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. 

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