Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Over-Population Scare

Before proceeding further, we should not fail to note carefully the mendacious rhetoric of politicians who spearheaded the wholesale colonization of Mindanao and Sulu by raising a hue and cry over the alleged population explosion in Luzon and the Visayas. They argued that this over-population problem was causing untold miseries and sufferings to the people. They wanted a place where this excess population could be relocated. To arouse public sympathy, they particularly referred to the so-called "pauperized peasants and workers" in the haciendas in Central Luzon and Negros in the Visayas, who had been exploited and persecuted since the Spanish regime. They were never given the chance to own a piece of land, let alone the ones they had been tilling, where they could work outside and away from the cruel hands of landlords and hacienderos.
In his address to the first session of the First National Assembly in 1936, President Quezon took the lead in sounding this alarm. Part of his speech was as follows:
There are provinces in Luzon and the Visayas that are already over populated. There are localities in some of these provinces where the people live on large estates without opportunity to earn a livelihood sufficient to meet the necessities of civilized life, much less to own the land wherein they live and which they cultivate. It is inconceivable that such a situation should exist in a country with extensive areas of fertile uncultivated lands.
The fact that no less than the President himself of the Commonwealth Government was involved in this ballyhoo to get the nod of the National Assembly was more than enough reason to extrapolate on the issue. President Quezon was not the first to raise the over-population issue. As early as 1912, Gen. john C. Pershing was already pushing for the importation of homesteaders from the over-populated Luzon and Visayas to the frontiers on Mindanao." The same line of argument can be noticed in almost all rationales behind the creation of settlement projects, as well as in the opening up of frontier lands to new applicants. In 1913, the Philippine Commission enacted Acts 2254 and 2280 creating "colonies" in Mindanao, and one of the objectives was to equalize the distribution of population in the Philippines.
Christian Filipinos 85,148
Americans and Europeans1,161
Total 518,698
Source: Peter G. Gordon (1977)
In order to find out whether or not the population pressure was founded on fact or fiction, let us refer to the three successive population census in 1903, 1918, and 1939. The 1939 census is specially important because the holding of this population count was well within the period when the issue was very much alive. In the 1903 census, the population of the entire country was 7,635,426 including 647,740 non-Christians; in 1918, it was 10,314,310 including 932,935 non-Christians; and in 1939, it was 16,000,303. Of this last number, around 13,000,000 were in Luzon and the Visayas, the rest in Mindanao and Sulu.
District Total Moro Pagan
Davao   68,3508,35060,000
Lanao  78,33378,333-
Sulu 102,133 102,133-
Zamboanga   81,05046,00035,050
 428,174 324,816 103,358
Source: Peter G. Gordon ( 1977)
After having this concrete data, let us proceed to determine the density of population -based on the 1939 census which listed the national population as 16,000,303. The Philippines has a total land area of 115,800 square mile; divide this area by 16,000,303 and the result is: 138 persons per square mile. Since this density applied to the entire Philippine Islands including the Moro territory, then let us focus our attention on Luzon and the Visayas, where the congestion was allegedly serious. Based on the same 1939 census, the people of the two islands numbered 13,000,000. Divide that number by the total land area of the two islands: 78,420 square miles (Luzon: 40,420 and Visayas: 37,380), and the quotient (outcome) is 165 persons per square mile.
Now after considering the data aforecited, does the logic of overpopulation scare still hold? Was President Quezon really speaking of facts or merely masking the government's real intentions on Mindanao,
Province ChristianMohammedanPaganTotal
Agusan 30,000 --- 35,000 65,000
Bukidnon 21,500 3,000 41,800 66,300
Cotabato 6,837 107,205 35,402 149,444
Davao 33,194 7,803 61,803 102,800
Lanao 6,201 75,960 1,550 83,711
Sulu 2,750 120,000 -- 122,750
Zamboanga  58,65045,000 30,000 133,650
159,132  358,968205,555 723,655
Source: Peter G. Gordon ( 1977)
for whether it was an economic, social or political issue critically depended on the support of the christianized natives.` The irony of it all was that when legions after legions of settlers arrived on Mindanao it became clear-that, contrary to official government bulletin, these people were not the poor peasants and workers of Central Luzon and Negros, but people from the more affluent areas of the llocos region, Cebu and lloilo, who later became the carpetbaggers, loggers, ranchers and bankers of Mindanao. 17
What happened afterward was just the reverse of the hoped for results of resettlement as the lasting solution to the Mindanao problem. Endless bloodshed and destruction became the order of the day because the situation seemed so skillfully woven to neutralize the Moros right in their own backyard. Why did the government establish, particularly the early settlement projects, right in the middle of Moro communities, when other places elsewhere were easily available? When people's fundamental rights and needs are not properly addressed but are, instead, suppressed or even ignored, conflicts will inevitably follow. In the past we witnessed the upsurge of violence as soon as the newcomers reached the shores of Mindanao. The Alangkat Movement in 1926-27 in Cotabato Valley, a mainly Manobo initiative, was actually a protest against foreign rule and the settling of an alien people. In 1942, at the height of the war with Japan, a series of massacres took place between rival guerrilla groups, fueled by or rooted in social and agrarian frictions. One group was led by Capt. Mantil Dilangalen and another by Capt. Froilan Matas. In Cotabato alone, about 1,000 people on both sides were brutally hacked to pieces in the towns of Buluan, Tacurong, Midsayap and Pigkawayan. The bloodbath in Pigkawayan was exceptionally terrible. The marketplace was enclosed in barb wire and the Moros inside were sorted out and slaughtered en masse. About 200 men, women and children perished in this slaughter. Some were buried alive. The ring leaders were Capt. Froilan Matas, Capt. Jose Escribano and Capt. Sebastian Javelosa, who collaborated with the Japanese occupation forces or stayed away as separate guerrilla units from the Moro units. No justice was meted out and the culprits remained scot-free even after the war. Capt. Froilan Matas became the mayor of Magpet and so did Capt. Jose Escribano in Tacurong.

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