Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ntegration of Envisioned

There has not been an era of genuine peace in Mindanao and Sulu since the Spaniards came. In all the American years, except perhaps for the minority view among American policy-makers, the approach had always been to integrate the Moros into the political life of the majority, that culminated in the annexation of the Moro country into the new republic. But the American colonial government unlike the Spaniards, never attempted to convert the Moros to Christianity. On the contrary, they even recognized the "distinctness" of the Moros when they set up special administrative agencies to take charge of Moro affairs.
When the Filipinos took over the rein of government, they ignored that distinct fact. Pres. Manuel Quezon never gave an inch of recognition to the age-old sultanate system of the Moros. He denied the petition from Sulu for the succession of Dayang- Dayang Piandao to the throne after the death of Sultan Jamalul Kiram. In a forthright tone, he told them that the sultanate ceased to exist with the death of the sultan."
After the war, sporadic armed clashes returned to the various parts of Mindanao and Sulu. In a vicious cycle, the government sent troops to quell these disturbance 'and, after a little while, trouble erupted again. This approach had never been questioned until the Kamlon and Tawantawan Affairs when it became the subject of intense assessment for possible administrative and legal remedial measures. The government had practically exhausted its military muscles to defeat Kamlon Hadji and his followers, only to conclude in a negotiated surrender. Its necessary outcome was the sudden national interest in the Moros who were pathetically bogged down in the quagmire of neglect and isolation. Hastily, the government decided to investigate the causes of the unrests. Consequently, a Special House Committee was organized to inquire into the problem and named to this body were Sen. Domocao Alonto of Lanao, Cong. Luminog Mangelen of Cotabato and Cong. Ombra Amilbangsa of Sulu. After the investigation, the Committee's findings were: the Moros must be made to feel that they were an integral part of the Philippine nation and this aim must be achieved through a comprehensive approach covering economic, social, moral, political and educational developments. The direct result was the creation, in 1957, of the Commission on National Integration (CNI) by virtue of Republic Act 1888. The agency was charged with the task of "effecting in a more rapid and complete manner the economic, social, moral and political advancement of non-Christian Filipinos and to render real, complete and permanent the integration of all said minorities into the body politic." The Commission was given ten years, later extended to a few more years, to operate and accomplish its task and, chiefly, it was through education through which it must carry out this assignment. It had an annual appropriation of P 5 million, but not more than half the amount was actually released every year. In the words of one of its officials, the CNI, in spite of its sparse funds and resources, was working "tooth and nail, hoping for miracles to accomplish the rest."
In fairness to the government, it may have fully believed in the effectiveness of the CNI in addressing the Moro Problem. But it little realized what the implications were to the sensibilities of the Moros, who were basically Muslims. The Moros believed that "integration," in essence, would lead inevitably to the abandonment of their beliefs, mores, racial or cultural traits, in favor of the system professed by the state that is suffused with Christian ideology. The essential result would be a situation where one could not distinguish Muslims from the Christians, and vice versa. For a real Muslim, this was absolutely unacceptable. It would be incompatible with Islam.
At least there were two objections to this integration scheme. First, integration is just the beginning and not the end of the process. The fullest outgrowth would be "assimilation" and this was what in the minds of the great many Christians when they think of integration." In this process, the religious and cultural identity of the Moros would be absorbed by the belief and culture of the dominant group, the Christians. Secondly, integration implied that the Christians were not only superior in all spheres of life, but even in the matters of religion they were spiritually or religiously correct. This perception, whether founded or imagined, did not fit well with the Moros. To them, it was an act of injustice to refer to, them as members of the "cultural minority" for, beyond the Philippine territory, lived more than a billion Muslims, who like them, are believers of Islam. This claim find more validity when right after our doors are Muslim states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, which are far more developed economically and as culturally-heterogeneous and yet generally peaceful than the "only Christian nation in Asia,", the Philippines.
The CNI could have succeeded in many of its programs, if only the government extended to it all the funding mandated by law. If it had failed in its goal of integration, its inefficacy in the other aspects (if its mission was equally disheartening. Even in the granting of scholarships, there were reports of anomalous awarding of scholarships favoring one ethnic tribe over the rest. Even full-blooded Christians sneaked into the roster of CNI scholars. The government did not only fail to release the full funding provided for by law but, almost always, the releases were delayed

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