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Filipinos Killing Filipinos

for the Colonial Masters
By Alfonso Bermejo Villamora-Kaiba News and Features.

"The supremacy of the United States must and will be enforced throughout every part of the Archipelago and those who resist it can accomplish no end other than their own ruin."


 

 

Excerpt from the Proclamation of the First Philippine (Schurman) Commission, addressed to the Filipino people on April 4, 1899.
 

On July 31, 2002, the "Balikatan" exercise in Mindanao ended after six months of "joint training" between the Philippine and U.S. Armed Forces. "Joint training" is a term used to skirt the Constitutional prohibition regarding foreign armed forces intervention in local affairs. The highly publicized "joint operations" launched against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan was vociferously opposed by Leftist groups as an afront to Philippine sovereignty.

Despite questionable "Terms of Reference" (governing rules of engagements), the "Balikatan" was viewed by many particularly in the South, as a successful one. It delivered the freedom of Marcia Burnham - an American missionary held captive by the ASG for over a year but whose husband Martin and another Filipino hostage, Deborah Yap were not as lucky having been fatally wounded from crossfire during the rescue operation.

While in Mindanao, the Americans also held civic action projects including the building of bridges, paving roads, and reconstructed airports and piers much to the delight of the Arroyo adnministration.

Most of the American contingents have returned to their respective units except for over a hundred special operation soldiers who will maintain watch of the southern plank until a fresh group perhaps much bigger than the first, can join them for more "Balikatan" exercises. Such continuing arrangements will become permanent under the highly controversial Mutual Logistics and Servicing Agreement (MLSA). The MLSA, according to the Arroyo administration, is nothing but "an accounting and servicing agreement" but oppositors see the foreboding of more sinister things to come like the return of American bases and more overt/covert intervention in Philippine affairs.

With President Arroyo having the upper hand in terms of Congressional numerical superiority (if it comes to a vote) and popular support, the MLSA will be signed once the Americans have given the green light. Consequently, Filipino soldiers, marines and sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces will probably see action again in Philippine soil much like in the post-spanish era. This time, they will again be pitted against their own Filipino brothers who happen to belong to any of the renegade Muslim groups in Mindanao or a cadre of the New People's Army as the Philippine government intensifies its campaign against these groups. Filipinos killing Flipinos sounds axiomatic as history again repeats itself.

"Medal of Honor"

Every year in May, Filipinos in the United States military join the rest of the country in celebrating "Asian Pacific Heritage Month". With regularity, the Asian Pacific Medal of Honor awardees are "rehonored" during these celebrations. Listening to the inspiring citations, one is awed by their bravery.

The United States has bestowed its highest military award for bravery to 10 Asian Pacific Americans between 1911 and 1969. Of the ten, three are Filipinos: US Army Private Jose B. Nisperos, US Navy Fireman 2nd Class Telesforo Trinidad, and US Army Sgt. Jose Calugas. Pvt. Nisperos from San Fernando, La Union was the first Pacific Islander to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He received the award for valor during the Philippine "Insurrection" while serving in the U.S. Army's 34th Company, Philippine Scouts. Fireman 2nd Class Trinidad of Capiz, Panay Island received the Medal of Honor for heroism following a boiler explosion aboard the USS San Diego on Jan. 21, 1915. Sgt. Calugas was honored for action on Jan. 16, 1942, near Culis, Bataan Province. He was a member of the Philippine Scouts' 88th Field Artillery. Calugas was a native of Leon, Iloilo. He later retired as a U.S. Army captain and died in February 1998 in Tacoma, Wash., at age 90.

Over the years of celebrating the event, celebrants have become accustomed to their heroics. With the ongoing US troops deployment in Mindanao, the heroics of Private Nisperos stands out. His citation reads as follows:

"During an action on Sept. 24, 1911, at Lapurap, Basilan, Philippines, Nisperos was so badly wounded he couldn't stand. His left arm was broken and lacerated and he suffered several spear wounds in the body. He continued firing his rifle with one hand until the enemy was repulsed, thereby helping prevent the annihilation of his party and the mutilation of their bodies".

Private Nisperos was killed in Basilan, one of the islands comprising the Sulu archipelago during one of the battles that made up the "Moro Resistance War" from 1902-1913. His badly mutilated body bore signs of the hatred of the Muslim people during those tines - symbolic of a 'crime of passion' in modern parlance. He was a Philippine Scout who served under General John "Black Jack" Pershing - a 42 year veteran of the Apache-Sioux Indians campaigns.

"Moro Resistance Wars"

Despite the fact the Spanish had never colonized the Morolands, Spain included Mindanao in the Treaty of Paris, which transferred sovereignty to the United States. In 1903 under General Leonard Wood, the colonial administration began passing laws that would quell Moro aspirations for independence by migrating large numbers of Christian Indios to the region. All Moro land holdings were then declared null and void and made open to land-grabbing. Subsequently, a law was passed allowing Christians to own up to 16 hectares, whereas a Muslim could only own 8.

General Wood's imposition of the cedulla or poll tax met considerable resistance in Lanao and Sulu. Inhabitants refused to pay and began to gather at the cotta on the crater of an extinct volcano, Bud (Mount) Dajo. With superior force of 800 disciplined infantrymen, dismounted cavalry, artillery battery, and a detachment of Police Constabulary Gen. Wood launched the bloody battle of Bud Dajo, killing 600 Moros including women and children. Twenty-one Americans died in that battle. The battle lines were drawn and the protracted "Moro Resistance Wars" ensued.

In 1909, General Pershing came back to the Philippines and was given the task of demolishing the local Moro resistance. Pershing viewed the presence of thousands of firearms and weapons in Sulu archipelago as a direct threat to peace and order. In 1911, he gave the order to subdue and disarm the Moros. If the abolition of slavery was met with opposition, this latest order caused uproar among the natives. Such was the resistance, that the US Army ordered the upgrade of the standard issue Colt .38-caliber pistol to the more powerful Colt .45-caliber, in order to stop the knife-wielding Moros. Their frenetic and oft suicidal style of fighting gave us the expression, "running amok".

Defying the disarmament order, the Moros raided peaceful villages and attacked U.S. troops. It was during one of these ambuscades that Pvt. Nisperos was mortally wounded.

Pvt. Nisperos received the highest award for bravery for killing his fellow Filipinos. While he is heralded as a hero in the United States, his medal came at the expense of his blood brothers.


 

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KAIBA News & Features, P.O. Box 6126, Naga City 4400.  email: alcalara@edsamail.com.ph  Tel No. 0917 8122107 Copyright 1999  KAIBA News & Features. All rights reserved.  Revised: August 30, 2002