Clemencio Montecillo Bascar was a former Professor and Vice President for Corporate Affairs of the Western Mindanao State University. He is a recepient of various local, regional, and national awards in songwriting, playwriting, poetry, and public service. Several of his poems had been published in international literary magazines and journals such as, Foliate Oak , BRICKrhetoric, About Place, Torrid Literature, Mused-theBellaOnline Lietrary Review, and The Voices Project. He had written and published by the Western Mindanao State University two books of poetry, namely; "Fragments of the Eucharist" and "Riots of Convictions." In the Philippines, some of his poems appeared in the such magazines as Women's, MOD, and Chick.
At present, he writes a column in the Zamboanga Today daily newspaper and resides at 659 Gemini Street, Tumaga, Zamboanga City, Philippines. He is married to the former Miss Melinda Climaco dela Cruz and blest with three children, Jane, Lynnette, and Timothy James.
UNLAWFUL AMERICAN INVASION OF MINDANAO AND SULU
In several published articles, I presented internationally- celebrated and multi-awarded historians and authors which commonly corroborated with one another by way of their respective accounts that Spain miserably failed to conquer the two sovereign Sultanates of Maguindanao (Mindanao) and Sulu and North Borneo which were separate and distinct from each other until they were unilaterally joined as one military district and subsequently organized as a Moro Province after the sneaky occupation of these two ancient monarchies by the American forces starting May 19, 1899.
The chronicles of the 1898 Spanish-American War do not contain any factual account of even just a single military encounter between the American forces and the Spanish colonial army in Mindanao and Sulu. The last Spanish garrison in Jolo was already beleaguered by the Sultanate warriors and was scheduled to be turned over to the Sultan like what was done earlier with the Spanish garrison in Siasi, but because of some urgent matters that he had to attend to in Siasi, his presence in Jolo was delayed which opened the opportunity for the Americans to stealthily effect the turnover of the Jolo Spanish garrison to their command under cover of darkness at the most unlikely hour, 2: 00 o'clock dawn according to an American soldier witness.(Source: Peter Gordon Gowing-"Mandate In Moroland: The American Government of Muslim Filipinos, 1899-1920."
As I had contended in several articles previously published, the surprise military occupation of Sulu by the American forces led by Captain E.B. Pratt, is extremely difficult to justify from the viewpoint of the US 1787 Constitution which explicitly prohibits a war of conquest, more so if we take into consideration the following well-documented historical facts:
* the Sultanate of Sulu was already recognized by the United States of America as a sovereign and independent monarchial state as early as 1842 when it signed a treaty with the Sultan of Sulu for the purpose of encouraging trade with the United States of America with the Sultan's assurance of providing full protection to all the American vessels, their commanders and crews visiting any of the islands under his territorial jurisdiction. This treaty is included as Appendix A of the book by a widely- respected researcher and author, Peter Gordon Gowing, entitled, Mandate In Moroland, copyright , 1983, page 347;
* both the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu and North Borneo upon the retreat and withdrawal of the Spanish colonial forces from Mindanao and Sulu in the later months of 1898 and in January of 1899 recovered the areas previously taken and occupied by Castilian conquistadores and reassumed fully their sovereignty and ownership of their respective territorial domains and became free completely from the threat of Spanish conquest which they heroically and successfully resisted for more than three hundred years;
* the failure of Spain in conquering, colonizing, and Christianizing the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu is the best and irrefutable proof that these two ancient monarchies were not colonial possessions of the Spanish Empire and were not parts of the Philippine Islands, the colony which was expressly sold and ceded by Spain to the United States for $20-millon as the spoil of the 1898 Spanish- American war in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris.
* having maintained and defended their statehood from Spanish attempts of invasion, colonization, and Christianization, the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu, were never involved nor had any alliance of any kind with the revolutionary movement against Spain initiated by the Filipino revolutionaries in Luzon, and therefore, any notion, suspicion, or speculation of involvement of the Sultanates in the Filipino armed struggle against the Spanish colonial government of the Philippine Islands, is totally devoid of historicity and completely without empirical basis; and
*the fact that Mindanao and Sulu were not conquered by Spain , not political components nor revolutionary allies of the short-lived First Philippine Republic established by Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo, there can be no valid reason to assert or claim that these two monarchial states were parts of the Spanish-American War of 1898 or the Filipino-American war declared on February 4, 1899. While the Sultanates were at war with Spain for more than three centuries, they were not at war with the Americans nor were they covered by the declaration of war issued by the United States on April 25 against Spain and its colonies.
So based on the above-cited historical events and facts, any painstaking student of history is confronted with the absence of mercantile right and political ascendancy for Spain to sell and cede to the United States two monarchial states which she failed to possess by virtue of conquest or other modes of territorial acquisition.
It is also extremely unlikely for anyone who possesses operative familiarity, knowledge and understanding of the 1787 American Constitution to just passively agree that the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu fell under the possession and sovereignty of the United States by virtue of conquest for there was no formal declaration of war issued for such purpose duly authorized by the American Congress. Besides, if there was, it would be onerous to justify, for the Sultanates were not guilty of "actually invading the United States" nor were they massing their forces to create the gravity of "imminent danger" that would justify American conquest of the Sultanates. Without these justifiying circumstances, such conquest if it were carried out, in my honest opinion, would have been patently contradictory to the 1787 US Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 which states that:
"No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay."
Now, if the cession of Mindanao and Sulu to the United States was irregular on the ground that Spain did not have sovereignty over these two unconquered Sultanates, and if the United States did not acquire ownership and sovereignty over these two monarchial states by virtue of lawful conquest, how on earth did the Americans justify their military occupation of these two sovereign states and eventually incorporate them into the body politic of the present Repubic of the Philippines when the only basic document used by the framers of the 1935 Constitution as the legal basis for defining its national territory was Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris? Here is the answer:
President William Mckinley who according to J.C. Shurman, the President of the 5-Member First Philippine Commission, had entertained doubts as to the sovereignty of Spain over the Sultanate of Sulu, promptly directed General Elwell Otis, the commander of the American expeditionary force in the Philippines that a formal agreement be made with the Sultan.
It was Brigadier General John C. Bates who was charged with task of gaining recognition from the Sultan for what " President Mckinley viewed as a simple transfer of authority" from Spain to the United States.
According to author-researcher Peter Gordon Gowing, the diplomatic spadework for American negotiations with Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, could be credited to the tactful behavior of Capt. E. B. Pratt and his officers leading to the initial talks between Brig. General Bates which only strengthened the contention that Spain in fact and in truth did not have sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu.
Since the Americans were really determined at all costs to obtain the signatures of the Sultan and some of his datus on a document that would succinctly acknowledge US sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu, General Bates tried all conceivable diplomatic initiatives which ranged from persuasive means to coercive tactics to achieve this purpose. Eventually, despite overwhelming odds, General Bates succeeded and the Sultanates of Mindanao and Sulu were finally conquered by the United States of America, not by war, not by law, but by diplomacy. What style or genre of diplomacy was employed by General Bates, is anyone's domain for further inquiry.
UNITED NATIONS, DECOLONIZE MINDANAO AND SULU
I don't know from what authentic and valid cartographic documents or territorial maps the Philippine Congress used when it defined the administrative jurisdiction of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) or any other autonomous political sub-divisions created by said Congress from the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. to the dispensation of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
From the standpoint of history, there were two separate, independent, and sovereign ancient states that existed long before the Spaniards made their maiden appearance in the Visayas on March 16, 1521. These two ancient states were the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Maguindanao which according to credible and noted authors and historians were not conquered nor colonized by the Spaniards. This historical fact is confirmed by no less than the former American Governor-General of the Philippine Islands, Francis B. Harrison in a letter addressed to then Vice President Elpidio Quirino and Secretary of Foreign Affairs dated February 27, 1947, a pertinent portion of which is quoted to wit:
"I wish to reiterate my previous statement that so far as the Sultanate of Sulu was concerned. President Quezon had no legal power to abolish the Sultanate-that could have been done only by the Moros themselves, either by positive action of their own, or by neglect to elect a new Sultan-but promptly therafter, two Sultans were chosen by rival factions. The only other way in which an ancient State like the Sultanate of Sulu could have been abolished would have been by force, as, for example by armed conquest, and that determination of the question was, of course, lacking in the premises."
Up to this point in time since I cited the written assertions and testimonies of various historians and authors that Sulu and Mindanao were not colonial possessions of Spain by virtue of conquest or other modes of territorial acquisition and therefore, should have not been included in the sale and cession of the Philippine Islands by Spain to the United States under Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, no one has yet come up with a rebuttal or counter argument that the experts and authorities I mentioned in several articles previously published in my column, are confirmed and certified charlatans.
For those who are not familiar with the colonial history of Mindanao and Sulu, the real and primary root-cause of this seemingly endless and insolvable Mindanao Crisis, was the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris as the only diplomatic document used by the framers of the 1935 Constitution to define the national territory which incorparated Mindanao and Sulu to the body politic of the Republic of the Philippines against the overwhelming opposition of the inhabitants of these two monarchial states as expressed in two separete petitions ,one (1)- that of June 9, 1921 by the Sultan of Sulu and 57 other prominent Sulu leaders and two (2)- that of the Dansalan Declaration of March 18, 1935, signed by 189 Lanao Moro leaders.
In fact aside from the supporting testimonies and attestations from internationally renowned authors and highly respected and multi-awarded writers of history textbooks which are still being popularly used in both public and private educational institutions, there are two diplomatic documents entered into between the United States of America (USA) and the Sultanate of Sulu which tacitly confirmed that the Sultan was still the owner of the territorial realm of this ancient State several months and many years after the signing and ratification of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris. These are the "Bates Treaty of August 20, 1899 and the " Carpenter Memorandum" of March 22, 1915. Both diplomatic documents textually deny the ownership and sovereignty of Spain over the Sultanate of Sulu in several Articles and provisions.
Buttressing further the assertion that the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao (Mindanao)were not among the colonial possessions of Spain that were sold and ceded to the United States although were surreptitiously included by lines and coordinates technically defining the boundary of the Philippine Islands in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, are the following top American military, diplomatic, and political officials:
(1.) GENERAL GEORGE W. DAVIS, Commander of the Department of Mindanao and Jolo, 1902. He was among the first military officers who intimated that Sulu archipelago was not sold and ceded by Spain to the United States in the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris. His suggestion which was included in his Annual Report to the United States Government is partly quoted herunder:
"It is suggested that through such cession for a yearly cash payment the Moro overlord could be induced to retire and leave the United States to deal with the Moros in such manner as might seem best adopted to serve the purposes of the United States in Morolands..."
The suggestion of Gen. George W. Davis to pay the Sultan for the cession of the Sultans' kingly rights and pretensions over his lands and vassals in Sulu, as found on page 562 of his Annual Report of the War Department in 1902, is an archival document which tends to point to the fact that that Sulu was not among the colonial possessions ceded and sold for 20-million dollars by Spain to the United States in the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris.
2. CONSUL O. F. WILLIAMS, a U.S. diplomat who hinted to the certainty that Sulu was not included as among the territories sold and ceded by Spain to the United States. This could be gleaned from his suggestion contained in a portion of his letter sent to John Hay, the Secretary of States in 1903 which reads:
" Let a shrewd agent ask his price, he now needs money. Let the Sultan list his property in toto: then put a price at which he will sell all estates, all rights, and claims of chiefs, datos, rajahs, all sovereignty, and give complete release and quit claim, and with his harem, chiefs, and datos forever leave the orient."
This particular suggestion by no less than the United States Consul to Singapore, O. F. Williams, could be deductively and logically interpreted as a testimonial admission that Sulu archipelago still belonged to the royal dominion of the Sultan of Sulu about five (5) years after the Philippine Islands was sold and ceded to the United States by Spain. This archival evidenciary material tends to expressly deny that Sulu was a colonial possession of Spain by virtue of conquest and colonization, and was conclusively at that point in history still a sovereign and independent State from the Spanish Colonial Government of the Philippine Islands.
Consul Williams, documented admission and acknowledgement that Sulu archipelago was still owned by the Sultan, could be further deduced from the following part of his letter to US state Secretary, John Hay, as follows:
"Then sell his- the Sultan's estates to Americans and thus recoup in full and rid of the whole trouble. I am sure I can effect this if given a chance.
I believe the settlement can be final and honorable and be now bought at a price which can be fully repaid with its interest, for the sale of the Sultan's lands." Source: Peter Gordon Gowing, Mandate in Moroland, Quezon City; 1983, p. 70.
To my point of view, however, as an academician, the most authentic and reliable diplomtic evidences that attest to the fact that the territorial realm of the Sultanate of Sulu was not included in the sale and cession of the Philippine Islands by Spain to the United States in the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris are contained in the "Bates Treaty" of August 20, 1899 and the "Carpenter Memoramdum" of March 22, 1915, respectively. The pertinent Bates Treaty provisions are as follows:
(A) "ARTICLE IV- While the United States may occupy and control such points in the archipelago of Jolo as public interest seem to demand, encroachment will not be made upon the lands immediately about the residence of Highness the Sultan, unless military necessity requires His occupation in case of war with a foreign power, and where the properties of the individual is taken, due compensation will be made in each case.
Any person can purchase land in the archipelago of Jolo and hold the same by obtaining the consent of the Sultan and coming to a satisfactory agreement with the owner of the land; such purchase shall immediately be registered in the proper office of the United States Government."
(B) "ARTICLE XIV- The United States will not sell the Island of Jolo or any other island of Jolo archipelago to any foreign nation without the consent of the Sultan of Sulu."
By way of recollection, GEN. JOHN C. BATES was given full powers by General Elwell Otis, commander of the American expeditionary force in the Philippines to negotiate with the Sultan of Sulu in order to gain recognition from the Moros for what the latter viewed as a simple "transfer of authority" from Spain to the United States. Here is what the internationally famous American historian, Robert A. Fulton wrote about this particular diplomatic mission of General Bates:
"Preparing for their mission, Bates and his staff scoured the Spanish archives in Manila and discovered that Spanish sovereignty had in fact been no more than a fiction. Of greater significance, it was dubious Spain had ever had the "right" under international law to cede the lands belonging to the Moros as part of of their holdings in the Philippine Islands. This discovery prompted Otis to revise Bates mission to one of gaining acceptance of U.S. sovereingty by various Moro peoples, and a pledge for them to stay neutral and on the sidelines during the fighting to come, a daunting task."
Finally, to prove to all and sundry that Mindanao particularly the Sultanate of Sulu never fell under the total control of the Spanish Crown by virtue of conquest, and as such, was not a colonial possession of Spain, let me quote part of the introductory NOTE of the Carpenter Memorandum between the Governor-General of the Philippine Islands and the Sultan of Sulu forged on March 22, 1915, to wit:
" NOTE- Prior to American occupation the Sultanate of Sulu had been for more than 400 hundred years an independent sovereignty; during the latter portion of the Spanish regime, the Sultanate had partially reliquished the exercise of that sovereignty as to foreign relations and to a lesser degree as concerned the port of Jolo and the four other points occupied by Spanish military garrisons; a temporal sovereignty partial but nevertheless de facto existed, and was recognized by the Bates Treaty in the term "Government of the Sultan," to which the Americam auhorities were by that agreement required to turn over for trial 'where cases and offenses are commited by Moros against Moros. (Bates Treaty, Article 1X.)
Is there a need to explain more why Sulu and Mindanao should be decolonized by the intervention of the United Nations' Committee on Decolonization if this body has any legal teeth at all?