BBL encouraging Muslim separatism

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TIME was when Muslims and non-Muslims lived together, broke bread at the same table even if they worshipped separately. This never seemed to be a problem in postwar years up to the sixties when Sabah was annexed by the Malaysian Federation in violation of the Manila accord of 1962. This is when the secessionist/terrorist groups came into the picture. Trained and supplied in Malaysia the MNLF and its breakaway group the MILF broke the peace in Mindanao and have been solely responsible for the strife in the so-called land of promise.

Post-Independence saw Muslim communities pretty much integrated in Philippine society as in the multi-racial and multi-ethnic societies of Singapore and Malaysia.

In this country mosques sit beside churches while Muslim politicians, professionals and traders rub elbows with their non-Muslim counterparts. Today our Muslim brothers and sisters occupy important positions in government, the private sector and the academe.

In our own experience dealing with Muslims has never been a problem. Working in congress for Muslim legislators, the likes of Tamano, Sinsuat Pendatun, Dimaporo, Mastura and other Islamic legislators was never a challenge and in fact a pleasure for me. As an officer of the National Union of Christian Democrats which had merged with the United Muslim Democrats to support the presidential candidacy of Fidel Ramos, the relationship between the two political parties was nothing short of complete harmony and cooperation. This was because both embraced the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and the preferential option for the poor. As their colleagues in the NUCD-UMDP party never for a moment did I look at our Muslim counterparts as anything but fellow Filipino democrats out to make a difference in the body politic.


In the sixties following the encouragement of high government Muslim officials in government a group of technocrats laid down a master plan for the development of Mindanao. I recall visiting the Liguasan marsh with former planning secretary Sixto Roxas to try to convert the marshland into a rice granary and the Allah Valley with a team of British plantation managers to convert the area into palm oil plantations. As Chairman of the Philippine Coconut Authority my Malaysian counterpart and I like the British also wanted to plant palm in Muslim Mindanao which the rebels now claim suffered from benign neglect from the government. Truth to tell it is these secessionists who have metamorphosed into present day “peaceniks” are the very same people who thwarted attempts to develop the area by making it a no-man’s-land by their terroristic activities.

Given an honorary title by the Sultanate of Sulu because of my support for the Sultanate’s rights to Sabah I always considered my advocacy as an attempt to promote the territorial integrity of the country to which our Muslim brothers belong and not to cause their alienation.

Indeed Muslim Filipinos like the indigenous peoples, cultural minorities, Buddhists and those belonging to other religious denominations are Filipinos who have learned to live together with their Christian brothers as in other countries despite the cultural divide.

And now coming out of nowhere former insurgents brandishing armalites, Kalashnikov rifles and anti-tank recoilless guns have, like an epiphany, resurrected to claim leadership of Morolandia demanding a large chunk of Mindanao to be converted into a substate. Transported to Tokyo, courtesy of their Malaysian handlers, self-professed leaders of Bangsamoro were accommodated by no less than the chief-of state of this republic who agreed to enter into a comprehensive peace agreement drafted in Kuala Lumpur by representatives of the revolutionary group and a team of relatively unknown panelists from the republic’s side. The same document was signed in Manila under the watchful eye of no less than the prime minister of Malaysia.

The same group is hell-bent in accentuating the differences instead of emphasizing the things that bind. Digging deep into the past, they talk about exploitation, alienation and marginalization, which is true not only in the case of poor Muslims but also of one-third of Filipino families because of benign neglect by the national government and graft and corruption.

These Muslim agitators conveniently forget that thousands of their kith and kin have prospered in other parts of the country as traders, professionals and even politicians while many others have wallowed in destitution thanks mostly to their exploitation by the likes of the Ampatuans and other Muslim political warlords.

Does the fact that the Philippine Muslim communities like some of our other cultural minorities have a distinct religion and their distinctive secular practices, cultures and traditions, constitute just and valid grounds for secession and separatism or at least exclusivity which seems to be encouraged by this administration through its insistence in passing the BBL which may very well turn out to be the Bangsamoro bubble that will be pricked by Congress or the Supreme court? Additionally is it right for the government to give a small percentage of the Muslim population consisting of no more than five percent (5%) of the total Philippine population concentrated in the ARMM, Region 9, 11 and 12 more perks and power than the rest of the country because of perceived and exaggerated historical wrongs?

First and foremost the few thousand soldiers representing the MILF cannot hope to speak for the Muslim community. As we speak there are already firefights between armed groups that have different political agendas which the MILF cannot seem to control as evidenced by the Mamasapano massacre

Indeed, and as history will bear us out, Muslim Filipinos are not integrated as one definable and united society. There are several endemic characteristics in their separate identities: (1) language, (2) political structure, and (3) history and the degree of Islamic integration with cultural traditions and customs already existent.

Each of the subgroups has been proud of its separate identity and conflict between communities has been endemic throughout Philippine Muslim history. We have seen how the MILF has broken away from the MNLF and now we see a BIFF and other groups going to war against the group that this administration has chosen to dialogue with for reasons only known to it.

We have to accept the fact our Muslim community consists of the following subgroups which this administration has to deal with separately. These are:

1. Maguindanaons – the people living in the Pulangi area, located in what are now North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao Provinces. Cultural communities within this region also include the non-Muslim Tituray, T’boli and the Manobos.

2. Maranaos – these are the “people of the lake” that is Lanao Lake whose language is similar to Maguindanaon and Iranun. These form the largest Muslim community and cultural minority in the Philippines. Their families are traditionally large and close-knit. Feudal standing is in some parts still visible. The position, wealth and land ownership of many of those considered from an ancestry of “royalty” still maintain some political position or prominence in their areas. The Maranaos are considered the most devout and most traditional of the Muslim communities who have braved attempts to conquer and subdue them.

3. Tausugs – The Tausugs of the Sulu archipelago whose name translates into “brave people” had promulgated their system of government even before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Tausugs openly welcomed Islam and the system of government that came with it. This has bred the establishment of the Sulu Sultanate. Leaders from this region moved to other places in the country, spreading Islam and its system of government in Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Basilan, Zamboanga, and Sabah.

4. Sama – Also in the Sulu archipelago are the Sama consisting of five sub-groups including the Sama and the Badjao. These people are highly dispersed in the Sulu archipelago. They are considered boat-people, spending most of their time in constant movement throughout the islands in the area or living on the water. The Sama are also considered the sea-gypsies of the Philippines.

5. Yakan – Yakans form the majority Muslim group in Basilan. They have generally two spheres of belief integrating Islamic principles and traditional beliefs into what is referred to as “folk Islam.” The Yakans were primarily under the Sulu Sultanate, but later chose to be on their own. Fiercely independent Yakans opted out of ARMM and most have settled in the region of Zamboanga City.

6. IIanon or Iranun – The lranun are said by many to have been the origin of the ethnic groups within the Lanao Del Sur to the Maguindanao areas. The Iranun language is in fact seen in the Maranao and Maguindanao languages. The Iranun were said to have fought under the Maguindanao sultanate. Many sultans of Maguindanao were said to have been from the lranuns.

7. Add to the above the Molbogs who with other Muslim communities in Palawan were ruled by Sulu Datus, the Kolibugan or “half-breeds.” from the Subanon tribes, the Sangils of South Cotabato and Davao Del Sur provinces and last but not the least the Kaagans in the Davao provinces, and you have a medley of Islamic communities who have managed to live peacefully in their particular environments side-by-side with their non-Islamic neighbors.

Will these communities who have opted to stay out of Bangsamoro kowtow to the rule of the MILF? I seriously doubt it!

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12 Comments

  1. Sa totoo lang, marahil gusto ng abnormal na presidenteng ito na mag karoon ng civil war sa ating bansa at sila ng kanyang mga pamilya ay tatakas patungo sa Malaysia. Ang malaysia ang mga nagsusulsol sa mga taong ito ng magkaroon ng BBL para sa interest ng malaysian govt. at hindi sa mamayang Filipino. Una sa lahat , para makalimutan ng pilipinas ang pagclaim natin sa SAbah, na hndi dapat mangyari.Kailangan natin ng isang Pinuno na tulad ng dating Presidente Marcos, na hindi kinakatakutan ang ating mga kalapit na bansa.. Hindi natin kailangan ang ASEAN kung ang ibang member nito ay sumasawsaw at nagsusulsol sa mga taga mindanao. BBL is the firsst step to secession. Hindi kami pinanganak kahapon na mga Filipino sa Luzon…

  2. The BBL is not the ONLY path to peacw —— do not you people be fooled…!

    Scrap this illegal BBL now forged with Maysian impostors, and treasonous negotiators
    (or perhaps negosyantes) and start anew with all the stakeholders called to the table…

    If the Muslims enforce conversion, perhaps we can do the same —offer peace, IF THEY DISAVOW EXTREMIST VIEWS AND THE SHARIA…

    Otherwise, let’s just fight for the nation’s integrity…

  3. jose btaganahan on

    fully agree with this well research and eye opening article to those who are not familiar with our Muslim brothers in Mindanao.

    It should also be emphasized that a Filipino Muslim General from Cotabato, the late Speaker Protempore Salipada Pendatun, lead in the liberation of Bukidnon from the Japanese occupation during the 2nd world war. Our present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is also a proud daughter of a native of Siasi, Sulu.

    We do not need the BBL and it is divisive.

  4. jose btaganahan on

    I fully agree with this well research and eye opening article to those who are not familiar with our Muslim brothers in Mindanao.

    It should also be emphasized that a Filipino Muslim General from Cotabato, the late Speaker Protempore Salipada Pendatun, lead in the liberation of Bukidnon from the Japanese occupation during the 2nd world war. Our present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is also a proud daughter of a native of Siasi, Sulu.

  5. rene catalasan on

    Well researched and very credible!
    I hope this article be sent to President Aquino, the Senate and Congress for their guidance.
    Thanks Mr. Romero and God bless!

  6. The BBL is clearly not a way to achieve peace. It is just a document putting a terrorist organization (MILF) in power with government support. The people are against the BBL with 62% opposed and less than 10% supporting it. We need to junk it now and take serious steps to review the ARMM and discover what the problems are. For this a council of province governors should investigate and report back to congress on what needs to be fixed or changed or left alone. All actions must be constitutional and comply with existing laws. No MILF or other terrorist group is to be consulted. MILF, BIFF, JIM, or any armed group is to be dealt with by the PNP or the AFP.

  7. If the MILF and MNLF is recruiting young Muslims fighters, why can’t the AFP and PNP do the same. The government has the resources. Let the Muslims solve their own peace problems by giving their young men jobs to confront their rebellious brothers and help defend their civilian communities themselves. the AFP and PNP hierarchy needs just to command and monitor their muslim men.

  8. We have many Muslims in other parts of the country. They migrated becoz they seek peace and do business which they cannot do in a war filled atmosphere. They speak tagalog our national language.They do not hate christians as we christians dont hate muslims but have only reservations in giving trusts. This rebellion must end. Develop mindanao. That is the only solution. Government should give free lands to them and buy their guns. Let them live with themselves in peace and solve their problems with peace by themselves. Recruit Muslim policemen to their place of living and recruit more Muslim soldiers to AFP.

  9. Cres Malifier on

    Why give a special group of “Filipinos,” the MILF Muslims, who in fact hate being members of the Phlippine Republic and, like Murad and Iqbal and God knows who else in the MILF Central Commitee and military leadership are Malaysians, their own “bangsa” or state on the basis of their religion and claimed refusal to be colonized by the Spaniards and then the Americans but who, like all of us in our archipelago, eventually lost to the colonizers and became parts of the Philippine Republic?

    If that will be the case, then the Philippine Republilc should also grant substate status to an autonomous Nasud of all Cebuano-Boholano-Baybay and Waray-Surigaonon-Davaowenyo , MIsamisnon and Zamboangueno Filipinos,

    And for that matter all Tagalogs or separate Tagalog subtates,and Ilokanos, Pangalatoks, the Kapampangan. the IIonggos, the Bikolanos and the dfferent Lumad tribes under their own various substates.

    Sige. Magkanya-kanya na lang tayo.

    Maybe that’s the way we can end poverty among most of the 100-plus million people now called the Filipinos.

  10. Kung tama ang mga facts dito sa article na ito, napalaking gago pala si Presidente na nakikipagsundo sa iisang faction lamang at malamang mabaliwala na yung matagal nating claim sa Sabah? The issue here is the Sabah claim, that’s why Malaysia is interfering for the MILF to forge a peace pact with the Aquino government. Yung ibang malaking issue pa na katulad ng mga other stakeholders like the indigenous people na ayaw sa magiging patakaran ng MILF lalo na yung BIFF, MNLF, Abu Sayyaf, mga Sultanate and other minorities in the proposed Bangsamoro Entity. E di malaking gulo sa Mindanao kapag hindi sila kasama sa negotiation. Biro mo, billions of pesos of taxpayers money ang gagastusin ng gobiyerno kapag matuloy ang peace pact ni gagong Noynoy maliban pa sa billions na pera para maipabahagi sa mga legislators na magpasa ng BBL. What a waste of people’s money just because of the dream legacy of our incompetent President. Do we allow this to happen? Sana hindi lahat ng mga Pilipino ay gago katulad ng ating Presidente.

  11. The lessons contained to tackle the BBL are here to learn and inspire us especially our leaders who will ultimately resolve this BBL. BUT the drawback we are encountering as a people which Ex-president Fidel Ramos, have said: “Filipinos are matigas nga ULO” We are incurably stubborn people. Some supposed leaders are enemies of what is the right approach to solve this attempt to divide our country. While war is an ugly solution with many unacceptable consequences, in the history of mankind from the beginning it can be noted that only a period of 100 years was peaceful. The other decades and centuries were all marred by war. There are no other ways to peace than to wage a war against bad elements like what we have in the south against the BBIF. ASG, etc.