Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The Signing of the Kiram-Bates Treaty
On the eve of the signing of the Kiram-Bates Agreement, there were three hard postulates that were molesting the minds of the Americans. First, there were still 34,000 armed Moros in the Moro country and the various islands were in such a dangerous condition that no place could be safe for outsiders. The swish of the kris, said an American author, Victor Hurley, was unrestrained. Second, the American occupation forces had a hard time containing the onslaught of the Filipino revolutionaries led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo when the Filipino-American War flared up in Luzon and some parts of the Visayas. And the Americans feared any strategical or tactical tie-up between the northern insurgents and the southern (Moro) warriors. Such an eventuality would have been too hot to handle, even for the best of the American generals. And third, even President McKinley had entertained serious skepticism over the sovereignty of Spain over the Moro country, particularly the Sulu sultanate.
Under the given situation, the Americans had very limited leeway. To ignore the reality of the situation is to court new disasters, prolong and escalate the fighting not only in the northern islands but right in the Moro country. Finally, the Americans chose a political approach by sending Brig. Gen. John C. Bates to Sulu to negotiate a treaty with Sultan Jamalul Kiram II. On August 20, 1899, General John C. Bates, representing the United States, and Sultan Jamalul Kiram 11 signed the Kiram-Bates Treaty. Similar but informal agreements were also made with the Moros of Mindanao. Among the Mindanao leaders who were provided with the same pledge, especially on due recognition of the Moro religion, custom and traditions, were Datu Mandi of Zamboanga, Datu Piang of Cotabato, and Sultan Mangigin of Maguindanao.
The negotiation, with the Sulu sultan was no easy job for the Americans. Right from the start the sailing was delicate, fraught with risks. The American negotiators had to use earnest and tactful diplomacy in order not to antagonize the sultan, who was expecting the surrender of the Spanish garrison, but not to the Americans. He never understood how the Americans had any claim of his realm which was never conquered by the Spaniards. After over a month of unnerving bargaining, the Sultan finally submitted a proposal which expectedly did not fit well with the American wish. However, after some mutual refinements the document was signed.
The Kiram-Bates Treaty was made up of fifteen articles. Some of the salient provisions are as follows:
1. The United States was to be recognized as the sovereign power over the Sulu Archipelago, though the American authorities were to recognize and fully respect the rights and dignity of the Sultan and the datus;
2. The Moros were assured that their religion and customs would not be interfered with;
3. The United States was permitted to occupy such places in Sulu as the public interests demanded, but with due compensation for the owners whose properties were taken;
4. The people of Sulu would have free, unlimited and undutiable trade in domestic products with any part of the Philippine Islands;
5. Crimes of Moros against Moros would be tried under the Sultan's jurisdiction but all other cases were to be tried by the United States;
6. The United States would give full protection to the Sultan and his subjects in case any foreign power should attempt to impose upon them;
7. The Sultan and datus agreed to cooperate in the suppression of piracy;
8. Any slave in the archipelago of Jolo would have the right to purchase freedom by paying to the master his or her usual market value;
9. The United States would not sell the island of Jolo or any other islands of the archipelago to any foreign nation without the consent of the Sultan;
10. The importation of firearms and other war materials was forbidden, except by license of the Governor General of the Philippines; and
11. The United States agreed to pay a monthly salary to the Sultan and nine of his top chiefs or datus.
On April 9, 1900 General Bates informed the Sulu sultan that the agreement was confirmed by the President of the United States except for Article X regarding the practice of slavery.' For its part, the U. S. Congress did not ratify the agreement on the pretext that the Sulu monarch and his people were polygamous.
In the course of time, disputes arose over the interpretations of the provisions of the treaty especially on the aspect of "sovereignty." The term was not only alien to the Moro political terminology but was so "complex" and "intricate" that the Sultan failed to appreciate the far-reaching implications of its Western definition.
Posted by Abas at 9:19 PM