Monday, June 27, 2016

Fasting in Ramadhan

While I was browsing the web,  I found a tumblr blog that re-published my magazine article on Ramadhan. I had uploaded that article in one of my blogs. I tried looking for my blog that had that article but I couldn’t find it. It was from my blog. Blogsome had closed shop some time ago. I was surprised that I hadn’t uploaded that article to my other blogs.

It was actually a rehash of another article which I wrote for the now defunct newspaper, The Philippine Post,
in 2000. I’m doubly surprised that I hadn’t uploaded that newspaper article to my blogs either.

The tumblr blog is titled Self-Centered and appears to be owned by a young Moro studying at UST. It says:
“I was reading a couple of blogs ran by moro bloggers. And wow, they had a very polished english grammar, and the opinions stated in their blogs were very intelligent and educated. Here are some blogs worth looking at, especially if you’re a moro;

I was looking at Jamal Ashley’s blog. And saw a blog about the holy month of Ramadan. I was amazed by how detailed the blog was and how it really defined the meaning of Ramadan. To be honest, I find it hard explaining to my non-Muslim friends what Ramadan is. Most non-Muslims only know that Ramadan is a month of abstaining from food and water, and that this month is a month of hunger and torture. But in a Muslim’s perspective it’s not. So here’s the blog about the holy month of Ramadan taken from the blog of Jamal Ashley;”
Both blogs are mine. The first is more of an aggregator while the other (blogsome) vanished a couple of years ago.

Since it’s Ramadhan again, I guess it is appropriate to upload this magazine article. It was published in Mr. & Ms. magazine about 10 years ago. I believe it is timeless.

In the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, fasting is a special form of prayer. The Jews fast during the Day of Atonement. Fasting for them is a way to ask God’s forgiveness and blessings. On their way to Jerusalem from Babylon, the prophet Ezra ordered every Jew to fast: “Then I proclaimed a fast, there by the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before God to petition from Him a safe journey for ourselves, our children and all our possessions.” (Ezra 8: 21). Some Jews fast twice a week – on Mondays and Thursdays.

The early Christian Church followed the Jewish practice but did it on Wednesdays and Fridays in honor of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. Later, fasting was practiced during the Lenten Season. Saint Athanasius wrote: “Behold the efficacy of fasting! It cures sickness, dries the excessive humors of the body, drives out evil spirits, dispels wrongful thoughts, gives the spirit greater clarity, purifies the heart, sanctifies the body and at last leads the person to the throne of God.”

The Muslims also follow the Judeo-Christian tradition of fasting. Practically all Major Prophets fasted for forty days and nights. The Muslims are also commanded to fast but being ordinary mortals, they fast only for thirty days (from sunrise to sunset). The tenth month (Ramadhan) of the Islamic calendar is the month of Fasting. (This year, the first of Ramadhan falls on the 6th of June.)

During the month of Ramadhan (about thirty days), Muslims abstain from food, drinks, sex, gambling and all ungodly acts from dawn to dusk. Evenings are spent on eating, socializing and praying. The evening prayers are held after dinner. The faithful attempt to recite all the verses of the Qur’an within the month of Ramadhan.


According to Traditions: “Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said: ‘Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not for showing off), all his past sins will be forgiven.’” (Hadith : Sahih Bukhari 1.36) This and other sayings from the Hadeeth (Traditions) emphasize that Muslims should fast and pray not because they are forced to, or would like to gain other people’s recognition or any other reason (such as a way to reduce weight) but because they truly desire God’s mercy and blessings.

Fasting has many objectives. One is that for a certain period of the year, all Muslims would feel the same hunger — be they rich or poor, young or old. For a rich man used to having a full breakfast and a 4 to 6-course lunch, fasting would be an ordeal. It is also a very trying time for smokers and womanizers.
But the main purpose of fasting is remembrance — of God. God says in the Qur’an: “Fadhkuruni adhkurukum” (Remember Me and I will remember you).

In Muslim-dominated societies like the Arab countries, Pakistan and Indonesia, Ramadhan brings all the citizens closer together. The Ramadhan good cheer is upon everyone. Even the office hours are changed. In Saudi Arabia, the working hours for some offices during Ramadhan are from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM with no lunch break.

And for the rich people, it is the time to share their wealth and give away their precious dollars or riyals.


Once, when I was in Saudi Arabia, an Arab friend complained that after finishing the Ramadhan evening prayers, the fellow next to him handed him a suitcase full of money. The man requested him to give away the money as he was pressed for time and had to leave immediately. My friend was forced to stay in the mosque and give away the money to everyone who asked.

There was also a time during Ramadhan when my mother and her cousin went to the Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca. While waiting for the start of the evening prayers, a woman sat beside my aunt (she is not actually an aunt; i.e. sister of either of my parents, but it is usual in Moro society to call elder female relatives aunt or “babu”) and told her to vacate her place because the woman’s mistress, a princess, was going to sit there. Naturally, my mother and her cousin were incensed. My “aunt” told the woman that she would not budge because she was a princess, too. The woman was indignant but was forced to look for another place for her princess mistress.

After the prayers, the Arabian princess took out a big bag and started distributing money to the people around her. And the princess’s assistant came to my aunt — not to give her money but to ask for her prayer-carpet. She said it would be an honor to have a souvenir from a Mindanao princess.


For Muslim minorities, Ramadhan reminds them of their distinct identity. This feeling binds them even closer. Children, even those who don’t fast, usually love to eat with the adults as there is always an air of Thanksgiving every “break-fast” time. As a child, I remember Ramadhan as the time of eating dates, a very sweet fruit of the date-palm (phoenix dactylifera).

In the Western concept of time-keeping, the day in the solar calendar begins a minute after midnight or 00:01 hrs. In the Islamic lunar calendar, the “day” begins at sundown. This is most evident during Ramadhan when the community “wakes up” after sunset, the time for breakfast; i.e., breaking the fast.

Before breaking the fast, Muslims usually say a simple prayer that goes: “Oh Allah, I kept the fasting for Thy sake, and I break it with the food Thou hast provided.”  Some families eat their dinner at sunset, while others prefer to take light meals first. Tables usually are filled with coffee, tea, bread, cheese, butter, pastries, fruits and the traditional Ramadhan fruit, the dates. It is customary for Muslims, especially the Arabs, to break the fast with dates and water. After the light meal comes the sunset prayer (Maghreb). Those who only had snacks earlier will then have their full dinner. After dinner, it will be time to go to the mosque for the long Ramadhan evening prayers.

In Muslim countries, the time to go for shopping is at about 10 pm, after the Ramadhan prayers. The cities and towns are usually teeming with people, all enjoying the good cheer after a day-long fast and evening prayers.


According to the Qur’an, the Angel Gabriel first came to the Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadhan. This night is called the Night of Power (Layla-t-ul-Qadr). It is said that prayers offered during this night are equivalent to a thousand or more prayers. But nobody knows the exact date of this Night of Power. According to Islamic scholars, it is most probably during the last 10 days of Ramadhan.

After one month of fasting, the Muslims the world over celebrate the ‘Id al-Fitr, the Feast after the Fast or Thanksgiving Day after the fasting month of Ramadhan. This year, the ‘Id al-Fitr will be on July 6, give or take a day.

The ‘Id al-Fitr or “Hari Raya Puasa” as it is called in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Mindanao, is one of only two celebrations sanctioned by the Qur’an. (The other is the ‘Id-al-Ad-ha, or the Feast of the Hajj.) On this day, it is obligatory for all Muslims to go to the mosque for the Festival (’Id) prayers, preferably in one’s best clothes. It is also obligatory to give charity. It is customary for Muslims to open their houses to everyone, including strangers, for brunch, lunch, merienda cena or dinner. And the adults usually give the children money, which makes this occasion the favorite holiday of Muslim children.


Muslims the world over greet each other “Ramadhan Kareem” during the month and “’Id Mubarak” during the ‘Id celebrations. In Arab countries, the ‘Id is a 3- or 4-day holiday, while in other Muslim countries, ‘Id celebrations extend to two or more weeks. To improve ethnic relations in the country, (then) Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo proclaimed ‘Id al-Fitr a national holiday.

Published in Mr. & Ms. magazine

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Philippine Claim to North Borneo (Sabah): by Jovito Salonga


The Philippine Claim to North Borneo: 
A Statement of Facts.


There is ample justification, I believe, for the statement that emotionalism has beclouded and confused the North Borneo question. There are Filipinos who summarily adopt the my-country-right-or-wrong attitude; in specific terms, they tell us, "Let us have North Borneo by all means," little realizing that by such a hasty, imprudent posture they render no little disservice to the very cause they propose to champion.

At the other end of the line are the faint-hearted souls who cherish a host of vague, nameless fears, and who have not stopped imagining the catastrophic, nuclear wars into which the Philippines would be drawn should it so much as attempt to press the claim to North Borneo, regardless of the merit or validity of such a claim. Responsible quarters confess to no little measure of amusement over the unrestrained enthusiasm, on the one hand, of home-grown nationalists in supporting claims — without adequate study of their validity — of sister countries in Asia over territories held by Western powers, and their unconcealed dread, on the other hand, in espousing a claim — without the slightest inquiry into its possible merit — over a portion of the globe's surface which may belong as a matter of law and equity to Filipinos.

A good number of friends have asked me to deliver what they call an "impassioned speech" on the question, but I had felt that the time was not ripe and that the whole issue should be studied in an atmosphere of dispassion and restraint. I felt and still feel that the restoration of prudence and sobriety in the conduct of our foreign policy is a matter of cardinal importance. In the language of one world statesman, foreign policy is not only what we do, but how we do it.

If the Philippine claim to North Borneo is valid, we should — despite our standing as a young, physically weak nation — institute and press the claim in accordance with the accepted peaceful modes of settlement prescribed by international law and procedure. If, despite the assumed knowledge of the validity and justice of the Philippine claim, we fold our arms in mortal fear, we should lose not merely the respect of all law-abiding nations (the United Kingdom and the Asian countries inparticular), but also a considerable measure of self-respect — which, to my mind, is more important — and, by our own inaction and timidity,lose our faith in the ultimate validity of that which is right and just. If,on the other hand, we come to the conclusion that the Philippine claim is without basis, then we should say so and let the British Government know our stand. Such candor and probity will undoubtedly inspire the respect of the entire free world.

It is partly because of the well known regard of the British Government for the rule of law, and partly because of our deep-seated respect for the British institutions of law and order, that I have requested the Department of Foreign Affairs to make a careful, thoroughgoing study of the question and, if morally convinced of the merit of the Philippine claim, to institute and prosecute this claim through all peaceful processes, including diplomatic negotiations, good offices, commission of inquiry, arbitration, or resort to the International Court of Justice. There need be no fear of breach of amicable relations between the United Kingdom and the Philippines. Both are members in good standing of the United Nations; both are committed to the rule of law and to the necessity of maintaining a society of free men. On the other hand, the peaceful solution of the North Borneo question may well be a distinct Anglo-Philippine contribution, so sorely needed at a time such as this, where instead of a precarious equilibrium of terror as a temporary stabilizing factor in international relations, there should emerge more instances of healthy respect for law and for more voluntary arrangements among nations so that the moral force of right may be made to prevail over the right of might.

Friendly countries will therefore understand why the Filipinos view with deep concern any move on the part of the United Kingdom, in advance of the institution of such a claim, to render academic the North Borneo question through extra-legal means. For instance, a dispatch from Kuala Lumpur. Malaya, published in the New York Times issue of February 7, 1962. states and I quote:

"KUALA LUMPUR, Malaya, Feb. 6. — A political merger under a strong central government has been recommended by the Malaysian Solidarity Committee.
''The five-state merger would create a federation of Malaya, Singapore Island — which is linked to Malaya by a three-quarter mile causeway — and the Northern Borneo territories of Sarawak, Brunei and British North Borneo.
"A British and Malayan commission, headed by Lord Cobbold, former Governor of the Bank of England, is due to arrive in Borneo soon to inquire into public opinion in Sarawak and British North Borneo concerning the merger. Both are crown colonies. Brunei is a British protectorate, and its Government will deal directly with the Federation of Malaya and with London."

One may well inquire: — why this plan of a merger at a time such as this? At any rate, and without considering such a development, let us consider the facts.

I . There is no controversy regarding one historical fact: namely, that in 1850, the Sultan of Brunei, in gratitude for the aid he received during war from the Sultan of Sulu, ceded North Borneo to the latter.

II. In January, 1878, the Sultan of Sulu entered into an agreement with two representatives of a private British company, namely, Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent. It is at this point where controversy arises.

There are, to be sure, several versions of the agreement and quite a number of translations of said agreement. One group of heirs of the Sultan of Sulu submitted a certified translation of a Spanish text of the agreement, dated January 4, 1878, which in turn is a translation of the original in Arabic. Under this document, the Sultan of Sulu merely concluded a contract of lease with Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, and granted to Mr. Overbeck the title of "Datto Padajara Rajah de Sandakan" as long as he might live, with the right to levy taxes on the said land, exploit its ores, forest products and animals, administer justice and collect dues and taxes from the traders of said towns. There are also in the files of the Department of Foreign Affairs several English translations (Conklin translation; Saleeby translation on the "History of Sulu" pp. 225-233; Decision of High Court of Borneo citingtranslation in "Treaties and Engagements affecting the Malay States," by Maxwell and Gibson), which invariably use the terms "lease,' "cede" and "grant."

On the other hand, a document purporting to be the British text of the agreement, kept in the files of the British North Borneo Company in London, would seem to show that the Sultan of Sulu ceded and granted to Overbeck and Dent on January 22, 1878,

"all the rights and powers belonging to me over all the territories and lands being tributary to us on the mainland on the Island of Borneo"
in consideration of a yearly compensation of 5,000 dollars, together "with all other powers and rights usually exercised by and belonging to Sovereign Rulers, and which we hereby delegate to him of our own free and sovereign will."

III. On November 1, 1881, the British Government granted a Charter to the British North Borneo Company which, after a recital of the terms of agreement between the Sultan of Sulu and the two representatives of the Company, empowered the Company to acquire full benefit of the said "grant" and "benefits." Accordingly, Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent turned over their rights to the British North Borneo Company, which continued paying the stipulated 5,000 Malayan dollars.

IV. In 1915, Governor Frank Carpenter, head of the Mindanao and Sulu division of the Philippine Government, defined the stand of the United States vis-a-vis the Sultan's temporal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the territories of the Sultanate beyond American jurisdiction, particularly those in North Borneo. He stated and I quote:

"It is necessary, however, that there be clearly of official record the fact that the termination of the temporal sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu within the American territory is understood to be wholly without prejudice or effect as to the temporal sovereignty and ecclesiastical authority of the Sultanate beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. Government, especially with reference to that portion of the Island of Borneo which as a dependency of the Sultanate of Sulu is understood to be held under lease by the chartered company (known) as the British North Borneo Company."

V. In 1939. a group of heirs of the Sultan filed suit in the court of North Borneo against the Government of North Borneo and the British North Borneo Company for the recovery of the stipulated annual payments. Both defendants admitted their obligation to pay, the only issue being — in view of reported dispute among the heirs — to whom payment was to be made. The High Court of the State of North Borneo, through Chief Justice Macaskie, rendered judgment in favor of the heirs on December 18, 1939.

Crucial Question:

VI. On July 10, 1946, six days after the Philippines became independent, the British Government, by virtue of an alleged agreement between the Secretary of State for the colonies and the British North Borneo Company dated June 6, 1946 — whereby the Company "have transferred and ceded all the said rights, powers and interests to the Crown with effect from the 15th day of July, 1946, to the intent that the Crown should, as from that day, have full sovereign rights over, and title to, the territory of the State of North Borneo, and that the said territory, should thereupon become part of His Majesty's dominions" — announced, by what is now known as the "North Borneo Cession Order," that from the 15th day of July, 1946, "the State of North Borneo shall be annexed to and shall form part of His Majesty's dominions and shall be called, together with the Settlement of Labuan and its dependencies, the Colony of North Borneo."

VII. On February 26, 1947, former Governor General Francis Burton Harrison (as Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs to the Philippine Government), in a special report to the President of the Philippines, considered this an act of political aggression, "which should be promptly repudiated by the Government," since it was done by the British Government "unilaterally and without special notice to the Sultanate of Sulu nor consideration of their legal rights." He added:

"The proposal to lay the case before the United Nations should bring the whole matter before the bar of public opinion.

"Never in history has there been given any people such an opportunity to secure justice by an appeal to the enlightened conscience of mankind."

VIII. In 1957, the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu issued a proclamation declaring the termination of the lease contract over the territory in question effective January 22, 1958. This declaration was served on the British Government. Since then, the heirs have made claims upon the British Government for the return of the territory, but their claims have been disregarded.

The crucial question, then, is one of ownership: Is ownership vested in the United Kingdom? Does the Philippines have any right to claim North Borneo?

In discussing this, I have taken careful note of the statements of the highest British officials and considered the views of English authorities on international law. In this way, we avoid pointless controversy since the British Government cannot possibly dispute, under the principle of estoppel, its own official stand. There may be a lot of wrangling over what is the authentic version of the agreement of 1878, but there can be no debate on the official British stand on that agreement.

At the time the agreement was entered into in 1878, the British North Borneo Company had no legal personality whatever. It was incorporated by Royal Charter only on November 1, 1881. It is important to note this, since admittedly in 1878, North Borneo was not under the territorial supremacy of any member of the Family of Nations.

Overbeck and Dent, therefore, acquired rights over North Borneo merely as private individuals and no more. Their purported acquisition of territory and "sovereignty" was therefore beyond the pale of International Law. Did the incorporation by Royal Charter of the British North Borneo Company in 1881 create a trading company with sovereign rights — even from the English viewpoint — over North Borneo? This was the very bone of contention between the Spanish and Dutch Governments, on the one hand, and the British Government, on the other, soon after the Royal Charter was granted the British North Borneo Co. It is a matter of record that the British Government had declared that it did not intend to acquire sovereign rights in North Borneo. But the Spanish and Dutch Governments protested that such a declaration was inconsistent with the grant of a Royal Charter to the British North Borneo Company, "invested with sovereign rights by the Native Chiefs of North Borneo, and subject, as regards the exercise of these rights, to the Supreme authority of Her Britannic Majesty's Government." The British Foreign Minister, Lord Earl Granville, in a correspondence to the British Minister at Madrid, Mr. Morier (No. 197), dated January 7, 1882, recapitulated "the circumstances under which Her Majesty's Government acceded to the application of the Company for Incorporation by Royal Charter," drew attention "to the special character of that Charter," and explained "its legal effect." Lord Granville said the British North Borneo Company was in fact established under three Charters: (1) the Charter and territorial concession from the Sultan of Sulu; (2) the Charter and territorial concession from the Sultan of Brunei; and (3) the British Charter of incorporation. Note the following significant passages from Lord Granville's correspondence:

"The first two Charters, from the Sultans of Sulu and Brunei, are those under which the Company derive their title to the possession of the territories in question, and their authority to administer the government of those territories by delegation from the Sultans.

"The third Charter is the British Charter under which the Company have obtained incorporation and a recognition of her Majesty's Government of their title to the territories granted. In return for incorporation by Royal Charter, and for the recognition of the Concessions, the Company have surrendered to Her Majesty's Government various powers of control over their proceedings which, though of a negative character only, are sufficient for the prevention by Her Majesty's Government of any abuse in the exercise of the authority conferred by the Sultans. It is important to bear in mind that no such control would have been reserved to the Crown had theCompany taker, incorporation in the usual manner by registration under the Companies Acts, and elected to follow their own course independently of Government support.

"The British Charter therefore differs essentially from the previous Charters granted to the East India Company, the New Zealand Company, and other Associations of that character, in the fact that the Crown in the present case assumes no dominion or sovereignty over the territories occupied by the Company, nor does it purport to grant to the Company any powers of Government thereover; it merely confers upon the persons associated the status and incidents of a body corporate, and recognizes the grants of territory and the powers of government made and delegated by the Sultans in whom the sovereignty remains vested. It differs also from previous Charters, in that it prohibits instead of granting a general monopoly of trade."

In thus differentiating the status of the British North Borneo Company, Lord Granville stated that "after very careful consideration of all the circumstances of the case Her Majesty's Government decided that the Charter should be granted, and you will perceive from an examination of its provisions that its effect is to restrict and curtail the powers of the Company and not to create or enlarge them."

In similarly repudiating the Dutch contention, Lord Granville stated that the territories "will be administered by the Company under the sovereignly of the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu, to whom they have agreed to pay a yearly tribute," and that "the British Government assumes no sovereign rights whatever in Borneo."

Much the same disclaimer was sounded by the famous Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. Speaking in the House of Commons, he acknowledged that the "remarkable powers" obtained by the British North Borneo Company involved the "essence of sovereignty" but they were "covered by the Suzereignty of the Native Chief." He declared that no greater obligation rested upon the Government to protect the Company than "to protect any other subject who might be in pursuit of objects not unlawful."

These authoritative statements show, in brief:

1 . that Overbeck and Dent were not authorized by the British Government to acquire and administer North Borneo; they merely acted in their private individual capacity.

2. that the British North Borneo Company was not invested by the British Government with the public power of acquisition and administration of North Borneo, unlike the different trading companies chartered at the time.

3. that the British Government assumed no rights of sovereignty whatever in North Borneo; and

4. that the British Government explicitly acknowledged the sovereignty and title of the Sultan of Sulu over North Borneo.


The classic British text on International Law, a Treatise on International Law by Oppenheim (7th edition, edited by Lauterpacht, 1948), gives us the significance in International Law of the above facts. Oppenheim states that where an individual or a corporation acquires land in countries which are not under the territorial supremacy of a member of the Family of Nations, such acquisition of territory and sovereignty thereon "takes place outside the dominion of the Law of Nations, and the rules of this law, therefore, cannot be applied," unless the "corporation in question is invested by its State with public power of acquisition and administration." (Volume I, sec. 209 (2), p. 496). He adds:
"If the individual or corporation which has made the acquisition requires protection by the Law of Nations, he or it must either declare a new State to be in existence and ask for its recognition by the Powers, as in the case of the former Congo Free State, or must ask a member of the Family of Nations to acknowledge the acquisition as having been made on its behalf." (Id., at 496, 497.)
It is obvious that the British North Borneo Company, as the successor in interest of Overbeck and Dent, has not declared a new State to be in existence in North Borneo; and it is equally obvious that the BritishGovernment has refused to acknowledge, at least until 1946, the acquisition by Overbeck and Dent, and latterly, the British North Borneo Company, as having been made in its behalf.

What, then, is the significance in International Law, of the British Cession Order of July 15, 1946, which states in part:

"And whereas by an Agreement dated the twenty-sixth day of June, 1946, and made between His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies on behalf of His Majesty (therein and hereinafter referred to as 'the Crown') of the one part and the Company of the other part the Company (amongst other things) have transferred and ceded all the said rights, powers, and interests to the Crown with effect from the fifteenth day of July, 1946, to the intent that the Crown should, as from that day, have full sovereign rights over, and title to, the territory of the State of North Borneo, and that the said territory should thereupon become part of His Majesty's dominions;
"Now, therefore, His Majesty is pleased, by and with the advice of His Privy Council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, as follows:
"1. This Order may be cited as the North Borneo Cession Order in Council, 1946, and shall come into operation on the fifteenth of July, 1946;
"2. As from the fifteenth day of July, 1946, the State of North Borneo shall be annexed to and shall form part of His Majesty's dominion and shall be called, together with the Settlement of Labuan and its dependencies, the Colony of North Borneo;
"3. All persons who on the fifteenth day of July, 1946, are citizens of the State of North Borneo by virtue of the provisions of the North Borneo Naturalization Ordinance, 1931, shall, on that day, become British subjects;
"4. His Majesty hereby reserves to Himself, His Heirs and Successors, power to revoke, alter and to amend this Order."

Note that the Cession Order is convenient in its vagueness as to the exact nature and scope of the rights and interests of the British North Borneo Company. How could it be otherwise in the light of the categorical disclaimers made by Lord Granville and Prime Minister William Gladstone?

Could the British North Borneo Company purport to transfer sovereignty over North Borneo to the Crown? Certainly not. The British Government had made it crystal clear that the Company did not have that power, and that sovereignty remained with the Sultan of Sulu. All that was transferred, in the very carefully worded Cession Order, was the mass of "interests, powers and rights" previously acquired by the British North Borneo Company.

In other words, the assertion of sovereignty over North Borneo by the Crown, effective July, 1946, under its own Cession Order, repudiated and set aside all the solemn Government declarations made by its highest officials; more than that, it threw overboard the sovereignty and title of the Sultan of Sulu which it had acknowledged in the past and completely disregarded the proprietary rights of the heirs of the Sultan over North Borneo. It was, to borrow the language of former Governor General Francis Burton Harrison, "an act of political aggression which should be promptly repudiated by the Government."

I shall not, at this juncture, belabor the point so ably expounded by the Philippines Free Press writer, Mr. Napoleon Rama, namely, that the agreement of 1878 was just a contract of lease, not a contract of cession. The statements of Lord Granville and Prime Minister Gladstone three years after the contract was concluded, the contemporaneous official communications to and from the Minister of State in Madrid, the yearly tribute of 5,000 dollars to the Sultan of Sulu, and the terms of the "Cession Order of 1946" amply show that no cession was contemplated or ever perfected. A lease arrangement which, according to language scholars, is the English translation of the Malayan word, "padjak," would seem to be the only other explanation. At any rate in International Law, individuals do not and cannot enter into treaties of cession (whereby sovereignty is acquired) with native tribal chiefs: these are outside the realm of the Law of Nations.


It is probable that the British Government, to justify its new stand, will fall back on one of two modes of territorial acquisition in International Law; namely, occupation and prescription.

Occupation is an original mode of territorial acquisition, and is effected through possession and administration of the territory by or in behalf of the acquiring State. The prime object of settlement by occupation is the incorporation of unappropriated territory into the national domain of the acquiring State. Only such territory as is not within the dominion of any State may be the object of occupation. In other words, the territory must be res nullius or terra nullius. The term res nullius, as has been interpreted, does not require that the territory be uninhabited, but that it be not already occupied by a people or State whose political organization is such as to cause its prior rights of occupancy to be recognized.

We must concede that in the past European powers did not recognize the title of settled peoples whose civilization was allegedly below the European standard. The emergence of non-European powers, and the growing importance of new nations in the Afro-Asian bloc, have eroded away this concept. At any rate, insofar as the British Government is concerned, it is precluded from claiming that the Sultan of Sulu had a title or a political organization below the European standard. All we need to do is to refer back to the text, of Lord Granville's correspondence. Note the last paragraph in his letter to Morier, the British minister at Madrid, portions of which were quoted earlier:

"As regards the general features of the undertaking, it is to be observed that the territories granted to the Company have been for generations under the government of the Sultans of Sulu and Brunei, with whom Great Britain has had treaties of Peace and Commerce. . ."
It would be passing strange now for the British Government to contend that the Sultan of Sulu did not possess either a perfect title or a political organization below European standards, at least insofar as North Borneo is concerned. In the Law of Nations, states the British authority, Oppenheim, the conclusion of a bilateral treaty, such as a treaty of commerce and navigation, implies recognition (Op. cit., Section 75 (cl) p. 143).


But this is not all. The important thing is that the Cession Order of 1946, annexing as it does the Territory of North Borneo and incorporating it as part of His Majesty's dominions, ran counter to and violated:

(1 ) the official declarations of the British Government as to the legal nature and effect of the Agreement of 1878;

(2) the Treaty of Peace and Commerce entered into between Great Britain and the Sultan of Sulu;

(3) the title and rights of dominion which the Sultan of Sulu, on the strength of British admissions, had over North Borneo.

Oppenheim is authority for the proposition that while it is true that States may acquire new territorial or other rights by unilateral acts, such an annexation, without recognition on the part of third States being required for their validity, yet the position is different when "the act alleged to be creative of a new right is in violation of ... conventional International Law. In such cases the act in question is tainted with invalidity and incapable of producing legal rights beneficial to the wrongdoer in the form of a new title or otherwise." (Op. cit., Sec. 75 (b), at p. 136).

Prescription. — Prescription has been defined as the acquisition of territory by an adverse holding continued through a long term of years. The generally accepted concept of prescription in International Law apparently requires the existence of two essential facts, namely: continuous and undisturbed possession, and lapse of a period of time. Hugo Grotius, the father of International Law, laid down the rule that the adverse holding should go "beyond the memory of man. Vattel maintained that possession may ripen into title only after the lapse of a "considerable number of years " Insofar as the present question is concerned, there may not be sufficient warrant for saying that the British possession was adverse, considering the yearly tributes they have paid to the Sultan of Sulu and his heirs. Their possession from 1946 up to this date, in the light of the continuous protests of the heirs and the termination of the lease, has not been uninterrupted and cannot possibly ripen into a title.

I have heard it said that the Philippine claim may not prosper because of Article 1 of the Philippine Constitution defining the National Territory. Article I provides:

"Section 1. The Philippines comprise all the territory ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris concluded between the United States and Spain on the tenth day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, the limits of which are set forth in Article III of said Treaty, together with all the islands embraced in the treaty concluded at Washington, between the United States and Spain on the seventh day of November, nineteen hundred, and in the treaty concluded between the United States and Great Britain on the second day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty, and all territory over which the present Government of the Philippine Islands exercises jurisdiction."

I feel that those who argue along this line confuse the concept of national domain with proprietary rights of Filipino citizens over a portion of the earth's surface. The Philippine Government is now called upon to defend and vindicate those rights, and if, as I know, appropriate arrangements have been made by the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, with the Philippine Government, there should be no apprehension whatever that this claim will provide undue incentives for mere speculators. In other words, Article I has no applicability whatever to this kind of a claim. In the remote possibility that Article I is made to apply, there is ample room for protection in the saving clause found in said article, in the light of authoritative pronouncements of British officials. We need not even consider the thesis that in 1935, when the Philippine Constitution was adopted by the Filipino people, the Philippines was not an independent State but a mere dependency, and that therefore the restrictive provisions of Article I could not possibly tie the hands of the Republic as soon as independence became a reality.

There is something pathetic in the fact that it took an American official, the former Governor General Francis Burton Harrison, to assess the full import of the Cession Order of 1946. In a special report he submitted on September 26, 1946 in his capacity as Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs to the Philippine Government, he called the Cession Order by its proper name — "an act of political aggression."

It would seem equally pathetic that some home-grown nationalists have counseled the Government to pursue a policy of fear and inaction.

In 1946, the voice of Harrison sounded like a cry in the wilderness. In 1962, that voice has gained volume and is no longer alone. Just a few days ago, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution requesting the President to take all the necessary steps consistent with international law and procedure for the recovery of North Borneo.

Before the bar of world opinion, the Philippines can invoke the ringing declarations of responsible leaders all over the world — including those of the United Kingdom — who have vowed to end the practice of colonialism in all its manifestations. In recent years, the United Nations has been seriously concerned with the problem of colonialism and has now asked for its speedy liquidation. The North Borneo question should furnish an excellent instance for the British Government to translate a preachment into a cold reality. When in 1946, the British Government saw fit to make North Borneo a colony, in disregard of its previous disclaimers, her policy-makers must have foreseen the inevitable consequences of such an inopportune move, considering the temper of subject peoples all over the world. For the Filipinos, the North Borneo situation is not merely a problem of liquidation of colonialism; it is a question of the return to them of what, in law and equity, properly belongs to them, and which they can rightly call their own.

As I said in the beginning, there should be no apprehension of any rupture in the friendly relations between the United Kingdom and the Philippines. Friends can and should at times disagree. The important thing is that they should not become disagreeable. And like two good friends, the Philippines and the United Kingdom can differ on this point without being difficult. It is merely in keeping with the highest traditions of civility and a mutual respect for the rule of law that the Philippine Government should now, in the light of all relevant evidence, institute the claim and initiate the necessary steps toward the peaceful settlement of the North Borneo question.

Manila Times, Manila Chronicle, Philippines Free Press - May, 1962.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

MILF denies attacking Kidapawan jail



MILF washes hands off Kidapawan jail attack



Thursday, February 23, 2012
COTABATO CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) washes hands off the attack on the Kidapawan City Jail last Sunday morning.
MILF Civil Military Affairs Von Alhaq denied the allegations that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (Biaf) attacked the jail around 9:30 a.m. Sunday to release one of the detainees, Datucan Samad, alias Kumander Lastikman.
It can be recalled that the MILF was also involved in the attack of the Cotabato Provincial Jail in 2009 to release their comrades who are considered to be high-risk detainees.
Lastikman is believed to be behind the deaths of 30 civilians in Pikit, North Cotabato last year.
His group is also behind the highway robbery and hold-up incidents in the Cotabato-Davao Highway.
Lastikman is facing charges of extortion, kidnapping, carnapping, robbery hold-up, multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, arson, among others.
However, there are rumors that a breakaway group of the MILF is behind the attack to free Lastikman.
The Kidapawan City Jail and Cotabato Provincial Jail have strengthened its security measures since Sunday. 
(Edgardo Fuerzas)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2012.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Media Bias against Ron Paul

Watched the SC GOP debate. John King was quite subtle in not giving Ron Paul equal time. When he does not ask Paul first (so he won't be able to rebut the others), he leaves him for last. But, instead of letting him answer the same question, he asks him a new question to begin another round of debate. But the audience apparently caught on. On the question of Right to Life, where King instead of asking Paul, was about to start another topic, the audience shouted Paul! Paul! Shame on King! Shame on CNN!

Two weeks ago, when covering Ron Paul's campaign after the New Hampshire primary, Dana Bash said to husband and CNN colleague John King. “I’m sure you talk to Republicans who are worried as well, just like I am, that Ron Paul will continue on long into the spring and summer." 

In a statement, CNN said: “The notion that Dana is anything but objective is preposterous. Dana’s report should be fully reviewed in the context in which she meant it—to reference John’s sources and her sources, not her own opinion. “

Obviously, CNN does not know what OBJECTIVE means.  It was very clear to all and sundry that Bash said, “as I am”. She told the world that she was worried that “Ron Paul will continue on long into the spring and summer." Where is the objectivity in that? And it was very much her own opinion.

Really, I have never seen such Media Bias against any candidate! Too bad I'm not teaching Journalism or Media Studies anymore. The GOP campaign is a great eye-opener for students. 

It’s a pity that Filipino professors could not care less about the US elections. So Journalism or Media Studies students are missing the historic opportunity to observe in “real-time” Media Bias in action and thus confirm Media Studies theories.

Monday, October 03, 2011



FEDERALISM: Many Nations - One State

Datu Jamal Ashley Abbas

The Mindanao problem is ultimately a POWER problem – the power of one group over another. It is a problem of colonization. The fact that there was a law called the Legislative Act 4197 or Quirino-Recto Colonization of Mindanao Act, which was enacted on 12 February 1935 is very telling. The Commonwealth considered the Act as a lasting solution to Mindanao colony. The law enabled a massive exodus of settlers from Luzon and Visayas to Mindanao, with complete government support.

Partly in response to the Act, on 18 March 1935, 120 Maranao datus signed a manifesto, known as the Dansalan Declaration, and submitted it to the US President. The datus opposed the annexation of Mindanao to Luzon and Visayas.     

A year and a half later, Commonwealth President Quezon signed into law Commonwealth Act 141 which classified all Moro lands as PUBLIC LANDS, thus making all the Moros squatters in their own homeland.

Today, the social reality constructed by the Filipino leaders since the Commonwealth, supported by the vast resources of the government, has now been fairly entrenched such that the word Colonization or Occupation of Mindanao seems out of place.

The Philippine narrative that is the bedrock of the imagined Philippine nation goes something like this:
The Philippines is one country and until recently, the only Christian nation in Asia. It has minorities, who are also citizens of this nation-state. The citizens are called Filipinos. They belong to one race, one culture, one psychology, one destiny, one history. Those who do not think they should be a part of this nation-state have no choice because there is only one country, the Philippines. The fundamental law of the land is its Constitution.
The media constantly reinforces this narrative. In “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao"(Q.C.:2000), top journalists Vitug and Gloria says:  “Mindanao was part of the Philippines ever since the Spanish colonizers came and created boundaries in what were formerly trading networks” 


History is “the act of selecting, analyzing and writing about the past. It is something that is done, that is constructed.” (Davidson and Lytle 1982) 

The grand historical narrative is this:
The Archipelago is nothing but a bunch of barangays ruled by datus. “Mother Spain” came to the Philippines and gave the natives Christianity and civilization – education, language, the arts, architecture and even cuisine.
For 350 years, the Spanish nurtured the people and protected them from the murderous raids of the Moros – the pirates


Throughout the Spanish rule in the Philippines, the term Filipino was reserved for pureblood Spaniards, differentiated only as peninsulares (those born in the Spanish Peninsula) and insulares (those born in the Islands). The Christianized natives were never called Filipinos. They were referred to as indios or naturales. Even the mestizos (half-breeds) were not called Filipinos.

 In the latter part of the 19th century, Governor-General Clavecilla ordered all indios (except Manila’s local nobility, i.e., descendants of Rajah Suleiman and Lakandula) to adopt Spanish names in pain of punishment if they refused to do so. Thus, present-day Filipinos bear Spanish names. Having a Spanish name does not make one a Spaniard.

When the Aguinaldo government appropriated the term Filipino for the indios, the identification with the Spanish masters became complete. In one semantic stroke, the history of the Philippines became the history of the indios (the present-day Christian Filipinos) and not of the Spaniards (the original Filipinos).

This is a grave malady. By appropriating the name Filipino, the present-day Filipinos think that the Filipinos referred to in history indicate them and not the Spaniards. This makes them identify with the Spanish, forgetting that under Spain, their forefathers were virtual slaves – mandated to do forced labor and were considered eternal minors.

Leon Ma. Guerrero, one of the elites who constructed the “imaginary nation” called Filipino nation, had a hard time translating Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere. In the novel, Rizal used the word Filipino to mean Spaniards in the Philippines which was incomprehensible to most readers in the 1950s who were brought up to believe that the term Filipino meant them, i.e. Christianized natives. Benedict Anderson (1994) wrote : 
“…young Filipinos would at once see, in any straight translation from the Spanish, that they do not exist within the novel’s pages. Filipinas, of course appear, but they are exactly what today’s Filipinas are not: ‘pure-blood’ Spanish Creoles.” 

Guerrero, in his attempt to fit the Noli into the elites’ “nation-state project”, effectively revised history. The Filipinos in Guerrero’s translation considered both Spain and Philippines as homes, worshiped European-looking deities, spoke foreign languages, alluded to Greco-Roman classical mythology and fell in love with Caucasian ladies. References to colonial abuse were rendered bland and ineffective. And since the modern-day Filipinos believe that they (or their forefathers) were the ones referred to in the book, it is but natural for them to imbibe the thoughts and beliefs of the Noli’s characters. In effect, Guerrero re-wrote the Noli. Jose Rizal must have turned in his grave when the translation was published and made required reading for Filipino students.

And so the confusion of the modern-day Filipinos’ identity continues. The historical narrative continues as such:
In 1896, Bonifacio and the Katipunan revolted against the Spanish. In 1898, with the assistance of Commodore Dewey, Aguinaldo defeated the Spaniards and proclaimed Independence. Soon after, the Philippine-American War erupted and by 1902, it was officially over. Philippines became an American territory.
New Filipino leaders – Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, etc. – emerged. America bestowed democracy to the Philippines. America pacified Mindanao. Quezon et al worked for Independence. America declared a Commonwealth and gave Filipinos self-government. World War II came and Filipinos fought side by side with Americans against Japanese. After WWII, America granted Philippine Independence. And the Philippines is now a democratic republican nation with a homogeneous people and culture, thanks to Mother America

In short, the Moros and Christian Filipinos were colonized by the Spaniards and Americans and they share the same colonial history. The only difference is that the Moros were mostly bandits and so had to be punished (Spanish “punitive expeditions”) every so often, as the grand narrative goes.

And since Philippine history books recounting events from 1521- 1886 were about the Spaniards in the Philippines including Philippine literature like Noli Me Tangere, the Filipinos identify with the Spaniards. 

The Christianized Filipinos' (or Indios') historical experience with the Moros was fret with horrors. Caught between the Moros and the Spaniards, the Indios suffered terribly from both parties. Forced to side with the Spaniards, they bore the brunt of Moro retaliatory raids in their communities. And to ensure their cooperation against the Moros, the Spaniards demonized the Moros in their literature, church sermons and stage plays like the moro-moro where the Muslim is always the villain.

When America gave Moroland to the Filipinos in 1946, the Indios (now called Filipinos) found themselves, at least theoretically, masters of the Islands. The Colonization of Mindanao was pursued vigorously with slogans like "Mindanao, Land of Promise" to entice the Indios to settle in Mindanao. Finally, the Indios became colonizers.

Filipino leaders promoted the slogan, "Go South, Young Man!" imitating the slogan "Go West, Young Man" which the Americans used to promote the colonization of the Western United States which belonged to the American Indians. And to make the analogy even stonger, the Indios referred to the Moros as Tribes just like the Navajo or the Iroquois.

In constructing the “Filipino nation”, the Grand Narrative of the Christian Filipinos and the government is embodied in the “One-Nation Theory.”

One-Nation One-History Syndrome

The Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were established ca. 1400’s. According to “official” Philippine history, the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao) was discovered by Fernando Magallanes in 1521. However, historical accounts say that Mindanao and Palawan were already known to the rest of the world way before that time. 

If one were to visit the Malacañang Museum, a guide would point out a 16th century map that he/she would describe as the oldest map that shows the Philippines. A closer look at it would reveal that the map indicates only Mindanao and Palawan. Luzon and Visayas were not yet “discovered”.

The official historical view claims that 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines included Moroland. Spanish attacks against the Moros were called “punitive expeditions against rebellions.” Moro victories over the Spanish were denied or ignored. Moro raids on the Christian natives were called pirate attacks.

This is what can be called “the one-nation one-history syndrome”. This syndrome propagates the myth that the present-day Philippines has always been one nation sharing one history. It is alleged that the only difference between the Moros and the Christianized natives (indios) was that the Moros continually resisted while the indios resisted only intermittently (Dagohoy Rebellion, Diego Silang rebellion, etc.)

There is a preponderance of evidence against this myth. While the Indios were under Spanish colonial rule, the Moro sultanates thrived. The Moros were considered sovereigns by European powers, including Spain, as proven by treaties between them. Even the US signed the Bates Treaty with Sulu thus proving that the Treaty of Paris was not sufficient or even valid in the case of Sulu. Primary sources abound in the archives not only in Manila but also in Madrid, London, and Amsterdam.

BANGSA MORO (Moro Nation)

In the late 1960s, the Moro Young Turks led by Abbas, Jr., Misuari et al, supported by their elders proposed another narrative: the Bangsa Moro nation as distinct from the Filipino nation.
This Bangsa Moro nation concept is steeped in history, with the Moros unconquered by colonizers and as great defenders of Islam.

Graeme Turner (1993) says that “implicit in every culture is a ‘theory of reality’ which motivates its ordering of that reality into good and bad, right and wrong, them and us, and so on.”(p.133) The belief system produced by this ‘theory of reality’ is called ideology. 

Ideology and history are both social constructs. Turner says, “Ideology works to obscure the process of history so that it appears natural, a process we cannot control and which it seems churlish to question.” (Turner, Graeme (1993) Film as Social Practice London: Routledge)
A nation’s collective memory is complex and in continuous flux. “It is basically made up of stories: the myriad stories which people tell each other; and, more significantly, the mass mediated narratives of a nation's 'official' history, told in books and other cultural artifacts like television and feature films.” (Ituralde 1995)


In the Mindanao Conflict – two constructs are fighting – the “Filipino nation” construct as created by successive Philippine governments and the Bangsa Moro construct exemplified by the MNLF and MILF.

On the one hand, there is the “one-nation narrative” that asserts the indivisibility of the “Filipino nation”, proud of its Christian religion and Western heritage and identifies with the Spaniards of historical texts. This group believes in “democracy” defined as rule of the majority.
On the other hand is the Bangsa Moro narrative that gives prime importance to the Islamic religion and Moros’ historical fight against Westerners. Believers in this narrative hope to get back their former territory and freedom.

With two diverging social constructs, it would be very difficult to find a middle ground. A million dialogues will not accomplish anything if the premises of both groups are clearly divergent.
With number and over-all resources on its side, the Christian Filipino would not easily give in to any demands of the other party. The logical thing to do would be to convince the other party of the soundness of the “one-nation” principle and debunk the Bangsa Moro or Moro nation theory by emphasizing on the divisions of the Moro nation.

Appdurai (1996) says: “Through ‘print capitalism’ (Benedict Anderson 1991) and ‘electronic capitalism’ such as films and TV (Warner 1992, Lee 1993), citizens imagine themselves to belong to a national society. The modern nation-state in this view grows less out of natural facts – such as language, blood, soil and race – and more out of a quintessential cultural product, a product of the collective imagination.” With all resources at its command, the government can simply reinvigorate its construction of the reality of “One Filipino nation”.

The dominant group will insure that the received reality prevents an examination of the non-viability of present situation (one-nation principle).

The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF was junked and the latest MILF-GPH talks were stalled because the dominant group refuses to consider that the status quo is not viable. In the Filipino grand narrative, there is only One Constitution for ALL citizens just as there is one “national language, one national anthem, one national dress, etc.” There is only one government, one security force, etc.

While the “Filipino nation” has been continually constructed since the Commonwealth, the “Moro Nation” concept came up only in the late 1960s. And because of lack of mass media and other resources, such concept has not yet taken root as much as the Filipino nation.
Also, for centuries, the Moro groups have been keenly aware of their own history individually – Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Buayan and the Pat a Pangampong ko Ranao. These were virtual nation-states and acted independently of fellow Moro states.Thus, many Moros are still not comfortable with the notion of one Moro nation.


Both sides must examine their theories, assumptions, axioms, etc

History is a construct. History is used as the “memory” of another socially and culturally constructed concept, the nation. But what is constructed can be re-constructed. For the Filipino nation to find its Identity and be at peace with the Moros, it is high time that it’s “memory” be re-investigated. Philippine history does not need re-construction. It merely needs re-discovery.

Using new approaches like microhistory, forgetting the grand narratives and keeping an open mind, Moros and Indios might find that they have many commonalities and that in many ways, they do have a shared history and be better off with a shared future, where power is equitably distributed and shared.

We don’t have to belong to One Nation. But we can belong to One State. There can be MANY NATIONS in ONE STATE or MANY STATES in ONE NATION-STATE. There can be many nations in a Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation) and many more in the Filipino nation just as there are many nations in a British or German nation and much more in a European Nation.

The dissolution of the USSR, Yugoslavia and other nation-states born after WWII as well as the many problems experienced by many other nation-states like Thailand, Myanmar, Iraq, Philippines, the Middle Eastern countries, etc. means that the “nation-state” project of the Western world has failed. A new system may be the way of the future: nations-state like the European Union - many nations in one state.

In a federal Philippine nation-state, we can have several autonomous states like the Tagalog State, the Ilocano State, the Bicol State, the Ilonggo State, the Cebuano/Binisaya State in the Visayas, the Binisaya State in Mindanao,etc. And we could have a Maranao State, a Tausug State (or Sultanate of Sulu) and a Maguindanao/Buayan State.


-           Study history – Moro, Indio, Filipino, Islamic, World history

-       Practice critical thinking – do not believe books or teachers unless their arguments are backed by proofs – documents and logic.

-         Look for points of convergence, commonalities

-    Disseminate what you have learned or concluded through whatever media – the internet (blogs, websites, social media network), printed materials like magazines, papers, journals, TV, radio, speaking engagements, etc.

-     Look for alternatives to the grand narratives and help create a new one that would embrace all.

A Peaceful Philippines is a Prosperous Philippines.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bangsa Moro Problem through Krippendorf’s emancipatory theory


March 2002

by ©Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas

In 1989, Klaus Krippendorf wrote his The Power Of Communication And The Communication Of Power: Toward An Ethical Theory Of Communication. In this theory, he proposes, “to examine a pathology of communication of which the social use of the notion of power is an illustrative example. He discusses ethical issues of communication practices which would lead to an outline of the elements of an emancipatory communication theory.

Krippendorf defines Ethics as any system of thought and action that a] prevents social pathologies from arising, b] helps to overcome social pathologies that may have arisen elsewhere and c] does not constitute a pathology by itself.

Note that the definition is a] negative and not normative and self-referenced; i.e., an ethic be ethical by its own criteria.

Krippendorf defines PATHOLOGY as a deviation from something collectively desirable. Pathology becomes social when others are seen as co-determinants of the entrapment. A social pathology becomes one of communication when it is constituted in language, in the interactive use of discourse.

Is the Moro Problem a communication pathology? Let us analyze it through Krippendorf’s conditions for a TRAP:

1.CLOSED SYSTEM of reality constructions

The prevailing ideas in the Philippines, as perpetuated by Mass Media and all State apparatuses, are:

The Philippines is one country, the only Christian nation in Asia. It has minorities, who are also citizens of this nation-state. The citizens are called Filipinos. They belong to one race, one culture, one psychology, one destiny one history. Those who do not think they should be a part of this nation-state have no choice because there is only one country, the Philippines. 

The Moros are impoverished because they are mostly illiterate, uneducated, “uncivilized”. They are mostly terrorists and bandits. Their leaders enriched themselves at the expense of the ordinary Moros. 

Mindanao, the “Land of Promise”, needs Christian Filipino industriousness and general know-how to bring out its full potential.

2. The closed system is, or at least some of its constituents are demonstrably non-viable, incorrect, invalid, untenable, the source of stress and pain, etc.

Without doubt, the Bangsa Moro people are marginalized, impoverished. Their provinces are the least developed and the poorest in terms of revenues, per capita income, literacy rate, etc. In the early 1970’s, they waged a war that resulted in at least 50,000 deaths, millions of casualties, 500,000 refugees in Sabah, and at its height, cost the Marcos government 1 million dollars a day.

While the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 reduced the fighting, the state of rebellion continued to exist. Today, the Philippine government even called on the American Armed Forces to help defeat some of these Moros. Premise No. 2 is therefore demonstrably valid.

3. Certain of its constituents prevent examination of the system’s non-viability.

The Philippine government, while supporting the independence of East Timor, a nation that cannot even show an independent history as the Bangsa Moro, declares that the sovereignty of the Philippine nation-state and its Constitution, which has been changed several times, remains supreme. The Filipino majority would not allow the “desecration” of the “Filipino nation”. 

According to Krippendorf, political alienation, racial prejudice, powerlessness and all kinds of addictions are social pathologies according to the three requirements.

Let us examine the Problem through Krippendorf’s other criteria:



“Mindanao was part of the Philippines ever since the Spanish colonizers came and created boundaries in what were formerly trading networks” 
--Vitug and Gloria “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao" (Q.C.:2000, 327 pp.)

The above statement correctly summarizes the official position of the government and practically all Christian Filipinos.

OUTSIDER OPINION: (cultural and historical “outsiders”)

“If (territorial) claims were based on raiding villages, then the Maguindanaons (the Sultanate of Maguindanao) had much more territory to claim than the Spaniards. The Muslims have the Spanish settlements burning and blazing every year and take some 500 captives per raid, while the Spaniards got only one Maguindanao(n) last year."
--Simon Cos, Dutch Governor of Moluccas May 16, 1658

"Her Majesty's government has never regarded the Sultan of Sulu as a pirate; they never admitted the claim of Spain to sovereignty over the archipelago; and in the interests of British trade, they never have been disposed to regard with favor any extension of Spanish authority or influence in the Sulu waters..." 
-- the British Earl of Denby's instruction to Consul Palgrave on Aug. 25, 1877

"From this time...these Moros have not ceased to infest our colonies. Innumerable are the Indios they have captured, the ranches they have destroyed and the vessels they have taken. It seems as if God has preserved them for vengeance on the Spanish that they have not been able to subject them in 200 years in spite of the expeditions sent against them, the armaments spent every year to pursue them. In a very little while, we conquered the islands of the Philippines, but the little islands of Sulu, parts of Mindanao and other islands nearby, we have not been able to subjugate to this very day." 
– Spanish Captain-General Marquma to the King of Spain in the late 18th century

“The close of the unsuccessful Spanish conquest of Moroland marked the beginning of the end of one of the most remarkable resistance in the annals of military history. The Moslems has staged a bitter and uninterrupted warfare against the might of Spain for a period of 377 years. It is doubtful if this record has been equaled in the whole bloody history of military aggression. The Dons, accustomed to the easy conquests of Peru and Mexico, met their match and more in the jungles of Mindanao.”
   – Vic Hurley, “Swish of the Kris: The Story of the Moros”

Muslims are geographically concentrated in the south of the country, and are distinguished from Christian Filipinos not only by their profession of Islam but also by their evasion of 300 years of Spanish colonial domination.” 
-- THOMAS M. MCKENNA Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of 
Anthropology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA. March 17, 1999

And of course, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) recognizes the Bangsa Moro Cause and has given the MNLF observer status.

Clearly, there is quite a divergence of opinion from the outside (non-Filipinos throughout history) and inside (present-day Filipino dominant opinion.)


Oppression is usually an explanation of someone’s disablement or burden in terms of political rule (traditionally), of social class (since Marx) and recently, of ethnicity, gender and age.

Oppressed people acknowledge their pain and misery but they deny themselves the ability to change. They blame others, technology, political structures or unethical values. In other words, scapegoating.

Many Moros believe the propaganda that they are themselves to blame, esp. their leaders.


Krippendorf is one of the theorists who believe that the ordinary use of language can entrap people or even societies. He cites Stoltzenberg, who says:

Entrapment…consists, first, in being taken in a] by certain uses of language that have the appearance, but only that, of being meaningful; and] by certain modes of reasoning that have the appearance, but only that, of being self-evidently correct;….

Last week, when I questioned the validity of a “Filipino” psychology, the response of the Communication 240 class of the UP CMC Graduate School was almost unanimous. They all affirmed: “We are all Filipinos.” “We are in the same geographical area” “We have one psychology.” “Until the Moros become independent, we are all Filipinos”!

Even some Moros believe that they are Filipinos, sharing the same culture, psychology and even history as the Christian majority.

Yet when did the word “Filipino” belonged to the present-day Filipino? Before 1898, the term Filipino is reserved for the Spaniards in the Philippines, both peninsulares and insulares. The grandfathers and great-grandfathers of present-day Christian Filipinos were called Indios or Naturales.That was why Leon Ma. Guerrero, one of the elites who constructed the “imaginary nation” called Filipinos, had a hard time translating Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere.

In the novel, the word Filipino as understood in the 1950s was not used. Benedict Anderson wrote:
“…young Filipinos would at once see, in any straight translation from the Spanish, that they do not exist within the novel’s pages. Filipinasof course appear, but they are exactly what today’s Filipinas are not: ‘pure-blood’ Spanish Creoles.” (Pertierra and Ugarte 1994 p. 108)

- Two different histories. The Moro and Indio peoples have two very different histories. 

-The Lease of Sabah to British East India Co. in 1878 is one proof that the Sultan of Sulu was not part of the Philippines under the Spanish.

-The Filipino Revolution of Bonifacio and Aguinaldo did NOT include the Moros. Aguinaldo sent letters urging the Moros to fight the Spanish. The Moro datus answered that they had been doing that all the time and now it was the time for the Indios to do the same. 

-Bates Treaty proved that America did not consider Treaty of Paris sufficient to claim Mindanao and Sulu

-During the American Period, the word Filipino referred to Christian Filipinos.

-The Moro Province and later Department of non-Christian tribes were administered by the Americans separately.

-The Quezon-Osmena political fight for Philippine independence were opposed by the Moros

-1922 Wood-Forbes Commission concluded that the Moros, including “pagans and non-Christians” in Mindanao, did not want to be with the rest of the Philippines in case of independence from the US

- The Bacon Bill of 1926 (US Congress) demanded the separation of Mindanao and Sulu from the Philippines

- US Sec. of War Patrick Hurley’s visit to the Philippines in 1931 resulted in “a great quantity of petitions from Moros asking for American sovereignty in one form or another” 

- Pres. Hoover vetoed the Philippine Independence Act of 1933 in response to Moro protests.

And now, Pres. GMA declared that “if you are not in favor of the presence of American forces to fight the ABU SAYYAF, THEN YOU ARE NOT A FILIPINO.” She added, “If you are not a Filipino, then who are you? A protector of TERRORISTS, a cohort of murderers, an Abu Sayyaf lover.”

In a non-Moro Filipino mind, what usually accompanies the word "terrorists"? Moros or Muslims. Abu Sayyaf is a Moro group. Semiotically, psychoanalytically, GMA was saying “If you are not a Filipino, then you are a Moro/Muslim lover.”

Metaphor, according to Krippendorf, is “a pattern, an explanatory structure, tied to a word or expression that is successful in a familiar domain of experiences and carried from there into another familiar domain whose experiences and actions it thereby organizes and coordinates in its own way.” Ex.:Pilipinas, ang Inang Bayan.


Kurt Black (1989) states that language has two functions: transmission and influence. Hence, effective communication becomes the powerful communication of power.

After WWII, the leaders of the new nation-states like Egypt, India, Indonesia and the Philippines spent most of their rhetorical energies convincing their fellow citizens to give up their primordial loyalties – family, caste, religion, ethnic group, nation, history, etc. – in the interest of a new abstraction called the “nation-state”.

Suddenly, there is this abstraction called “India” (Nehru’s India was not like the “British” India or the Mughal India), Indonesia (Sukarno’s Indonesia vs. the Dutch East Indies), the Philippines (the Roxas’s Republic of the Philippines vs. the Philippine Commonwealth or the Spanish Filipinas or Aguinaldo’s Republica or the Katipunan’s Katagalugan)

It was only at this time that the Moros participated fully in the construction of a “Filipino nation.” – A new batch of leaders – educated by Americans and graduates of Manila universities – were part of the elites who constructed the notion that the Moros were Filipinos. Amilbangsa, Abbas, Sr., Domocao Alonto, Pendatun, and the Sinsuat brothers cemented the triumph of the Moro "Filipinistas" over the Moro "Americanistas”. In fact, Sen. Alonto filed a bill that prohibited the use of the word Moros and called for the use of term Muslim Filipinos instead. Sen. Pendatun was one of the primary sponsors of the creation of PMA (Phil. Military Academy). Abbas penned the judicial ruling that a Muslim Filipino who got married in civil rites lost his right to divorce and other marital practices under Moro customary law (most of them based on the Shar’iah).

In the early 60s, the Moros realized that they got a very small slice of the national pie. There were no Moros in the Cabinet except for Datu Duma Sinsuat, a classmate of Macapagal. There were no generals except for Pendatun who was a Reservist. There were no judges in the CFI and higher except for Abbas, who got his post as the quid pro quo for his campaign efforts for Magsaysay in the presidential elections.

By the late 60s/early 70s, the Moros realized that the Moro experiment with Filipino nationhood was a failure. Moro ‘Young Turks’ – Abbas, Jr., Misuari, Salamat, etc. – led the movement for “Moro nationalism” which produced the MNLF, MILF, BMLO, etc. and called themselves Moros. It must be noted though that their elders, who had also realized that the “Philippine nation-state” project was a failure, supported these young Turks.

Thus, it was only from 1946-1969 (the formation of MNLF and MIM), a period of 23 years did the Moros agree to be called “Filipinos”

Wilson and Dissanayake (p.3) says: “The nation-state, in effect, have been shaped into an ‘imagined community’ of coherent modern identity through warfare, religion, blood, patriotic symbology and language…”

“Modern nationalism involve communities of citizens in the territorially-defined nation-state, who share the collective experience, not of face –to – face contact or common subordination to a royal person, but of reading books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps and other modern texts together (Habermas 1989, Calhoun 1992). (Appadurai, p.159)

Philippine history books portray the Philippines as one nation, one people since the coming of Magellan.

Philippine history books glorify the event of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon’s and his wife’s conversion to Christianity. But they conveniently leave out what happened next. After Magellan’s death, Humabon invited the Spaniards to a feast and massacred all of them except one who was permitted to go back to his shipmates to ask for ransom.

Philippine history books chronicle only the activities of Spaniards up to ca.1896. It should be properly called not Filipino history but Spanish history in Las Filipinas (Philippine Islands) and the Spanish response to the various sporadic indio revolts as well as the Spanish-Moro wars. These same texts see Moro history as similar to indio revolts, albeit sustained and long-term. 
The fact is that Moros and Indios never had any contact (except during wars where the Indios fought for the Filipinos (Spanish) during the Spanish era. The Moros and the Indios came together officially only during the Commonwealth era.

Appadurai (1996) goes on to say: “Through ‘print capitalism’ (Benedict Anderson 1991) and ‘electronic capitalism’ such as films and TV (Warner 1992, Lee 1993), citizens imagine themselves to belong to a national society. The modern nation-state in this view grows less out of natural facts – such as language, blood, soil and race – and more out of a quintessential cultural product, a product of the collective imagination.”


According to this theory, indications for entrapment of power are:

1.Obviously true from within. Nearly every change can be explained as a consequence of where the power to cause it resides. 


2.While convincing, it is also painful, debilitating and depressing to those who do not see themselves as having the power to control their lives


To remedy the pathology requires one:

1. To create alternative constructions that are both incompatible with the dominant power notions and potentially viable.


2. To show that the received reality prevents an examination of its non-viability; 

The Government, Media and the Christian majority refuse to recognize the Bangsa Moro’s right to self-determination while insisting on the sanctity of the Philippine constitution which insists on referenda, i.e., on the say-so of the Christian majority.

3. To show how language is implicated in this entrapment.

Example: The sacredness of the Philippine Constitution. The indivisibility of the Philippine Republic. The shared historical heritage of the Moros and Filipinos. “All are Filipinos.” One nation, One culture, One psychology

Power resides in social relationships. In society, it is not the power of the powerful that forces the powerless into compliance, but it is compliance that invites power to emerge. (The imbecility of men -- such as the corruption of Moro politicians-- invites the impudence of power.)
In 1946, because of WWII, the Moros were overtaken by events and woke up one day to find themselves “Filipinos”. Moro leaders underestimated the Filipinos. They thought that there would be equality in the new Republic. Some leaders also found it more convenient to ally themselves with the Indios.

Krippendorf reiterates that “Power does not reside in objective conditions outside social relationships but in the reality constructions invented, talked about, held on to and complied with those involved.”

Ultimately, the Moros hold the power to choose their destiny.

Reasons for Inability to recognize entrapments:

1. Belief in reality consisting of tangible objects that can be characterized as possessing or acquiring certain properties with time. Ex. Green parrots, red apples, powerful people, the powerless “masa”, the dominant elite, Muslim terrorists, Moro bandits.

2. Reliance on linear causal constructions of reality. This comes from the S-V-O sentence construction. A causes B but who caused B? 

MOROS WERE PART OF THE PHILIPPINE REPUBLIC IN 1946 SO THEY STAY THAT WAY. Moros are uneducated and poor and cannot govern themselves. Moro provinces are poor because Moro leaders are corrupt. And so on and so forth.

3. Embedded in the causal construction are the abstract nature of power and the systematic confusion of explanatory constructs with experiences. Power turns out to be such a “powerful” notion because its abstract nature defies disconfirmation by observation. It is presupposed in the way experience is framed and accepted as such in discourse.


4. Concept of language as a system of representations or symbols according to which talk is always ABOUT something, about a world outside the speaker, as if language is not part of the world it describes.


In this theory, language is constitutive of reality. Words are deeds (Wittgenstein 1953). John Austin’s (1962) performatives are cases in point. Ex.: Priest says: “I pronounce thee Husband and Wife.” Therapeutic interventions, political agenda-setting, self-fulfilling prophesies, blaming someone a criminal before trial are examples of how assertion of something can make it real for those who use that language.

For a linguistic assertion to do something, someone must let it participate meaningfully within his or her reality construction wherein it preserves its coherence while intervening in or working itself through it.

In the Maranao language, the word Filipino DENOTES non-Muslim or Christian Filipinos. It has several negative CONNOTATIONS. A Maranao might describe himself as “Filipino” when speaking English or Tagalog to non-Moros, but he will NEVER use the word “Filipino” to describe himself when conversing in Maranao with fellow Maranaos. 

This proves the importance of Krippendorf’s assertion that we must study LANGUAGING, the very process language is used by the speakers themselves. It is incongruous for a Maranao to talk of a “Filipino” psychology if he will not use the very word “Filipino” to describe himself in the vernacular to his fellow Maranaos.

Objective descriptions of social relationships in terms of power, from Marx to Foucault, only breeds power, empowers the powerful (by reifying the power they already possess) and continue to disable the powerless whoever they may be.

Krippendorf argues that “scholars of human communication have an ethical responsibility to develop reality constructions and support the emancipation from pathological reality constructions wherever they arise and whenever they can be recognized as such.”

According to Krippendorf, there are elements of an ethical theory of communication. Ethical theory must be general, but cannot be predictive for this would precipitate the very class distinction that denies its generality. Hence, an ethical theory must be applicable in principle, suggestive perhaps but demonstrably viable in discourse practice. It should evidence the human concern it espouses in its very proposition.

Seeing others in more or less painful pathological conditions, without apparent hope to escape from them, entails an ethical responsibility for communication.

Also, ethical discourse is emancipatory at its core. The film “Bagong Buwan”, for example, portrayed some of the woes of the Moros. But there is also the other side of the coin, the death and suffering of Christian Filipinos. 


Krippendorf’s theory is not just hermeneutic or critical it is also ethical. He maintains that it is incumbent upon everyone to acknowledge a pathology and seek its cure. The Bangsa Moro situation in the country is a pathology and is in need of a cure. The cost in terms of dollars and lives it has already exacted is already considerable. The health of the country as a whole will never achieve its full potential if this pathology continues. The presence of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the US Armed Forces in Mindanao is symptomatic of the gravity of this pathology.

The country can pretend through languaging that the situation is “isolated” and easily solved. Marcos waged an all-out war against the Moros. Erap waged an all-out war against MILF. Erap proclaimed that the Abu Sayyaf had been wiped out. Now GMA called on the US military machine to “wipe out terrorism” in the Philippines.

The way of the gun has been tried many times over. Perhaps it is better to try an honest-to-goodness dialogue, with thorough analysis of the socio-cultural and historical situation and be prepared to accept the truth -- see the disease as it actually is, and implement the necessary cure, however painful.