“This Land Cabatangan”
is unique in the context that not much has been written about the issue except for news convey now and then. Energy forward is critical because of the historical, political and legal implications. More so, because of a traumatic situation created as an offshoot of the Military bombings, the siege and hostage-taking that took place in the area last November 27, 2001 perpetrated by a break-away rebel group of so-called “freedom fighters” belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Lidinila R. Reyes Liddy Reyes
No one made any serious attempt to write in-depth about the background of this controversial piece of property sitting on top of Zamboanga City’s Westside panoramic hills. This effort is a modest endeavor to acquaint the public with the issues involved using a historical approach as well as descriptive and documented dissection of the major structural changes in organization presented within the National and Local Government framework. This analysis may not offer a resolution to what appears to be a perplexing phenomenon in Zamboanga society but it may give a plausible explanation, considering the demographic location of the property, the level of historical consciousness in contrast to oral history which is introspective. Today, both adversaries are going through a transformation. We have gained quality in historical consciousness and legal perceptions. We have worked out an integrated approach to the controversy. We have expanded beyond the confines of tradition. Although both can be trustworthy as a friend, both can also be extremely difficult to subdue as an enemy. The best approach is united effort with forthrightness. Despite conflict, we need to find a middle ground. As this book goes to publication, the continuing case between the City of Zamboanga and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is still pending in the Court of Cotabato.
Celso L. Lobregat Mayor
From 1979 arrangement on the acquisition and ultimately the establishment of the Regional Government Center for Region IX at Cabatangan, San Roque, City of Zamboanga have been fragmentary. “This Land Cabatangan” is a commendable attempt by the Author to put into perspective the issues – historical, socio-cultural, political and legal, which are related to the Cabatangan problem. It provides a broader basis for understanding the National Government’s viewpoints in justifying the changes and development during the erratic years of drastic shifting in the form of the regional government in Southern Philippines. The effort of government to comply with the Tripoli Agreement forged in December 23, 1976, in effect, put to a serious test the people of the South capacity to rule and to unite. The people of Zamboanga City as well as the past constituents of the Regional Autonomous Government and the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) participants in this “drama” are challenged to recognize that we need freedom from red tape and political interference. We need to present issues as legal facts. We need to articulate and press for desirable reforms to attain a united effort for peace and development of our respective regions. Much of the uneasiness that came about on the Cabatangan issue stems from the failure to understand the framework within which we unify our acts. Also from the passion demonstrated by those committed to their own cause, coupled with a false sense of security. This book provides an explanation for this aspect of the Philippine South’s history, specifically of Zamboanga City. It involves a study of the factors that led to the conflict that arose over the landed ownership of the lands that comprise the Regional Government Center for Region IX, and also the armed disturbance that erupted in late November 2001 which was a very traumatic experience for us Zamboanguenos. The examination of the numerous issues involved is exhaustive include critical files of public interest. The credibility of the Author’s report is dependent on the public effort that requires objectivity in viewing the legal processes adopted in response to fairness and enforcement. Adherence to fundamental legal procedures and ultimately to voluntarily advise to the judgment of the Law are the most significant of tributes that Power and Justice can give to REASON. In the context of the recent GRP-MILF peace talks, our present struggle to survive as a city becomes more challenging. We must continually measure ourselves against the ideals of democracy. Let us look back to the roots of our history as a people. Let us affirm our past but we need more to affirm our future. Let us fight for a larger society transcending tribal and local loyalties. Our experience here is an exception subjected to the sternest test a component of an alternative future for the local government. Such idea of an alternative future must rest on our adequate understanding of the issue and a correct assessment of our present conditions. For the majority of us, the exercise of political rights is meaningful – but for the present, our primordial concern is the economic right to survive with dignity. We do not believe in a “trade off” that perceives to dominate our conscious needs; that provides for whose well-placed arguments assures their continuance in power; that alienates social justice; that erodes our dignity and the concept of democracy through an elaborate “political swindle” that leaves us no better than we were. We simply want to keep our basic unity, geographic cohesion, our sense of community, our identity in the same way but essentially different from any other; a community which belongs together but does not belong elsewhere. Both communities need not sacrifice their unique respectability relative to their political and economic security because they have every right in the world to be where they are and what they are. Thus, through the publication of this book, the Author makes available to the community the results of an extensive research report that spans a period of 26 years and contributes to a much needed intellectual appetence in a developing and diverse society as Zamboanga and its environs.
The Land Of Promise
Nowhere in the country’s 7,107 islands, 66 provinces, 87 dialects and one, distinct, indivisible nation with a total land area of 116,220 miles stretching 1,150 miles from the North to the South and a total coastline of 10,850 statute miles, set in the shimmering velvet of the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean is one peoples’ culture woven in a tapestry of Malay, Islamic, Oriental, British, Spanish and American influences than Mindanao. But it is more than all these. It is Christian, Muslim and primitive. It is yesterday, today and tomorrow because the basically Christian civilization that flourishes in the country is both Oriental and Western in concept and dimension. Here is “God’s little acre” so bountifully and exquisitely endowed with a unique, cultural ambience and Nature’s physical gifts. The island of Mindanao alone is larger than many countries of Europe – larger than Portugal and Ireland or Scotland, much larger than Belgium or the Netherlands. By many standards, the Philippines is actually a large one. The entire Philippine archipelago has a land area larger than the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales). There is vast potential wealth in Mindanao’s natural resources. Marble quarries extend to 27 mountains for 27 different colors of marble within the Zamboanga del Sur (Manukan) peninsula which can last 400 years. Deposits of gold, coal, iron, copper, zinc, manganese and lead are estimated at 21 million metallic metric tons.
Rainforests and agricultural lands are green and fertile owing to the genial climate that is generally warm and balmy throughout the year, with no pronounced dry or wet season. Mindanao boasts of beautiful, pristine white and pink beaches, famous historical spots, ancient edifices, recreational parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Shores and seabeds are equally generous of yield. Off the sandbanks and incredibly beautiful beaches of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, a profusion of shells and corals with every shape and hue are gathered to meet the steadily growing demands of collectors and shellcraft makers. The Tawi-Tawi Island Group which has the languid, idyllic look of the South Pacific atolls – nesting place of the Giant Turtles, is also “home” to the tuna fishes that “dies of old age”. The storied “Turtle Islands” are just a few miles off the Sabah Coast. Tourists come from all over to watch giant sea turtles lay their eggs on their sandy beaches. Turtle eggs are a delicacy to the Southerners. Inland fishing is found in brackish and fresh water ponds, lakes, marshes and rivers. About 500 fishponds are in operation today which are devoted to the culture of fresh water pearls, prawns and crabs, “bangus” or milkfish and shrimps. The prolific oyster beds of the Sulu seas continue to provide the world with the incomparable South Sea and the Black pearls. Unfortunately, the legendary “pearl divers” of Jolo are fast vanishing from the breed. Formerly considered a non-traditional export item and now a million-dollar earner, the lowly “seaweed” has likewise spawned a new source of livelihood for the people of the South. Along vast stretches of shallow coastal waters, “agar-agar” is now being “farmed” and tended in Sanga-Sanga, Sibutu and Simunul Islands of Tawi-Tawi, with as much loving tender care as a flower garden. It was in Simunul Island where Sheik Makdum the first Muslim “guru” set foot to establish the oldest Mosque and set forth the Islamic civilization and culture in the country.
27 years 1979 to 2006, these were hard years, years of fast changes in governance in Southern Philippines, politically motivated so to speak. Critics may also describe them as years of so much “flair and extravagance” in the effort to comply with the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. For historical, socio-cultural, economic and political reasons, the Philippine South has always loomed larger in the story of the Filipino nation. Today, more than ever before, because of an internal conflict that has persisted from 3 decades ago which has simmered fitfully on Mindanao. On Zamboanga City, particularly. In the center of any and all gathering political storm, Zamboanga City has relentlessly demonstrated that crisis and adjustment require a firm hand. Being a stakeholder in the beneficial outcomes, its leaders have continually mobilized consensus to cope with the changing environment and to build strong and enduring institutions. The following study endeavored to establish a historical-political framework against which was based dissertations into the roots of the conflict. This resulted in the changing scene of government’s idea of self-determination for areas in the country that opted for autonomy.
As a lawyer, I shall naturally draw from the discipline of law and I advise the reader to keep this in mind so that the question of objectivity can be raised consciously and intelligently. As a hard science, law can generate insights that are logically linked with people’s self perceptions. The test of how adequate these insights are to the experience of the layman need not be in the courts; the test can be made quite easily in one’s social milieu – in schools, in offices, even in the farms; wherever there is a chance for critical thinking, and the application of common sense. If my tone in this book is assertive, it is merely for purposes of clarity. My interest is legal and political. The historical and socio-cultural aspects serving as the background and setting. I have written what I believe should be the direction of government. I intend to initiate discussion, not dissension. Therefore, I invite our academicians and scholars, intellectuals and writers, business and political leaders, workers and our youth most especially, to begin to reflect on our values, our beliefs, our collective knowledge on the issue. It is a process of discovery and recognition, central to our commitment to peace – a credible peace where we do not conceive of a social arrangement or political adventurism, where government is truly guardian and implementor of those policies and laws that equalize opportunities among its people, where there is no conflict of interest giving rise to armed confrontation. I address this book primarily to those of us who are not satisfied with “piecemeal” justifications, much less with pragmatic arguments; to those who prefer logical conclusions that acquire the character of ultimate and self-evident principles of law, whose validity depends on social realities consistent with permanent and rational truths. The truth will assert itself for what it is and not what critics say it ought to be. The solution to the Cabatangan issue may be radical, may even be a political decision. But this is contrary to democracy’s libertarian ethics. A government to be credible must adhere to what is legal. We do not intend to play the role of the power broker in our political culture. The “conflict” feeling that is generated whenever Cabatangan is mentioned is part of human experience and cannot be avoided. What truly count is its resolution. After all, it is not so much who won or lost but how the battle was fought and how we behaved. With respect and discipline, we reside within the confines of the law. Since the National Government has the vested authority to meet social needs and has the resources within its powers to use, it must diffuse this social and legal tension. To permit this tension to persist may lead to more serious violence than the November incident. Through this book, we will remember what happened in Cabatangan and lest they be forgotten because they have left the City, to remember too the individual victims who will suffer the “trauma” of their ordeal in that incident for years to come. This thought should lead to a sober reconsideration of national efforts in resolving this seeming “conflict” where legally, there is none. Thus, in the decision-making process, we need to assess responsibility and hold accountable those charged with implementing whatever has been legally decided; otherwise decision-making cannot be democratic. This case, in particular, is most poignant to this writer as she was most, administratively and legally, involved in the issue from 27 years ago. Being of Muslim-Christian parentage, she takes the role of a “peacemaker” in an attempt to create that climate of confidence wherein the healing process can begin to bridge the gap between the different perspectives, orientations and beliefs relative to the Cabatangan issue.
why the conflick?
Oftentimes, policies of government are of such nature that it becomes difficult to neutralize. This accounts for violent reactions in Muslim resistance. Consequently, the implementing tools of such policies are those associated with the development of conflicts and hostilities. The Muslims tend to see these policies as “personality-oriented” or “issue-oriented” conflicts. Most disturbances in Muslim history were products of conflicts between concepts related to property, persons, government, authority, and society. Thus, the conflict between the sacredness and relativeness of property rights; the primacy and subordination of individuals i.e. the higher and lower echelon, the rich and the poor; between national and local sovereignty; between democratic and oligarchic power; between the new and old schools in society; between change and stability. These factors alters attitudes and strategy both of persons and government. The more immediate causes that spawned the unrest and violence in Southern Philippines were attributed to: 1. Land-grabbing and encroachment by settlers into ancestral lands; 2. Economic opportunism concentrated the ownership of the choicest and most lucrative businesses and industries in the hands of a few; 3. Political :Bossism” and “Warlordism” which led to exploitaion by the traditional political leaders – the “Datus” and corrupt elected local officials; 4. Centuries-old grievances compounded by political and socio-economic problems. The cause of conflict is rooted on many factors which resulted to actual barriers. The attempt to colonize the inhabitants is one of the major causes. An accident of history covering more than 4 centuries during which there evolved two distinct segments of the population – Christians and Muslims is another major cause. These two distinct groups so differed from each other – in history, culture, tradition and religion. The myths and prejudices still dominant in our society create an atmosphere of misunderstanding, mistrust and suspicion which from time to time, erupt into frightening violence. Solutions will have to border on some degree of co-existence and cooperation between the power groups, and in between the lines – the legality of every issue at hand.
CULTURAL ETHNOCENTRISM (TRIBALISM)
History attributes linguistic differences and geographical barriers as principally responsible for the isolation and prejudice of the Muslims in the Philippines. For many centuries, the Muslims have maintained their traditional communal “tribal” customs. They assert their rights by reason of tradition and previous control. In many instances, this had led to conflict, both legal and armed between themselves, their neighbors and “invading” armies from the North. The Muslim sub-society constitute the largest singular cultural minority in the Philippines – from the “people of the current” the Tausugs from Jolo, Sulu, Siasi and Tawi-Tawi; the Yakans of Basilan and Zamboanga; the Jama Mapuns of Cagayan de Sulu; the Melebugananons of Balabac Island; the “boat dwelling” Badjaos or Luwaans of the shoreline islands of Sibutu living in houses constructed on “stilts” over the shallow sea waters; the river and plain-oriented Maguindanaos of Cotabato; the lake-oriented Maranaos of Lanao; the Singils of Davao; the Palawani and Tagbanuas of Palawan. Their sub-cultures are so ecologically different that their only cultural denomination is loyalty to Islam. To a Muslim, Islam is more than a Religion. It is a way of life. Any attempt at integration – religious or otherwise, is met with fierce resistance. What followed both the Spanish and American colonization were centuries of the “Moro Wars” in Mindanao and Sulu. Much more significant were the traditional social and political organization, the Sultanate and Datu-ship in a bilateral kinship system. Unfortunately, the separate sub-societies and ethnocentric group attitudes gave rise to language variations, disparities in the life and practices of the “folk-muslim” and traditional hostilities among the groups. With the coming of the Spaniards and Spanish military action, attempts were made to unify the Muslims under a colonial administration. Christian communities of Muslim converts to Christianity were established in the coastal regions of Mindanao. However, Spain failed to conquer the whole of Moroland. Thus followed more than 300 years of conflicting relationship.
In assessing the result of the Muslim-Spanish Wars, Historian Professor Zaide said: “One of the bloodiest Chapter in Philippine History is of the “Moro Wars”. Spain’s “conquistadores” met their match in Mindanao and Sulu’s Islam warriors. Spain’s “crusade” failed against the “Paladins of the Crescent”. Even after 337 years of bitter fighting, the Muslims kept their independence, religion and culture.” In 1635, Zamboanga was established as a Military and Naval Base for the Spanish invasion of all Moroland. In 1899, the American troops landed at Zamboanga and Jolo. The Spanish soldiers were relieved from the battlefield having failed to establish Spain’s colonial authority. The signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 ended the Spanish-American War. The unfinished task of pacifying the Muslims now fell upon the Americans. Thus, from 1902 to 1904, the United States saw Muslim resistance continue in fury even in the face of superior American military skills and weaponry. Bloody engagements followed up to 1913 and sporadically to the end of the U.S. military administration in Mindanao and Sulu. However, through the American “policy of attraction” and the promise of non-interference with their Islam religion, Muslim armed resistance began to disappear in 1914. Then followed a shift from a Military to a Civil administration and the establishment of the Government of the Moro Province which was basically Military and composed of Sulu, Cotabato, Lanao, Davao and Zamboanga. These districts later became regular provinces under the Department of Mindanao and Sulu after the Moro Province was abolished. The Muslims, nevertheless, continued their “passive” resistance to the U.S. governmental programs of innovating social, cultural, economic and political reforms in the communities. Muslims were still wary of the intentions of the Americans. Attempts at education were suspected as a device to alienate them further from their Islamic faith. Thus, the early American period was characterized by military struggles and bloodsheds as the U.S. forces engaged in civil and military campaigns to bring the Muslims within the control of government. To date, the present day Filipinos are united in each local area governed under a sociopolitical system called “barangay” and the Muslims have preserved remnants of their ancient system called the “Sultanate” or the “Datuship”. The Sultanate power was never completely subordinated or subjugated to foreign authority despite the invading forces’ military and political powers. When the U.S. forces arrived, the Sultanate was still the major influence. It still persists today with lesser territorial claim combining kinship and political structure under a “Sultan” and the “Ruma Bichara” that functions like a “Council of Elders” in law-making and decision making. In executive matters of territories by “panglimas” (representatives or governors). This preservation of the Muslim political organization is the unique characteristic of Muslim Mindanao that distinguishes the area from the rest of the Philippines. It is actually a modified version of early influences from the Arab “Sultan” and the Hindu-Malay “Raja Mudah”. In the remote and recent past, the Sultanate exercises overall territorial and political power, actual and theoretical upon the Sulu Archipelago, Basilan, the southern tip of Palawan with the small, neighboring islands, and North Borneo. These ethno-linguistic differences and the nature of power rotations with a mixture of caste and class criteria was the basis wherewith the National Government stratified the Regional Government society. The criterion was differentiated by origin, status, power and prestige; by and large according to a “majority-minority” depending on where the large mass of followers are situated. Moreover, due to lack of frequent physical contact for the larger bodies in the population groups, internal integration becomes difficult regionally. The social and cultural gaps becomes seemingly wider between the geographical areas as a result of variation in religious and political alignments. Ethnolinguistic tendencies oftentimes slip into a form of “tribalism” which becomes counter-productive to integration and development as seen in some new nation-state in Africa. Government’s renewed interest of each class is purely cultural, more conceptual than real. In practice, because of geographical mobility and inter-ethnic marriages, these ethnic affiliations are considerably diffused. Today, most of these ethnocentrism is viewed more like a corporate personality with many subsidiaries – not monolithic but poly-ethnic and multi-level. While we subscribe to the government’s constant and continuous processes of change directed towards national integration that resulted to the to the grant of autonomy in Mindanao, it is significant to note that Zamboanga City opted to remain outside the sphere of contact but not necessarily resistant to change in the political structure of Mindanao. The City of Zamboanga’s action need not be viewed as a hostile move to alienate its Christian constituents from their brother Muslims. For many years, Christians and Muslims have lived peacefully side by side in Zamboanga City. Widespread similarities rather than gross differences characterize the common values of the two groups. Muslim Islamic traits and the Christian pre-Spanish traits added to the Western American traits constitute the unity of culture and society among the Zamboanguenos.
The Moro identity was carved out in 1380 with the advent of Islam to the shores of Sulu, through Tuan Sharif Auliya, Rajah Baguinda and Sharif Kabungsuan. The Islamic consciousness was kept alive as the “Bangsa Moro adopted values that transcends the race and particular culture. They began to consider themselves as a historic people. Without this consciousness as well as the benefits that Islam brought to the people of Sulu and Mindanao, they would have been easily swept away by the Western colonizers and relegated to the limbo of conquered peoples”. The very same consciousness gave the Muslims the strength to perpetuate over three decades of the “Moro Wars” against the Spaniards and the Americans. The question of the Bangsa Moro Homeland or Ancestral Domain specifically points to the fact that the Bangsa Moro considered as illegal Spain’s cession of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan to the Americans in the Treaty of Paris in 1898. Conquest indicates the enforcement of laws of the colonizing powers on the colonized region and people. Spanish law was never enforced among the Moros. (U.S. Supreme Court: Mateo Carino vs. Insular Government of the Philippine Islands, 212 US449). It is factual history that the United States, despite the biggest military contingent of 20,000 troops in Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Palawan had to enter into “treaties“ with the Sultan of Sulu: The Bates Treaty of 1899 and the Carpenter Treaty of 1915, all of which “treaties” recognized the government and sovereignty of the Sultan of Sulu, even outside the boundaries of Sulu, i.e. Sabah, North Borneo.
The “Astanah Kasangyangan” LTP Palace, Cabatangan, Zamboanga City, Philippines.
apo sumayang galura
Symbol of the Autonomous Government Region IX
This is the story of the heartland of Mindanao and its people.
In our value system, the prerogative of “choice” is the democratic revolutions’ great source of strength.
columnist, jose maria “bong”
Carrying his 18 month year old baby, “Bong” negotiate for peaceful release.
break-away rebel soldier
A chance to show what the wages of freedom shall bee...
This Land... Cabatangan
Historical, Cultural, Political and Legal Issues . . . 1979-2006