Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, Almost Got Separated from the Jurisdiction of the Philippine Government…during the American Regime

Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan, Almost Got Separated

From the Jurisdiction of the Philippine Government

…during the American Regime

Apolinario Villalobos

In November 1923, the American Chamber of Commerce of Mindanao and Sulu made a proposal to make the Muslim area as an unorganized domain directly under the rule of the Americans. A distinct system of government suited for the area was suggested. However, the proposal was not given much attention, until the Bacon Bill revived the issue.

The sponsors of the Bacon Bill expressed that they just wanted to protect the “defenseless and unarmed, though proud and self-respecting Moros”. As expected, the Filipino leaders opposed the Bill, as they saw the hidden motive behind it which was the exploitation of the areas for rubber production in favor of the American interest. During the time, about more than three million hectares of land in Mindanao were suitable for the cultivation of rubber tree. The Filipinos vehemently insisted that, would there be foreign investors interested in seizing the opportunity of cultivating rubber in Mindanao, it should be fairly done under the administration of the Philippine Government.

As a last desperate argument, proponents of the proposal also insisted that the Moros in Mindanao were never desirous of independence, but prefer to remain under the sovereignty and protection of the Americans. They cited an incident in the past, whereby, Moro leaders supposedly, petitioned the Governor General and the US Congress about such desire. Unfortunately, this allegation was not factually established, as some parties insisted that Filipino Muslims did not really want to separate from their Christian brothers and sisters, but to have independence with them.

The importune Bacon Bill, fortunately, did not illicit support from then, President Collidge and the US Congress. Lately, there’s another move to separate the Moroland from the archipelago via the “original” Bangsamoro Basic Law but was fortunately reviewed for revision before it got implemented. The separation proposal was championed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, under Iqbal, and ably supported by Ferrer and Deles, two government representatives in the negotiation panel for peace in Mindanao. The proposal is now assuming another name, “Basic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” which is more appropriate to be consistent with the rest of the other autonomous regions that are already in place. History repeats itself, indeed….