistic force did not get results. [It is very unfortunate that some Catholic establishments ensconced in Muslim areas have perpetuated this approach, and with more profundity and damaging effects, through “cultural usurpation”; they poke their fingers into each and every Muslim, especially Tausug, culture, in effect making it appear that they are the stars behind such phenomenon.]
In principle, then, the Moros have always had the justification to fight back. In fact additional factors have pushed the animosity deeper, because this time land-grabbing cases became unrestrained. The ancestral lands of the Moros have been slashed away by the new opportunists; ancestral ownership being untitled, it was considered illegal according to the new set of rules the Christians were armed with, which they called the Constitution. The Muslims called this an injustice, so it magnified the intensity of the Muslim-Christian conflicts that transformed into actual deadly confrontations, later giving birth to the different Muslim groups spurring an idea of independence as initially espoused by the MNLF.
THE FILIPINO APPROACHES TO THE PROBLEM
This Spanish-initiated novel Christianization process has been made functional throughout. Its essence has been there but style and approach have been modified at different phases to suit the prevailing problems being addressed. The adherence of the majority—government, Christians—to this system was partly motivated by the degree of success they had observed. In actuality, though, the posturing resulted from the fact that ‘Moro Problem” has been passed from the Spaniards to the Americans and to the Filipinos in its disgusting form—that the Moros are just per se inhuman, hence an icon of whatever needs to be cursed. Not only that there has been no effort towards delving into the root of the problem, there have been even deliberate distortions of facts. So the fact of the matter behind the Moros’ resistance—the defense against Islamic desecration—has been historically unappreciated. The foregoing events have primed the Muslim mind into believing that all forms of changes initiated by the majority (read the government), are probably tinged with the ulterior motive to de-Islamize, or at least socially and culturally, to Christianize them. The Filipinos, on the other hand, consider the Muslim paradigm inimical to western changes, making them backward.
What is functionally destructive, however, is the Christian psyche, as nurtured by the Spaniards, that the Muslims are their enemies. So even now when a better understanding of each other has somehow made us arrive at some form of “peaceful” coexistence, the stigma always surfaces. Take for instance, when a group like, say, the NPA, does an act considered inhuman by standard norm against Christians, public reactions against them do not have similar magnitude of belligerence as the ones against, say, the Abu Sayyaf when it does the same atrocity. And that is precisely because the NPA people are basically Christians, having come from Christian families, whereas those of the Abu Sayyaf are Muslims, therefore they merit all the profanities. It is in fact a general Muslim feeling that because of that Christian psyche, the Muslims are already abhorred by simply being Muslims.
Then, again, the Muslims are not without basis for believing that the Filipino approaches have been loaded with “tricks”. The Filipino constitution was based on Christian norms, and when it produced “enlightened” policies, what it actually meant was “Christian” policies (George). Or simply put, being enlightened means being Christian. There was an acceptance of the western notions as to which is superior and inferior, what is legal and illegal, what is sacred and profane, but these were Christian-based ideas which would erase the Muslim sense of dignity and Islamic values (Bauzon).
The Marcos adroitly-crafted solution as a take-off from the Imelda-touched recommendation of the Libyan meeting, called the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, actually did nothing to pacify the Muslim upheaval outside of the employees’ salaries received every 15th and 30th of each month. Some employees were opportunistic MNLF surrenderees or plain bums who never had any hand in the MNLF struggle; there were even many Christian beneficiaries. There was no MNLF diehard who joined the process, but Marcos used it to project his image and pretexts to the OIC and conned the Islamic body into believing that he was carrying out what the Tripoli Agreement had asked of him. With his shrewdness, Marcos implemented the agreement on his own terms and therefore was a travesty. The Muslim Personal Laws created with the Presidential Decree 1083 in 1977 was criticized severely by Ustadh Abdulbaki Abubakar, a no-nonsense MNLF Foreign Minister, as a human destruction of the Shariah, the Islamic Law taken from the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). There were other Marcos responses to the Tripoli Agreement but were also foxily crafted which the Muslims did not consider within the spirit of the Agreement.
After Cory Aquino became the president on account of the EDSA I revolution, she met Misuari in Jolo in September 1986, an act that boosted the MNLF morale. She paved a way toward a peaceful negotiation, which Mr. Ramos took over in his time. Of course a final Peace Agreement was arrived at but it was not without a touch of a Ramos cunningness. The actual peace agreement officially signed by the two sides underwent many substantial changes through a stroke of one human hand—that of Ramos. Mostly affected is the chance for Islam to play a meaty role. With it being deleted, the religious issue has been purposely thrown into a wastebasket and the struggle of the mujahideens has amounted to nothing. Despite the apparent “mutilation” the signed agreement had gone through, it was implemented nonetheless, which is the one “in effect” today. If there was any arm-twisting done antecedent to the ostensibly swift passage of that agreement, we are not very sure who arm-twisted whom.
So much money, time and efforts have been infused into the process of trying to come up with a solution to the so-called Moro problem, but it is quite obvious, based on the foregoing, that nothing appeasing enough could be arrived at. The solution that is truly right and proper, which therefore should be relished by the Muslims, would prove to be oxymoronic to the government position and would put the country in a bad light, and they would not dream of doing that.
Meanwhile, back to square one, and this vicious cycle, on the sides, has become a lucrative process, and the Muslims would have to continue bearing the ordeal. But, for how long?
The longer, the better for our adversaries, for the lengthening also stretches the process of “cultural usurpation” , now gnawing gnawing into the Muslim fiber.
If, to the Muslims, this does not merit an alternative plan, we do not know what will.