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