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Quo Vadis, Mindanao?

Philippine territorial map 1880 MINDANAOis the question – especially who will benefit from the extension of Martial Law? Marawi residents and refugees in the area seem not happy with martial law. There are ideas of IDs for Muslims which are highly discriminatory, even downright insulting. Lumads continue to allege military harrassment, some are unhappy now that they voted for Duterte. There are stories of numerous private armies and vested interests in the mining business. There are those Mindanaoans like Duterte, Pimentel and Alvarez, called Bisaya by Muslim Mindanaoans – the Christian settlers.

During Marcos’s time, Mindanao was like Terra Incognita to most people in Manila. Even the Visayas were hardly heard from. What was going on in Luzon was the horizon most of us had then. Now one hears from the likes of Samira Gutoc of Marawi, or from reporters on the ground close to the fighting – like Froilan Gallardo. Before 1920, when Mindanao was turned over to the Interior Department of the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands, Mindanao was a territory that the United States fought hard to get under control. Spanish control before was patchy in practice.

Yes, there was the fortress of Zamboanga. There was Dapitan – where Rizal was exiled to. Even today, Mindanao is still seen as a place of exile, for example for errant policemen. The Moro Wars of the early 20th century were bloody. There were in the late 19th century a number of Spanish attempts to have more than just nominal control over Sultanates like Sulu. The times after 1920, especially the 1950s, brought resettlement from the Visayas and Luzon. American-initiated plantations like Dole, mining and logging – commercial and settler interests versus those who were there first.

Everything parallels the way the Philippines north of Mindanao became the way it is today. In the Visayas, not only Lapu-Lapu resisted colonization. The Boholanos Tamblot and Dagohoy come to mind – the first was a native priest who rejected Christianity in 1621, the second was a rebellion that started in 1744 and held out until 1828 in resistance to forced labor, but sparked by the refusal of a priest to give a Christian burial to the brother of its original leader, a barangay captain. In the Dagohoy uprising, folk beliefs in magical powers of the leader played a role in holding out.

The likes of Duterte now find themselves in a strange role. He and his followers act a bit like Dagohoy and his followers – towards certain groups in Manila. The personalism of the leader, the belief of people in his capabilities and collective resentments play a similar role. On the other hand, Mindanao Christian settlers are similar to Spanish colonialists towards Muslims and Lumads there. There is the Karpman triangle which describes how roles can change from victim to villain or even rescuer. How that triangle plays out in Mindanao might decide the future of the Philippines.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 23 July 2017


3 comments to Quo Vadis, Mindanao?


    Please, please spare Samira Gutoc from your never-ending political bickering and labelings. She’s one brave, courageous woman who is very well grounded and hands-on in the Marawi Crisis from Day 1.

    No guys, you cannot win any argument with a woman who is right there in the frontlines dealing with the rescue of civilians caught in the crossfire, begging that civilians be given time to return home to pick up their belongings.

    And isn’t it ironic that a Muslim woman like her is the one begging for the bombings to stop for fear of the safety of Catholic priest Fr. Chito Suganob?

    No, you cannot discredit her with your GASGAS na dilawan labeling.

    Remember, she was appointed by Digong as Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. She resigned in protest at the height of the carpet bombing of Marawi that practically levelled the city to ground zero..


    ..Fresh alerts from Britain, Canada, and Australia were released this week after President Rodrigo Duterte extended military rule across the southern region of Mindanao until the end of the year to combat the militants.

    The Canadian advisory on Monday warned against visiting any part of Mindanao except for Davao, the biggest city in the south.

    “There is a serious risk of terrorist attacks and kidnappings in this region,” the Canadian government said.

    It also cautioned that people should only visit Davao, where the bombing of a crowded night market last year claimed 15 lives, if it was essential.

    Mindanao comprises roughly a third of the Philippine territory and is home to 20 million people..


    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Human rights groups asked the Philippine president on Wednesday to retract a threat of airstrikes against tribal schools he accused of teaching students to become communist rebels, warning that such attacks would constitute war crimes.

    U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said international humanitarian law “prohibits attacks on schools and other civilian structures unless they are being used for military purposes,” adding that deliberate attacks on civilians, including students and teachers, “is also a war crime.”..

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