100 Years of Moro Resistance:
A Chronology of Historical Events

by Madge Kho*
Date Historical Event

January 23, 1878 Sultan of Sulu leases North Borneo (Sabah) to the North Borneo Chartered Company (British).  This caused much alarm to the Spaniards (SZ, p.83).  It gave Baron Gustavo Von Overbeck the title of Rajah of Sandakan and Datu Bandahara, absolute power over the people of the area.  The lease in Tausug said "pajak" and in English it was "ceded.". For the text of the "lease" or "Land Grant", please refer to the History of the Filipino People by Teodoro A. Agoncillo, p. 266).

To prevent northeast coast of Borneo from falling into Spanish hands, Jamalul Azam leased his domain to Baron Gustavo Von Overbeck for annual payment of $5,000. (SZ, p. 134.  Wright, The Origins of British North Borneo, pp. 148-154, K.B.. Tregoning, A History of Modern Sabah, 1881-1963, pp. 13-29). 

The English translation of the document said "grant" whereas the Tausug version used the word "pajak" which means lease.  The lease was for $5,000 annually.  The money somehow was stopped at some point after the death of Jamalul Kiram in 1936.

On the Philippine side, Quezon refused to recognize a successor to the sultanate because he said it was incompatible with the notion of sovereignty (Noble, page 36-37).  The Philippine government even sent a letter to the British Consul in Manila that it had decided not to recognize the "continued existence of the Sultanate."

The niece, Dayang Dayang Hadji Piandao Kiram and 8 other relatives sued the government of North Borneo (This was, at the time, only a charter of the British Crown.  It became under British rule after 1946.)..  The government did not challenge the suit once it was clear that the plaintiffs were merely interested in resumption of the payments and not reopening the issue of sovereignty and ownership.

July 22, 1878 Last treaty signed by the Sultan Jamalul Alam with Spain after another defeat by Spain in 1876. This treaty had the same translation flaws as the one entered into in 1851, where the Spanish version stated it had sovereignty over Sulu whereas the Tausug version had the description of the relationship as being a protectorate rather than a dependency and Sulu customs, laws, religion were not subject to Spanish jurisdiction. The differences are material and would have repercussions in 1899 in the territories that Spain ceded to the U.S. (Treaties and Other International Acts of USA, edited by Hunter Miller, Vol. 4, 1836-1846, p. 355; also History of Sulu by Najeeb Saleeby, pp. 124-129 ) 

This treaty made Jolo a sort of protectorate of Spain (Muslim in the Philippines, Cesar Majul, p. 299) while retaining a great deal of autonomy. The Sultan didn't have much interest in Jolo at this point and relocated his seat to Maimbung.

December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris was signed between Spain and the United States ceding the whole Philippine archipelago (including Mindanao and Sulu) in exchange for $20,000,000.
May 1, 1899  Spaniards departed Jolo and on same day Americans occupied Jolo. When the Spaniards left, the Sultan thought that the town of Jolo would again be in their hands.  But the Americans told the Sultan that they  were now in charge.  The Americans demanded that the Sultan renew the terms of the July 22, 1878 Treaty with Spain only this time substituting the U.S. for Spain.  The Sultan refused.  The U.S. had no idea that the treaty was merely the Sultan's modus vivendi with Spain, whose presence the Moro barely tolerated.  General Bates enticed the Sultan telling him that it would be to his interest to be associated with a rich and powerful country like the U.S.  The Sultan was said to have asked Bates, "Why is it that if your country is so rich and powerful would you want a place like ours?" (Vic Hurley, Swish of the Kris)
August 9, 1899 The Sultan, after feigning illness for some time, finally presented a "16-point proposal" to the Americans.  According to Vic Hurley, prior to the Sultan's gesture, there was a great deal of preliminary discussions and numerous attempts by the Tausugs to frighten the American occupants.  Among the key terms of the proposal were recognition of the sovereignty of the Sultanate and that the U.S. was not to sell Jolo to any other nation without consulting the Sultan.
August 20, 1899 General Bates rejected the Sultan's "16-point proposal" because it did not recognize American sovereignty.  He countered with a 15-point proposal which Sultan Jamalul Kiram II hesitatingly signed with Gen. John C. Bates. (Bates Treaty or Senate Document No. 136, 56th Congress, lst Session, Serial 3851). A very critical error of translation exists in this treaty. The Tausug version states "The support, aid, and protection of the Jolo Island and Archipelago are in the American nation," whereas the English version read: "The sovereignty of the United States over the whole Archipelago of Jolo and its dependencies is declared and acknowledged." The word "sovereignty" was not used anywhere in the Tausug version. (Peter Gowing, Mandate in Moroland. The American Government of Muslim Filipinos 1899-1920, p. 122).

Among the other terms of the treaty were:

1) Non-interference with religion, social and domestic customs or internal economic or political affairs of Moros unless requested to do so.
2) The U.S. was not to give or sell Sulu or any part of it to any other nations.
3) Continuation of the $250.00 monthly allowance that was initiated by the Spaniards.
4) Slaves allowed to purchase their freedom.

It was obvious that the U.S. signed this peace treaty as a way of stemming any resistance to its occupation in the South while it was suppressing the resistance in the north.

According to Sixto Orosa, the District Health Officer in Sulu during the American occupation "The people did not wish to come under American sovereignty; but Hadji Butu, 'recognizing the folly of armed resistance,' exerted all his influence to prevent another useless and bloody war." (The Sulu Archipelago and Its People, Sixto Orosa, p. 108-109)

November 7, 1900 The U.S. pays Spain another $100,000 to incorporate the islands stretching as far as Sibutu to Cagayan de Sulu. The southernmost outlying islands of the Philippines--Turtle Island and Taganak were incorporated at a much later time period. They were part of the territories originally "ceded" (leased according to Tausug translations of the documents) by the Sultan Jamalul Alam to the North Borneo Company since 1763.
1901 "Policy of Disarmament" implemented by Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing met with resistance that culminated in the Battle of Bud Dajo on March 7, 1906
May 2, 1902 First recorded pitched battle fought between Americans and Moros when the Americans toke the Moro cottas, or forts, of Binadayan and Pandapatan in Lanao under the command of Col. Frank D. Baldwin. (Muddy Glory, Russell Roth, p. 26)
July 4, 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt issued a presidential proclamation formally ending the Philippine "Insurrection" covering only the Independence War or the "Christian Front".  In its second preamble of the proclamation reads:

"Whereas, the insurrection against the authority and sovereignty of the United States is now at an end, and peace has been established in all parts of the archipelago except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes, to which this proclamation does not apply

This proclamation also suggest that there was an on-going war in the Morolands at the time the proclamation was given and that the U.S. had not been able to contain it.  Moreover, this proclamation also leaves no doubt to the fact that the U.S. had implemented a "divide and conquer" strategy in conducting the colonial war, thus creating the "Muslim Moro Front" as the second front of the war that would last longer than the Christian front.  By mere happenstance, it would seem to appear as if the U.S. had waged a religious war in the Philippines --against the Christians and the Muslims, one after another.

June 1, 1903
Creation of the Moro Province, of which Sulu was a part of, under Gen. Leonard Wood, the first governor of that province.

Gov. Gen. Wood imposed a head tax of P2 for each person. This created resentment and dissatisfaction among the Tausugs which led to a series of Cotta (trench) wars against the Americans led by Panglima Hassan. (Orosa, p. 37). Among the best known are Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak massacres.

Photo of Gen. Leonard 
Wood, the first Governor 
of the Moro Province.
September 2, 1903  Moro Province Legislative Council was organized. 
March 2, 1904 The U.S. unilaterally abrogates the Bates Treaty, upon recommendations by Moro Province Governor  Wood, for two main reasons: the Sultanís failure to quell Moro resistance and the treaty's hindrance to effective colonial administration of the area.  Payments to the Sultan also stopped. 
April 1904 The Sultan protests the unilateral abrogation of the Bates Treaty. He argues that he couldnít stop the Moro conflict against the Americans because of U.S. had imposed poll and land taxes on the population, a practice which the Moros were not used to. He urged the Americans not to...

"put yokes on our necks that we cannot bear, and donít make us do what is against our religion and donít ask us to pay poll tax forever and ever as long as there is sun and moon, and donít ask taxes for land which are our rights of the Moro people, including all that grows (is planted) in Jolo and its islands." (Letter to Gov. Gen, Luke Wright in Peter Gowing, p. 350-351)

November 12, 1904 U.S. Philippine Commission restores annual payments to the Sultan and his advisers.
March 5-7, 1906  "Death List is Now 900", blazed the headline announcing the massacre at Bud Dajo where General Wood ordered his men to "Kill or capture those savages." Of the 1,000 men, women and children who fortified themselves in the 50 ft. deep crater atop this mountin six miles east of the of Jolo, only six men survived the two-day massacre.  The well-equipped Americans were no match for the Tausugs who were armed with only krises, spears and a few rifles.  The American forces were supported by two quick-firing guns from a gunboat.  Many of the dead had as many as fifty gunshots. (Vic Hurley, Swish of the Kris, page 186).
1910 First 100 families from Cebu were brought by Gen. John Pershing to settle in Cotabato, Mindanao.
June 11-16, 1913
Battle of Bud Bagsak. Ten years after its Disarmament Policy, the Moros continued to resist the American rule. From January-June, the whole ward of Lati with a population of between 6,000 to 10,000, fortified themselves in a cotta in Mt. Bagsak. On June 11, Gen. John Pershing ordered the attack with the assistance of Charlie Schuck who reported that it was easy to attack the cotta. Though official estimates accounted for only 300 Moro casualties (Orosa, p.27), John McLeod, who was in Manila at the time of the massacre, reported that 2,000 were killed including 196 women and 340 children. Pershing was later criticized for his actions but a Congressional investigation into the massacre never materialized. (Gowing, pp. 240-241).
Gen. John Pershing, 
known as the "Moro 
August 13, 1913 People in Talipao municipality on island of Jolo refused to pay road tax. They fortified themselves in Mt. Talipao. On Oct.22, 1913, engagement ensued and the Moros were defeated. (Orosa)
July 24, 1913 Department of Mindanao and Sulu created. (Orosa)
March 22, 1915
Sultan signs an agreement with Gov. Gen. Frank Carpenter (Carpenter Agreement) relinquishing his claims of sovereignty and reduced the Sultan to a mere spiritual and religious head of the Moro people.

Prior to this agreement, the Sultan maintained both de jure and de facto sovereignty and was recognized by the U.S. when it was referred to as "The Government of the Sultan" in the Bates Treaty. The Sultan neither abdicated nor renounced his sovereignty or lost it to the U.S. by conquest. This became a concern for Carpenter who feared the issue might come to haunt the U.S.  Thus, he said wrote in his 1916 report it became "necessary and opportune definitely to extinguish all claims of the Sultan to any degree of temporal sovereignty." (Gowing, p. 287 and Sulu and Sabah, Nicholas Tarling, p.317

Photo of His Highness 
Jamalul Kiram II, the 
"Last Sultan of Jolo."
September 1, 1913 Moro Province is abolished and replaced with Department of Mindanao and Sulu.
December 16, 1913 Military rule officially ended and civilian rule begins. Frank Carpenter, a civilian governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu and Guy N. Roher was the governor of Sulu.
June 9, 1921 Petition signed by 57 leaders in Sulu declaring that "it is the desire of the people of Sulu that the Sulu Archipelago be made permanent American Territory.
1924 Muslims petitioned the Governor-General to grant them separate sovereignty from the rest of the Philippines in the event America withdraw, lest blood shed and warfare break out.
Feb 8, 1935 Adoption of the Philippine Constitution by the Constitutional Convention. Delegate Tomas Cabili representing Lanao, a Christian, did not sign the Constitution because he found the document  to be discriminatory against the Moro people.
March 18, 1935 Declaration of the Bangsa Moro (Dansalan Declaration) in a gathering of 121 Moro datus held in Dansalan, Lanao. In a prophetic vision, the documents states:

"We do not want to be included in the Philippine Independence. For once an independent Philippines is launched, there will be troubles between us and the Christian Filipinos because from time immemorial these two people have not lived harmoniously...It is not proper to have two antagonizing people live together under one flag, under the Philippine independence...

"Should the American people grant the Philippines an independence, the islands of Sulu and Mindanao should not be included in such independence...Our public land must not be given to other people other than the Moros..."

July 4, 1946 Proclamation of Philippine Independence formally creating the Philippine REpublic. Morolands were incorporated against their wishes. Few months later, Haji Kamlon started building his armed resistance in Luuk, Sulu to defy the Manila-based Christian government.
1956 (to be verified) Establishment of the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR), the government program to resettle landless communist Hukbalahaps (Huks) on homesteads in Mindanao and Palawan.
1957 Creation of the Commission of National Integration (CNI) under R.A. 1888 aimed at alleviating the "economic, social and political advancement of the non-Christian Filipinos."
1961 Rep. Datu Ombra Amilbangsa introduced House Bill 5682 calling for "Granting and REcognizing the Independence of the Province of Sulu.
Dec 1969 to Feb 1972 Christian "Ilaga" raids against Muslim villages. Casualties: 2,606 Moros; 1,238 Ilagas. Damages: 2,561 houses; 11 mousques.
March 17, 1968 The "Jabidah Massacre" in Corrigedor Island killing 28 trainees (16 still missing and presumed dead) of the Jabidah Special Forces who were supposed to carry out an invasion of Sabah under "Operation Merdeka."
1971 The Committee on National Minorities of the Philippine Senate issued a thoughtful analysis of the "Moro problem in its senate document:

"Through either indifference, insincerity, or lack of foresight, the seeds of discord were sown when the Commonwealth government embarked on a policy of bringing settlers from Luzon and Visayas to Mindanao without a parallel program of helping the natives legitimize their landholdings or assisting them in making their farms productive.. After the second world war, the influx of settlers and immigrants to the verdant valleys of Cotabato continued... the prior rights of the natives were disregarded and even trampled upon..."

October 1971 Armed Muslim group called "Barracudas" staged an ambush against Constabulary patrol in Magsaysay killing 17 troops out of the 22-man patrol.
Sept 21, 1972 Declaration of Martial Law by Pres. Marcos. Moro rebellion renewed after a quarter century of dormancy when Marcos ordered the Muslims to lay down their arms.
Nov 14, 1972 The official emergence of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), chaired by Nur Misuari.
Dec. 23, 1976 Signing of the Tripoli Agreement between the MNLF and the Philippine Republic."
March 1977 Pres. Marcos set up a "Provisional Autonomous  Government" for an "autonomous region" made up of 13 suthern provinces.
Oct 10, 1977 MNLF force led by Commander Usman Salih assassinated Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista in Patikul, Jolo.
Dec 1977 A power struggle within the MNLF led to the formation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), chaired by Hashim Salamat.
1983 MNLF military activities wane as the New Peoples Arrmy (NPA) emboldens.
Aug 21, 1983 Ninoy Aquino assassinated at Manila International Airport, galvanizing nationwide anti-Marcos protest.
1986 EDSA People Power ousts Pres. Marcos.
Sept. 1986 Pres. Cory Aquino visits MNLF camp for peace talks, ignores MILF.
Oct 15, 1986 Adoption of the new Philippine Constitution which provides among others, the regional autonomy for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera regions.
1989 Congress passes bill creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
1992 Fidel Ramos wins presidency. Government initiates new negotiations with MNLF.
1993 Indonesia govrnment hosts talks between Philippine government and MNLF.
1995 Abu Sayya, a more militant Muslim group, raided the town of Ipil, Zamboanga, killing 50 people.
Sept 2, 1996 Peace agreement finally signed betwen the Philippine government and the MNLF. Misuari wins election for ARMMM governor.
1997 Heavy fighting erupts in Maguindanao between government forces and MILF.
1998 Joseph Estrada wins Philippine presidency. Formed new panel to talk to MILF.
March-Jun 2000 MILF expands territorial control in Central Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf takes foreign hostages putting the Philippines in international headlines. Government attacks MILF and Abu Sayyaf camps. Thousands of mostly Muslim residents fle while Estrada's low approval rating rise.

About PAWCI's  Guest Contributor:

*Madge Kho, is a native of Jolo of Chinese descent who now lives in Somerville, MA. She is interested in anything about "Jolo" or "Tausug"-- history, people, food, dances and songs. Sheís compiling information on the Chinese population of Jolo. A brief bio of Madge Kho is posted on: http://pweb.netcom.com/~okonw/Jolo14.html.

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