The Moro’s Extermination Spanish Decree
Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
The Moro land presently known as “Southern Philippines”is composed of Mindanao island (the second largest island of the Philippine islands) the Sulu archipelago, Palawan, Basilan and the neighbouring islands; the Moro land has an area of 116, 895 square kilometres (more than one third of the whole Philippine islands), with a population of more than twenty million of which 12 million are Muslims. The rest are Highlanders (native inhabitants) and the Christian settlers from Luzon and Visayas.
The early arrival of Islam in the Moro land was in the year 1210 AD that is more than three centuries before the arrival of Christianity brought by Ferdinand Magellan (a Portuguese who was then working for Spain ) to the region in the year 1521AD; Islam was introduced to the Moros by some Trustworthy Arab merchants and Islamic Missionaries.
Very soon after the arrival of Islam, the Islamic Sultanates were founded under the reign of the Moro Sultans themselves, such as; the Sultanate of Sulu embracing Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Palawan and the neighbouring islands the Sultanate of Maguindanao where most of the Muslims are now living.
It is exactly this Sultanate of Maguindanao that was the culminating point in the history of the Moro’s Muslim People of the Southern area of Mindanao in what is known as the Philippines when in the year 1619 Sultan Dipatuan Mohamed Qudarat ascended the throne of the Maguindanao sultanate, during his reign, the sultanate achieved power and fame unparalleled in the entire history of Mindanao and Sulu.
The Sultan was gifted with high qualities of a great leader. He was intelligent, religious, decisive, kind and just Holding Spain at bay for half a century and outlasting at least eight governor generals, he was regarded as “providentially created to punish the bad Spaniards.” The natives in the Spanish-held territories were ready to do whatever Spain wanted them except “to take up arms against Qudarat.”
Spain considered him as the single greatest obstacle in the efforts to subjugate the whole of Mindanao; Qudarat's sphere of power and influence, aside from his additional dominion over the whole of Cotabato, Lanao Davao, Misamis', Bukidnon and Zamboanga, was so extensive that he was able to collect tributes from the seafaring inhabitants of the coast of Borneo and some areas of Basilan and the Visayas. During his time, the Maguindanao sultanate achieved its golden age.
In view of this awesome situation in the northern islands caused by the Moros under Sultan Qudarat, the Spanish Crown decided to shift the battle arena to Mindanao, Mindanao was ordered to be pacified at all cost; this was in response to the series of victories inflicted by the Moro raiders, it was historically reported that in fewer than thirty years, no less than 20,000 persons were taken captive by the Moro marauders and sold to the markets of Batavia, Ernate, Amboina, Makassar, Java and Madras.
In the beginning of the early Eighteen century, the Moros designed new power realignments to meet the renewed Spanish threat, the Spaniards were cautious, adopting a friendly approach in dealing with the Moros. The new policy was especially felt in matter of Religion, the Spaniards abandoned conversion to Christianity as an imposed requirement and to merely ask the Moros to allow missionaries in their areas in exchange for commercial partnership.
As expected, the policy did not bear good fruit, the Valiant Muslim Moros refused to trust the Spaniards, not long after, hostilities resumed with even more fury and bloodshed, and in view of this blatant refusal by the Moros due to their eager commitment to the tenets of their faith and their deep courageous stance towards the Spaniards, a furious Spanish Manila governor-general F. Valdez y Tamon issued a decree on the 21st of December 1751, that ordered:
* The extermination of all Moros with fire and sword;
* The destruction of all their crops and desolate their lands;
* The captivity of all Moro Peoples;
* The Recovery of Christian slaves;
* The exemption of all Christians from payment of any taxes and tributes while engaged in the Extermination of these Moros.
Going in details on this shameful and inhumane decree inflicted on the Faithful Moro people Spain’s Manila Governor “Valdez Tamon” by this Royal Decree known as the “Privateer System”, marked the beginning of the bloodiest period in the history of the Moro-Spanish War, and in doing so through the enactment of such uncivilised and inhumane rules against fellow Human beings, Valdez genuinely showed a conduct “worth” of those Primitive pagan tribes.
The decree itself reminiscent of the former “Inquisition courts” against the Muslims in Spain in the late 1400’s, provided for the encouragement and enlistment of private individuals to organize expeditions against the Moros, the incentives were tempting and rewarding, it stipulated the total extermination of the Moros, burning of everything combustible that they owned, and the desolation of all crops and farmlands.
Criminals who enlisted were granted unconditional pardon and all enlistees were exempted from paying tribute and were entitled to four-fifth of the booty, thousands enlisted for the mercenary expeditions, as anticipated, the results were quick, telling and bloody, facing a real threat in the form of a total liquidation, the natural reaction of the Moros was to meet fire with fire, and after decades of lull in the fighting, the Moros had not failed to toughen their war machines, oiled and ever-ready to move into action.
Obviously they had prepared for this day and had much in store for the Spaniards and their allies, and instead of waiting for the adversaries to invade their lands, they conducted foray after foray deep into enemy territory, no place, either in Luzon or in the Visayas, was exempt from the terrible attacks of these fearless raiders llocos, Catanduanes, Batangas, Manila, lloilo, Mindoro, and everywhere were frequently attacked.
Consequently watch-towers and belfries began to dot the coastal lines of the Spanish-held areas to keep a round-the-clock watch for approaching the much feared Moro “pirates” whose approach brought that terrible cry: Moros en la costa! the name became so dreaded that it evoked such offensive meanings as “pirate”; or “heathen”, for a span of a decade during this period, no fewer than 50,000 captives were taken and many coastal towns were totally destroyed, their population greatly reduced, and roughly the same degree of destruction on the Moros also took place from both the offensives and counter-offensives of the Spaniards.
It is a proven Historical fact that the Moro Muslim’s resistance and rebellion against non-Muslim rule stretches back nearly 500 years as we have seen earlier, and throughout the centuries, the Muslim population of the Sulu Archipelago and south-western Mindanao have fought against the government of foreign rulers, and no central government has ever succeeded in establishing complete control over the Moro areas.
In the modern period, this resistance broke out again with the rise of Islamic nationalism in the 1970’s, the conflict reached its peak in the period 1970-1983 before negotiations led to a series of peace agreements between the various separatist factions and the Manila Government, The MNLF, founded and led by Nur Misuari, was the original political front for the Muslim separatist resistance , and in 1976, Misuari signed the Tripoli Agreement, the first peace agreement signed between Muslim Freedom Fighters and the Philippine government.
This led to a political split in the MNLF, with the Late Salamat Hashim, An Azhari-Graduate, and the more traditional leaders arguing against any conciliation with Manila; such moves hurried the creation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front “MILF” under Salamat Hashim whose direct goals were the establishment of an Independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines a unanimous wish by all Moro Muslims, in this it does not differ significantly from its parent organization, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
But despite these “ freedom of expression’s differences” , the unity effort was formally started in May 2010 in the sidelines of the 37th OIC-CFM meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu then brought MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari and MILF chief Murad Ebrahim to meet and agree to coordinate efforts.
Ihsanoglu had stressed that “coordination between the two fronts has become of utmost necessity” because their respective peace processes with the Philippine government “revolve around the same problem and the same territory.”
To recall the MILF broke away from the MNLF in 1978. In October this year, after almost 15 years of negotiations, it signed an initial pact with the government, which it said is an improvement of the concessions gained by the MNLF through the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
The creation of the BCF cropped up during the December 2011 meeting between the two groups in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
In a resolution, the OIC-CFM “commends (the) MILF’s acceptance of the proposal and urges (the) MNLF to accept the proposal as soon as possible to enable institutional and orderly coordination between them.”
Murad and Misuari headed their respective delegations to the Djibouti meeting. Both talked to each other in a meeting hosted by Ihsanoglu and witnessed by Djibouti Foreign Affairs Minister Mahmoud Ali Yussof.
“(We) welcome the meeting between the MNLF and the MILF on the sidelines of this session…,” read the Djibouti Declaration, which was issued by the diplomats of 57 OIC member-states at the conclusion of the CFM meeting, a copy of which was posted on the OIC website.
“(We) call upon the two fronts to unify efforts and coordinate positions for the benefit of the Bangsmoro people,” it said.
Taking into account the ups and downs in life as a norm, the continuation of Jihad by the heroic Moro Warriors from the two sides (MNLF & MILF) in this area of our Muslim Ummah is but a legacy, and Confidently, we are bearing witnesses to the present Moro Muslim Freedom Seekers from all different trends as torch-holders from their blessed ancestors and their imminent entry to the world arena of History Incha’Allah, with genuine faith and defiant determination is but a matter of time.