Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Second Class Citizens

As a young and emerging state, the Philippines had to attend to many priorities needed for reconstruction and nation-building. The country was so devastated during the last war that she had to start practically from scratch. There were other social, political and economic problems. The Communist-inspired rebellion was one of the most serious concerns of the state. In contrast, the so-called Moro Problem was never given proper attention. It was deliberately dropped from the national agenda that required immediate action. Consequently, the Moros also assumed minor roles after the war.

For a while, Mindanao as the "Land of Promise" continued to lure in hordes of people. Not to be outdone, in fact in the lead roles, were American capitalists- thanks to the parity rights agreement and the local elites, who were mostly feudal lords and political kingpins. The American capitalists intensified their spoliation of Mindanao. In 1957, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was awarded 1,000 hectares of land in Makilala, Cotabato for rubber plantation. In 1963, Dole Philippines, a subsidiary of the Castle and Cooke Company, acquired a vast tract of lands in Tupi and Polomolok, Cotabato for pineapple business. In 1966 Weyerhaueser Corporation obtained 72,000 hectares of forest lands in Mindanao for logging operation. in 1968 Boise-Cascade Corporation started hauling lauan timber from its 42,000-hectare concession, also in Mindanao. For reason of space, we cannot list all the American capitalists who engaged in big business ventures on Mindanao.

The case of the Filipino capitalists is even more revealing; in fact, they cornered the lion-share of the booming timber, pasture and coconut concessions in Mindanao. Imagine one such locally-owned company, the Bislig Bay Lumber Company, which had acquired 141,000 hectares in Surigao for logging operation. Such names as Sarmientos, Magsaysays, Sorianos, Cojuangcos, Puyats, Alcantaras, Ayalas, Floirendos, Yuchengcos and many more did not only enrich themselves from the wealth of Mindanao but directly contributed to the deprivations and sufferings of the natives of the region.

In 1973, a government-sponsored study found out the following disparity between the socio-economic conditions of the Moros and the Christians: 1) Only 12 percent of the Moros had electricity, while the average in the whole Mindanao was 17.5 percent; 2) 20 percent of the Moros had water supply, while the average for Mindanao was 25 percent; and 3) There was only one doctor for every 6,959 Moros, while there was one doctor for 3,954 for non-Moros.

Earlier, in 1957, the Province of Cotabato had 1,546 Christian educators as against only 37 Moros; six Moro business proprietors versus 144 Christians, one Moro lawyer to 38 Christians; and not one Moro dentist, engineer or pharmacist.

Unlike other provinces, Sulu, Lanao and Cotabato continued to be governed as "special provinces." The government directly chose the highest officials of the provinces until 1950, when the right of suffrage was extended to the Moros. Except Cotabato, the two other special provinces persisted in having Christian governors until later. The Commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu exercised control and supervision over these provinces until 1950, when this office was abolished and its functions were taken over by the Office of the President. In 1956, the supervision was transferred to the Executive Secretary until these provinces were reclassified as "regular" the following year.

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