WebClick Tracer

REVIEW: Great book by an intellectual giant

mindaviews review

Amor B. Pendaliday, Ed.D.[1]

The Rulers of Magindanao in Modern History, 1515-1903:
Continuity and Change in a Traditional Realm in the Southern Philippines
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2023

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 16 April) — On the first week of November, 1983, a legal scholar from Magindanao journeyed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to deliver an extensive paper dealing with the “Legal Status of the Sulu Sultanate and the Mindanao Principalities.” During that 3rdUNESCO Workshop on Malay Sultanates and Malay Culture, the eminent Atty. Datu Michael Ong Mastura presented a listing of at least 18 treaties signed between the Sultanates of Magindanaw-Buayan and Spain, and another one with Great Britain between the years 1605 to 1888. 

Those treaties were mostly offensive-defensive alliance, political, commercial and military for these related to peaceful co-existence, commerce, armistice, and settlement of territorial disputes and delimitation of boundaries between Magindanaw-Bwayan and Filipinas, as well as commercial activities with Great Britain. 

On the other hand, the Sultaniyyah sin Lupah Sug / Sultanate of Sulu, as appearing in the list of Mastura, had forged at least 13 treaties with Spain, Great Britain, the United States of America, and France from 1646 to 1878. These treaties were mostly similar in nature with those forged by other countries with the Kasultanan sa Magindanaw / Sultanate of Magindanaw. 

Meanwhile, four more agreements involving the Sultaniyyah sin Lupah Sug, Great Britain and the United States of America have been listed by Mastura under the heading “Sulu and Its Dependencies.” 

To the illustrious Mastura was due the credit of compiling the Moro Treaties and who has inspired one researcher from delving deeper into these treaties as he has tried to do in the forthcoming three-volume book THE MORO TREATIES WITH FOREIGN POWERS. These are collectively known as “Mastura List.” Atty. Datu Michael Ong Mastura, President of Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy, is the foremost scholar who seriously delved on the Moro Treaties with foreign powers.

The treaties listed by Mastura were also published in the following:

  1. On pages 505 and 506 of the bookbound manuscript of  The Rulers of Maguindanao in Modern History, 1515-1903: Continuity and Change in a Traditional Realm in the Southern Philippines. Mastura submitted the manuscript to the Modern History Program of the Philippine Social Science Council in 1979, and 
  • Muslim Filipino Experience: A Collection of Essays, on pages 45-60.

During my college days at the Notre Dame University in the early 1990s, I used to frequently read this very thick manuscript where I first encountered the Moro Treaties.  The Ateneo de Manila University Press would publish it as a book in 2023.  This is the great book launched last Thursday, April 13, alhamdulillah. The second book was published by the Ministry of Muslim Affairs in 1984.  

In these two publications, Mastura listed 18 treaties entered into by the Sultanates of Magindanaw-Bwayan-Tumbao with foreign powers from 1646 up to 1888. With the discovery by another researcher of another 19 treaties, the combined list of treaties is now 37. 

Revered Moro scholar Datu Michael Ong Mastura writes a message to buyers of his book, “The Rulers of Magindanao in Modern History 1515-1903: Continuity and Change in a Traditional Realm in the Southern Philippines” during its launching Thursday, 13 April 2023 at the Grand Pagana Hall in Cotabato City. At least a hundred copies of the book brought to the launch were all sold out. The book will also be launched at the Ateneo de Manila University on May 4. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO C. BUENO

As to the Sultanate of Sulu, Mastura listed down 12 treaties crafted from 1646 up to 1878. In addition, Mastura separately discussed another three agreements/treaties, namely: the North Borneo Deed of 1878, the Kiram-Bates Treaty of 1898, and the Kiram-Carpenter Memorandum Agreement of 1915. Thus, we can derive at 15 treaties entered into by the Sultanate of Sulu with foreign powers from 1646 to 1915. Again, 18 more treaties were discovered from serious researches of another writer making the combined list of Sulu Treaties into 33.

Even then, seven more treaties were discovered. These were entered into by the kerajaans in Palawan, Manila, Basilan and an Illanun sultanate in Baras which were allies of the Sultanates of Brunei Darussalam, Magindanaw and Sulu. It is believed that the two treaties entered into by the Magellan-Elcano Expedition with the Moro kerajaans in Palawan in 1521 were the first Moro treaties. 

Therefore, the Mastura List of 35 treaties plus the Nu’ain Supplemental List of 42 treaties will make up a combined number of seventy-seven (77) treaties entered into by the Moro Sultanates and foreign powers from the famed Magellan-Elcano Expedition in 1521 up to the American colonial government in 1915 in a span of three centuries and ninety-six years of existence as independent countries and monarchs although under constant invasion by their superpower enemies. Table below lists down the Moro Treaties:  

1Bwayan-Spanish TreatyMay 9, 1597
2Bwayan-Spanish TreatyMay, 1604
3Magindanaw-Bwayan—Spanish TreatySeptember 8, 1605
4Bwayan-Spanish TreatyMarch 1, 1609
5Magindanaw -Dutch Treaty1614
6Magindanaw -Spanish Treaty1628
7Bwayan-Spanish Treaty1635
8Bwayan-Spanish TreatyApril 11, 1637
9Magindanaw-Bwayan—Spanish Treaty1638
10Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1639
11Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1642
12Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1644
13Magindanaw-Spanish TreatyJune 24, 1645
14Magindanaw-Dutch Treaty1646
15Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1649
16Magindanaw/Kandahar-Dutch TreatySeptember 10, 1688
17Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1719
18Magindanaw-Spanish TreatyMarch 13, 1733
19Magindanaw-Spanish TreatyMarch 15, 1734
20Magindanaw-British TreatyJune 5, 1775
21Magindanaw-British TreatySeptember 12, 1775
22Magindanaw-Dutch TreatyJune 18, 1787
23Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1789
24Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1794
25Magindanaw-Spanish TreatyNovember 4, 1805
26Magindanaw-Spanish TreatyMay 22, 1837
27Magindanaw/Sibugay—Spanish TreatyOctober 21, 1843
28Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1844
29Magindanaw-Spanish TreatyMay 15, 1845
30Tumbao-Spanish TreatyJune 14, 1857
31Magindanaw-Spanish Treaty1861
32Bwayan-Spanish Treaty 1865
33Bwayan-Spanish Treaty1875
34Tumbao-Spanish Treaty February 15, 1885
35Bwayan-Spanish TreatyMarch 10, 1887
36Talayan-Spanish Treaty1888
37Bwayan-Spanish Treaty1888
1Sulu-Spanish TreatyJune 14, 1578
2Sulu-Spanish Treaty1628
3Sulu-Spanish TreatyApril, 1638
4Sulu-Spanish TreatyApril 14, 1646
5Sulu-Brunei Darussalam Treaty1675/1704
6Sulu-Spanish Treaty1705
7Sulu-Spanish Treaty1725
8Sulu-Spanish TreatyFebruary 18 and 22, 1737
9Sulu-Spanish Treaty1746
10Sulu-Spanish TreatyMarch 3, 1754
11Sulu-British TreatyJanuary 28, 1761
12Sulu-Spanish Treaty1762
13Sulu-British TreatySeptember 12, 1762
14Sulu-British TreatyFebruary 23, 1763
15Sulu-British TreatySeptember 19, 1763
16Sulu-British TreatyJuly 2, 1764
17Sulu-British TreatySeptember 28, 1764
18Sulu-British Treaty1769
19Sulu-Spanish TreatyNovember 4, 1805
20Sulu-Spanish Treaty ISeptember 23, 1836
21Sulu-Spanish Treaty IISeptember 23, 1836
22Sulu-United States of America TreatyFebruary 5, 1842
23Sulu-French TreatyApril 23, 1843
24Sulu-French TreatyFebruary 20, 1845
25Sulu-British TreatyMay 29, 1849
26Sulu-Spanish TreatyAugust 27, 1850
27Sulu-Spanish TreatyApril 19, 1851
28Sulu-Spanish TreatySeptember 28, 1877
29Sulu-British Treaty (North Borneo Treaty)January 22, 1878
30Sulu-Spanish TreatyJuly 22, 1878
31Sulu-United States of America TreatyAugust 20, 1899
32Sulu-British TreatyApril 22, 1903
33Sulu-United States of America TreatyMarch 22, 1915
 Other Treaties 
1Kerajaan of Palawan-Spanish TreatyJune 1, 1521
2Kerajaan of Palawan-Spanish TreatyOctober 1, 1521
3Kerajaan of Manila-Spanish Treaty1570
4Kerajaan of Maluso/Basilan-Spanish Treaty1836
5Balactasan/Basilan Confederacy-Spanish TreatyJanuary 23, 1845
6Kerajaan of Pilas/Basilan-Spanish TreatyMarch 9, 1848
7Baras-Spanish TreatyFebruary 25, 1850

Of the 77 treaties, 38 have available texts printed in the forthcoming book Moro Treaties With Foreign Powers as follows: 12 treaties for Magindanaw-Bwayan-Tumbao, 25 for Sulu, and one for Baras.

Meanwhile, 39 treaties have no available texts so far in published materials available to the public, as follows: 23 treaties for Magindanaw-Bwayan-Tumbao, 10 for Sulu, two for the kerajaan in Palawan, one for the kerajaan in Manila, and three for Basilan (Maluso, Pilas, and Balactasan Confederacy).

The Spanish military commander and historian Don Julian Gonzalez y Parrado admitted in 1893 that the Spanish principles of war against the Moros originated in 1577 but all the campaigns and expeditions that were carried out, always concluded with treaties of peace and friendship, respect for territories, and alliances to fight together with the common enemies: “todas las campañas y expediciones que se realizaban, concluían siempre con tratados de paz y amistad, respeto de territorios, y alianzas para combatir juntos á los enemigos communes.”[2]

Nowadays, treaties are bound by the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.[3] However, prior to 1969, “the word “treaty” in its generic sense had been generally reserved for engagements concluded in written form.”[4] Hence, since all the Moro Treaties were concluded prior to the creation of the League of Nations, the United Nations Organization, and the non-retroactive Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, those were valid as far as the signatory parties were concerned especially after the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia on October 24, 1648.[5]

The Moro Treaties must be appreciated in view of judicial fact under the doctrine of Intertemporal Law that was relied upon, among others, by the eminent Arbiter Max Huber of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in settling the case of sovereign ownership of Miangas/Palmas between the United States and the Netherlands on April 4, 1928, thus: 

It is admitted by both sides that international law underwent profound modifications between the end of the Middle Ages and the end of the 19th century, as regards the rights of discovery and acquisition of uninhabited regions or regions inhabited by savages or semi-civilised peoples. Both Parties are also agreed that a juridical fact must be appreciated in the light of the law contemporary with it, and not of the law in force at the time when a dispute in regard to it arises or falls to be settled. The effect of discovery by Spain is therefore to be determined by the rules of international law in force in the first half of the 16th century–or (to take the earliest date) in the first quarter of it, i.e. at the time when the Portuguese or Spaniards made their appearance in the Sea of Celebes.

If the view most favourable to the American arguments is adopted–with every reservation as to the soundness of such view–that is to say, if we consider as positive law at the period in question the rule that discovery as such, i.e. the mere fact of seeing land, without any act, even symbolical, of taking possession, involved ipso jure territorial sovereignty and not merely an “inchoate title”, a jus ad rem, to be completed eventually by an actual and durable taking of possession within a reasonable time, the question arises whether sovereignty yet existed at the critical date, i.e. the moment of conclusion and coming into force of the Treaty of Paris. 

As regards the question which of different legal systems prevailing at successive periods is to be applied in a particular case (the so-called intertemporal law), a distinction must be made between the creation of rights and the existence of rights. The same principle which subjects the act creative of a right to the law in force at the time the right arises, demands that the existence of the right, in other words its continued manifestation, shall follow the conditions required by the evolution of law. International law in the 19th century, having regard to the fact that most parts of the globe were under the sovereignty of States members of the [846] community of nations, and that territories without a master had become relatively few, took account of a tendency already existing and especially developed since the middle of the 18th century, and laid down the principle that occupation, to constitute a claim to territorial sovereignty, must be effective, that is, offer certain guarantees to other States and their nationals. It seems therefore incompatible with this rule of positive law that there should be regions which are neither under the effective sovereignty of a State, nor without a master, but which are reserved for the exclusive influence of one State, in virtue solely of a title of acquisition which is no longer recognized by existing law, even if such a title ever conferred territorial sovereignty. For these reasons, discovery alone, without any subsequent act, cannot at the present time suffice to prove sovereignty over the Island of Palmas (or Miangas); and in so far as there is no sovereignty, the question of an abandonment properly speaking of sovereignty by one State in order that the sovereignty of another may take its place does not arise.[6]

Mastura’s book also sheds light on the history of the Kerajaan of Bwayan and its flourishing into several kerajaans and sultanates from intermarriages with various leaders. Noteworthy also is Raja Balatamay’s marriage to Putri Pangyan Ampay, daughter of Raja Bongsu of Sulu, which union later on resulted to the crowning of their daughter, Siti Kabira, into the throne of Sulu as Sultana Nurul A’zam. According to the genealogy recorded by Dalrymple when he visited Jolo in 1761, Sultana Nurul A’zam ruled after her uncle Sultan Jalaluddin Bakhtiar. In his Essay Towards an Account of Sulu which he wrote in July 1792 and the Oriental Repertory, Dalrymple noted from reports of the wise men of Sulu at that time that Sultana Nurul A’zam also ruled for seven years[7] during those years that the future Sultan Sahabuddin bin Sultan Jalaluddin Bakhtiar was still young. 

This book also deals with the famous Datu Utu of Bwayan and the role played by his powerful and influential wife, Raja Putri daughter of Sultan Untong Qudratullah by his wife Bago-a-tao daughter of Sultan-a-Maytum, in the crafting of the last Bwayan Treaties with Spain and the succession of the Sultans of Magindanaw after the death of Datu Utu in 1902. 

Right here in the Bangsamoro homeland and the Philippines in general, a great and honorable man of royal lineage has contributed a lot in shaping Philippine history, Philippine constitution, Philippine legislation, Muslim Mindanao and Bangsamoro autonomy, Islamic banking, education, Philippine foreign service, codification of Philippine Muslim Personal Law, party-list representation, federalism and Bangsamoro State constitution, and peace process which resulted to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that was inaugurated on March 29, 2019 by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim as Interim Chief Minister, alhamdulillah.

Indeed, this noble man is a leader par excellence in his own right, a formidable institution of the Bangsamoro, and a great pillar of the Bangsamoro people’s struggle for their right to self-determination, alhamdulillah. He is considered as the doyen of contemporary Bangsamoro and Philippine Muslim historians. 

In 2012, this eminent legal and history scholar published a book Bangsamoro Quest: The Birth of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front[8] which is a must for all historians, students and contemporary leaders of the BARMM.

I was lucky enough to have been in the company of this influential figure from 2001 up to 2008 as member of the MILF peace negotiating team and as a scribe for him and the late great Moro legal luminary almarhum Atty. Muhammad Musib Manampan Buat. Along with Kaka Bobby — Commissioner Robert M. Alonto of the Bangsamoro Commission on the Preservation of Cultural Heritage — we were personally chosen by the late Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front almarhum Shaykh Salamat Hashim Rahimahullah to be with the MILF Negotiating Team. 

Those years saw the crafting of the Agreement on Peace between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or commonly known as Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. My engagement with him as member of the MILF peace negotiating team ended during the day the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect (MOA-AD) of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 was to be signed on August 5, 2008 but its signing was aborted due to the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court a day earlier. 

I have personally followed his works ever since I read his book The Muslim Filipino Experience: A Collection of Essays in 1989. That powerful book has awakened and shaped my mind especially that chapter dealing with the Legal Status of the Sulu Sultanate and the Mindanao Principalities which he presented in Malaysia. That book led me to discover another great work of him entitled The Rulers of Maguindanao in Modern History, 1515-1903: Continuity and Change in a Traditional Realm in the Southern Philippines.

I have compiled some of his great works and continue to look for his other works so I can make a good compilation and distribute it to all educational institutions in the BARMM, in shaa Allah.

When the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) were legally challenged before the Supreme Court by the Philippine Constitutional Association (PHILCONSA), Tanggulang Demokrasya, Rev. Vicente Libradores Aquino et al, Jacinto Paras, and Rev. Elly Velez Pamatong, this brilliant legal luminary filed an urgent motion for leave to intervene and to admit attached comment-in-intervention before the Supreme Court on October 27, 2015.[9] But the Supreme Court, sitting en banc on November 29, 2016, dismissed the petitions against the FAB and CAB because these are “Not ripe for adjudication due to non-enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.” [10]

I pay my humble respects and eternal gratitude to the illustrious Atty. Datu Michael Ong Mastura, one of the great great grandsons of the legendary and greatest Sultan of Mindanao, Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Qudarat, the doyen of contemporary Moro intellectuals, a formidable institution in his own right, for writing this deeply intellectual masterpiece, an obra maestra, and timeless treasure of Moro History that is a great scholarly contribution to the quest of the Bangsamoro people for their right to self-determination. 

(Amor B. Pendaliday, Ed.D. served as Commissioner on Higher Education of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2014 to  2016 and in the Bangsamro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2019 to November 15, 2022. He is presently Executive Director of a non-governmental organization, Al-Ittihad Mindanawe Darussalam, Inc. based in Cotabato City)

[1] Formerly Commissioner on Higher Education in Bangsamoro ARMM and Member of MILF Peace Panel Technical Working Group from 2001 up to 2008. 

[2] Quoted in Don Julian Gonzalez Parrado, Memoria Acerca de Mindanao. Manila: Estab. Tipo-Litografico de Ramirez y Comp., 1893, p.12.

[3] See full text of the treaty in https://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/conventions/1_1_1969.pdf. The treaty was done at Vienna on 23 May 1969 and entered into force on 27 January 1980. 

The Treaty of Westphalia defined the boundaries or borders of the warring European kingdoms, i.e. the Holy Roman Empire, the King of France and their respective Allies and is said to be the basis for the definition of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of modern “nation-states”. This treaty also called for a “Christian and Universal Peace, and a perpetual, true, and sincere Amity” between the warring parties. 

[4] Surf further https://treaties.un.org/Pages/overview.aspx?path=overview/definition/page1_en.xml.

[5] See the full text of the Treaty of Westphalia in https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/westphal.asp.

[6] See the full version of the celebrated decision “Arbitral Award (of the Tribunal of Arbitration) Rendered in Conformity with the Special Agreement Concluded on January 23, 1925, Between the United States of America  and the Netherlands Relating to the Arbitration of Differences Respecting Sovereignty Over the Island of Palmas (or Miangas)” in Raphael Perpetuo M. Lotilla, The Philippine National Territory: A Collection of Related Documents. Quezon city: International Institute of Legal Studies, University of the Philippines Law Center and Foreign Service Institute—Department of Foreign Affairs, 1995, pp.91-133, noting as source United Nations Report of International Arbitral Award, Vol. II, p.829. 

The Judgment is also available online at http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/Docs/PCA/Island%20of%20Palmas%20PCA%20PDF.pdf.

[7] See Alexander Dalrymple, Oriental Repertory. London: East-Indian Company, 1791, p.577.  See also Alexander Dalrymple, “Essay towards an account of Sulu,” The Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, Vol. III. Singapore, 1849, p.565.

[8] Atty. Datu Michael O. Mastura, Bangsamoro Quest: The Birth of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Pulau Pinang: Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN) and Research and Education for Peace (REPUSM), 2012.

[9] http://www.ndbcnews.com.ph/news/mastura-to-file-motion-before-sc-in-defense-of-fab-cab

[10] See the full text of the Supreme Court ruling in G.R. No. 218406  in https://lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2016/nov2016/gr_218406_2016.html.

Your perspective matters! Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We welcome diverse viewpoints and encourage respectful discussions. Don't hesitate to share your ideas or engage with others.

Search MindaNews

Share this MindaNews story
Send us Feedback