A royal house recognized by the United Nations

The word Moro is a political name imposed by the Spaniards against the Muslims in Southern Philippines who resist Catholic faith. Etymologically, the word Moro was derived from the term “Moor,” itself originating from “Mauru,” a Latin word that referred to the inhabitants of the ancient Roman province of Mauritania in northwest Africa, which today comprises the modern states of Algeria, Mauritania and the Kingdom of Morocco (Britannica Encyclopedia). In fact, the name “Moro” is a Spanish term for “Moors,” referring to the Muslims who ruled the Iberian Peninsula from 711-1492. The Spanish expelled the Moors and reclaimed the peninsula during an event called the Spanish Reconquista or “reconquest”. (Michael C. Hawkins, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies). The Spanish considered the Moros a threat to their Catholic mission in the Philippines and worked to prevent the spread of Islam throughout the archipelago. Further, as part to isolate them, they give the name “Moro” to the Muslims from Mindanao bad connotations such as “savage” or “barbaric” as part of their campaign to rob and subjugate them of their identity.

Some Muslim scholars opined that the name “Moro” therefore is not the identity name of the Muslims in Mindanao, some Muslims historian viewed that the Muslims from Mindanao should be identified by their respective tribal name, thus in some occasion, the Maranao is identified as the people of the lake, the Maguindanao is the people of the plains and the Tausog the people of the shore (Lupah Sug).

According to historian Michael C. Hawkins, “The epithet ‘Moro’ embodied all the antipathies and condescension associated with the Spaniards’ expulsion of Muslim ‘Moors’ from Southern Spain.” However, the Moro people of the Philippines stood their ground and resisted the Spanish vision of a Catholic colony.

Independent nation

The Moros were once independent under a variety of local states, including the Sultanate of Sulu, the Sultanate of Maguindanao, and the Confederation of sultanates in Lanao; withstanding repeated Spanish invasions, the Moro states remained de facto independent up until the Moro Rebellion of the early 20th century.

Outside of the Philippines, some Moros remain in areas once controlled by the Sulu Sultanate along the eastern coast of Sabah; others emigrated to neighboring MalaysiaIndonesia and Brunei in the late 20th century due to the Moro conflict in Mindanao. Newer communities can be found today in Kota KinabaluSandakan, and Semporna in Sabah, Malaysia, North Kalimantan in Indonesia, and in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

Existing till today is the Confederate States of Lanao (Pat a Pangampong sa Ranao), also known as the Lanao Sultanate, collective term for four states named Bayabao, Masiu, Unayan, and Baloi  in MindanaoPhilippines. The chieftains of the Bayabao, Masiu, Unayan, and Baloi states seceded from the Maguindanao Sultanate in 1616. The Lanao Sultanate consists of traditional leaders and forty-three sultans. Fifteen of these sultans heads the fifteen royal houses of Lanao. (Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization). 

The struggle for independence continues during the American regime.

Furthermore, in the historical assembly of Moro leaders in Dansalan, Lanao, on March 18, 1935, a strong worded petition addressed to the U.S. government was unanimously approved to include the following alarming and warning words:

“…The Christian Filipinos occupy the islands of Luzon and Visayas, the Moros predominate in the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu. With regard to the forthcoming Philippine independence, we foresee what the condition we will be in and our children when independence is granted these islands. This condition will be characterized by unrest, suffering and misery…We do not want to be included in the Philippine independence (for) once an independent Philippines is launched there will be trouble between us and the Christian Filipinos”.

The prophecy of the Dansalan Declaration comes true, a rebellion of unimaginable magnitude happened with the loss of more than two hundred fifty thousand precious lives. Likewise, in pleading for the cause of the Moros of Mindanao, Congressman Robert Bacon addressed the U.S. Congress in 1936 with the following words:

The Christian Filipinos have no right…to determine the government of the Moro people according to their particular interests. This right was not given them by the Treaty of Paris, in violation of the conditions whereby the Moro leaders gave…obedience to American authority, and should never have been conceded by the Congress of the United States. If a reversal right to these southern islands…exist in anyone, it is the Moro and not…Filipinos who is entitled thereto.”

It was during the expiring term of Nur Misuari as Regional Governor of the defunct ARMM when he brought the issue of Moro Independence before the two (2) United Nations Committees. The United Nations monitors progress towards self-determination in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. In 1960, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)), known also as the Declaration on Decolonization. Unfortunately, the issue was short lived after Misuari was arrested by the Malaysian authorities and deported back to the Philippines. However reliable sources said that the United Nations two (2) committees would recognize as party in interest, the Sultanate leagues of the three (3) houses in Muslims Mindanao, hence petition for independence must originate from these royal houses.

The United Nations has in position, the petition and others related documents pertaining to Muslim Mindanao struggle for independence, and as an independent nation during the Spanish conquest, the American and the Japanese invasion. It is for this reason, that the sultanates of Lanao, Maguindanao and Sulu should press the United Nations to grant the Moro Muslims an independence status, once the present BARMM failed.

By Atty. Bayan G. Balt

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 For comments: Email me at bayanbalt@yahoo.com

Atty. Bayan G. Balt is a former Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015) and member of the Council of Leaders of the Ranao Autonomous Region Movement.

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