By Gerry Salapuddin


The Muslims of the archipelago later called and named the Philippines after the Spanish monarch King Felipe II or Philip II by the Spanish colonizers was inhabited by the different ethnic cultural communities and the Muslims, who came from Indonesia and later Malaysia, to include Brunei, during the height of its power as a Kingdom.

The first Muslim Malay settlement in Luzon was in Batangas and later in Morong, Bataan. As the Muslim Malays expanded, they made Manila their capital, under the leadership of Rajah Sulaiman.

In the Visayas, the most noted ruler of Mactan, Cebu, was Lapu-Lapu and Rajah Humabon in Bohol. When the Spaniards conquered Manila, under the leadership of Ferdinand Magellan, they came to Cebu. They managed to co-opt Rajah Humabon and the other datus of Visayas, to help them subjugate Rajah Lapu-Lapu. But during the Battle of Mactan, Lapu-Lapu, a fiercely anti-colonialist, killed Magellan. 

In the next day battle of Mactan, as the Christianized Indios reinforcements and the support of the other Datus of Visayas arrived, Lapu-Lapu and his men were greatly outnumbered. During the heat of the battle, Lapu-Lapu was wounded. In the evening, under the cover of darkness, his son and other loyal followers decided to take him to safety to supposedly get treated and to recover. They sailed to Mindanao, but Lapu-Lapu died during the voyage. His son and followers decided to land in Sangbay Nahut Island, an island in Muhtamad Municipality, Basilan Province, populated by Sama Bangingi, to bury him in a secret and unmarked grave. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) confirmed that the first Muslim Hero of the Philippines was a Sama Bangingi. Probably, that was the reason why they buried him in an island populated by his people.

In Mindanao, all the Muslim sultanates were all up in arms against the Spanish colonizers. The most famous among them was Sultan Kudarat. In the Sultanate of Sulu which covered Sulu, Palawan, the western part of Basilan and Sabah, were fighting ferociously the colonialists. The Sultanate of Lanao was also independently fighting the Colonizers. What was missing in their struggle against foreign domination and servitude was unity. There was no united and coordinated resistance against the colonizers. They fought against the colonizers independently. That was the recipe for failure in their resistance against foreign colonizers.


The yearning for independence and freedom among our patriotic Muslim political leaders was burning bright in their hearts. Among the visionary leaders of the Muslims of Mindanao was the late Congressman Rashid Lucman. In order to unite the Muslims of Mindanao, he organized the Ansarul Islam, presumably inspired by the supportive and dedicated Ansars of Madina, that welcomed and supported the Messenger of Allah and his followers from Makkah, better known as the ‘Muhajireen.’ While Maguindanao Governor organized the Mindanao Independent Movement (MIM). On the other hand, Sen. Domocao Alonto created the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO), while Cong. Salipada K. Pendatun organized the Philippine Muslim Association (PMA), all meant to later staged a struggle to liberate our people from the clutches of Imperial Manila.

Inspired by the success of Gamal Abdelnasser of Egypt, to free his country and cut the yoke of imperial colonialism, the late Congressman Lucman initiated the recruitment of Muslim youth to be trained abroad, to become cadre officers, purposely to promote and create a revolutionary movement in Mindanao, better known as the Top 90 First Batch or F1. More than one  half of the 90 were Maranao youth. Among them was Aboul Khair Alonto, Dimasangkay Pundato, Jimmy Lucman, better known as ‘Jungle Fox,’ Punduma Sumndad Sani and the others. And among the rest of 40 plus remaining recruits were UP Prof. Nurullaji “Nur” Misuari of Sulu and Uto Salahuddin of Basilan, Alawi Mohammad of Zamboanga City, Bian Lai Lim of Jolo and the others.


After the successful outbreak of Moro rebellion was ignited and spread like wild fire in Mindanao in the early ’70s, after the Jabidah Massacre and later the declaration of Martial Law by President Marcos, which caught imperial Manila by surprise, First Lady Imelda Marcos was sent on a peace mission by President Marcos in 1973 to Tripoli, Libya, accompanied by Admiral Romulo Espaldon and some top Philippine officials, to negotiate for a ceasefire through Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi, which led later to the Tripoli Agreement signed between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), facilitated by the OIC.

As implementation of the Tripoli Agreement which called for the establishment of an autonomous region in Mindanao covering 13 Provinces and 9 cities. Instead of creating a single autonomous region as stipulated in the Tripoli Agreement, President Marcos subjected it to a plebiscite and created two autonomous regions of IX and XII.

This was done after consulting the Muslim leaders from Mindanao. Cognizant of the historical realities, where Mindanao was never part of the Sultanate of Sulu, President Marcos created the Autonomous Regions of Region IX, with Zamboanga City as its capital and seat of government and Region XII, with Cotabato City as its capital and seat of government.

This was not accepttable to the MNLF. Firstly, it was a direct violation of the Tripoli Agreement which stipulated for only one autonomous region. Secondly, the Philippine Government did it unilaterally without the participation of the MNLF and the OIC. Thirdly, the Philippine government subjected it to a plebiscite. The provision of the Tripoli Agreement was cleverly worded and phrased by the Philippine negotiating panel headed by DND Usec. Carmelo Barbero as advised by President Marcos in their phone conversation. It was worded convincingly that the Philippine government will exert all efforts to create an autonomous region in the provinces and cities mentioned “subject to constitutional and democratic processes.” When the Libyan Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Treki questioned the Philippine panel what the phrase above means, they replied: “It’s just a process of consultation with the leaders and population in those areas, so they’ll not object to the inclusion of their areas.” 

After the conduct of a plebiscite, in Region IX, only the Province of Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi opted to join the Autonomous Region IX. In Region XII, only Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur opted to join the Autonomous Region XII while the Cities of Cotabato and Marawi opted out of it.


Subsequent laws enacted by Congress unified the two autonomous regions into the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Upon the signing of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the Philippine Government and the MNLF, facilitated by the OIC, during the Ramos Administration, MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari was annointed as Regional Governor, replacing Lininding Pangandaman, with Jimmy Matalam as his Regional Vice Governor vice Atty. Nabil Tan.

After the term of Nur Misuari which ended with sour note, Dr. Parouk Hussin succeeded him as Regional Governor with Dr. Mahid Mutilan of Marawi City, as his Regional Vice Governor. The two MNLF leaders above that became Regional Governor was judged by some as failure in achieving its mandates. Some people call the ARMM as a ‘recipe for failure’ or ‘a failed experiment.’

They were succeeded by Zaldy Ampatuan as Regional Governor and Hooky Adiong as Regional Vice Governor. The former was among those later indicted in the infamous Maguindanao Massacre and is until now serving his prison term, while Ansaruddin “Hooky” Adiong is a Representative of the 1st District of Lanao del Sur.

Finally, they were succeeded as Regional Governor by Mujiv Hataman,the annointee of President Noy Aquino and Rashid Alonto Lucman as his Regional Vice Governor. The former, despite his being young and has never been a local executive, managed to govern effectively and uses the resources of the autonomous region efficiently to deter extremism and to impact positively on the population of the region. Despite it was labeled by President Aquino as a “failed experiment,” Regional Governor Hataman managed to steer the governance of the region by tapping some of the best and brightest to become part of his transformation team. This only shows, while a good law is important, but more important is a good leader to govern is what matters most in running government.

With the transformation and abolition of the ARMM to BARMM by virtue of R.A. 11054: The Bangsamoro Organic Law, after the successful plebiscite in the 5 Provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, Basilan and Lamitan City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, plus Cotabato City opted to be part of the BARMM and 68 barangays from North Cotabato, BARMM is born out of the shadow of the ARMM, under the MILF-led government.

We owed it to ourselves to make the BARMM succeeds and blooms to full fruition so that we can immortalize the sacrifices and long struggle for self-determjnation of our forefathers and that of our people, to benefit everyone in our national homeland under the banner of freedom and Islam.

In order to succeed, the MILF leadership must employ the best and the brightest of our people to make the long dream of our people a reality, living in peace, prosperity and security. We cannot afford to fail again, because if we do, our people will curse our leaders and they’ll never trust us again. For us to fail is only to validate the notion and misconception of imperial Manila, that the Muslim Bangsamoro are not good leaders, corrupt and opportunistic. The only way to refute their wrong claim is to succeed! (PMT)


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