Moros ‘unhappy’ about being Filipinos

RIYADH — A member of the Philippine government’s negotiating panel it its peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has acknowledged that Moros, or Filipino Muslims, are unhappy about being called “Filipinos,” a report by the MILF’s website yesterday said.

Prof. Rudy Rodil, vice chairman of the government panel, made these remarks in a presentation to the Kusog Mindanao Conference recently at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.

He said there are plenty of historical records to show that becoming Filipinos wasn’t something to be proud of among the Moro people, and that this is among the roots of the “Mindanao Conflict,” a term used for the separatist movement in the southern Philippines.

“They are not happy to be Filipinos because way before the colonization of the Philippines and establishment of government, the Moros were already self-governed people,” he said.

Islam was still expanding in Mindanao as well as in Manila and nearby towns when the Spanish colonizers arrived in the 16th century and introduced Christianity, largely by force.

Spain, exploiting the tribalistic nature of the inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago, pitted tribe against tribe and later used the ethnic groups that it Christianized to fight the Muslims.

Ironically, Filipino Muslims have adopted the term “Moro,” which the Spanish colonizers have given then in reference to the Moors of southern Spain.

When Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898, Washington turned Mindanao into a training ground for its expanding armed forces. Gen. John Pershing, the famous commander of the US Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I, for one, earned his spurs in Mindanao.

It was also during the US occupation when Filipinos from the central and northern Philippines were sent to exploit Mindanao’s largely untapped lands, a practice that continued even after the Philippines got its independence from the US in 1946.

Commenting on Rodil’s analysis, Datu Michael Mastura, a Muslim academic and former lawmaker who was also invited to the same forum, said that if the government’s views mirrored Rodil’s facts, there would be no problem to begin with.

Mastura said it is time to hear the Moros or MILF now if the government wishes to solve the problem in Mindanao.

Rodil, according to Luwaran, said he is in possession of 16 letters, the most articulate of which was addressed to the US Congress in 1924, stating the Bangsamoro intention to remain under the American government as an independent state. This was at a time when Filipino politicians were lobbying with the US government to grant independence to its Philippine colony.

Rodil also reiterated what other historians have noted that the Moros were made part of the Philippines without due consultation and consent.

He said that following those injustices are practices that discriminate against the Moros in general, especially because they have become a cultural minority under Philippine government. He added that today, they are merely trying to reclaim what they believe is theirs in the first place and reiterating their right to self-governance.
Abdul Hannan Faisal Tago, Arab News

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