FROM MILITARY GOVERNMENT TO THE MORO PROVINCE
The materials presented so far give a historical sequence of transition from the sultanate to the Politico-military form of government. The occupation of Cotabato by the Americans at the turn of the present century brought into the confines as secular state a territory that was only nominally under the Spanish sovereignty. The American-Cotabato administration, as elsewhere in Mindanao, developed into three successive stages, namely: Military government, Moro Provinces and Department of
Mindanao and Sulu. In the course of this period another era had ended in which the royal families would be eclipsed in prominence in public life. An emerging leader like Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, who readily co opted to the new order would play some vital role in Cotabato in itself was moving to a new government structure that would bring Filipino officials from the north.
On February 1, 1900, the first visit was made to Datu Piang at his settlement, in Dulawan, by the commanding officer and his men on the US gunboat Panay. A continent military marked the first visit of Datu Utu and Rajah Putri to a military governor of Cotabato for it was attended with mutual ceremony, ironic Datu ________ who was one of the most powerful chiefs or Datu’s upriver was now downstream. The passing of his hey days was summarized by Harriet Febiger in these words: “ his is the very bluest of all the blue Moro blood in this great island. His slaves, in serving him, creep and crouch like dogs, and even the other and lesser Datu’s bow before him and murmur between their half close lips, Dato….Dato”….there is another upstart, self-made Datu Piang, who is now respected and feared”. But a last glimpsed of that passing age may be reconstructed for one moment.
Although the end was in sight, it was the inception of the new secular structure that was to break the backbone of the traditional form of governance; for the royalties shied away from the new dispensation.
Following in the footsteps of his former patron, Datu Piang peacefully and easily made friends with the American authorities. This figure had taken the measure of the conditions in the islands came to Cotabato. Thus, Daniel Williams wrote in his diary:
“ We anchored off the river leading to Cotabato early in the afternoon of April 1, 1901. Major McMahon in command came aboard in the evening accompanied by Datoos and Ali and their attendants”
“ At the Cotabato landing we were greeted by as heterogeneous a crowd as imagination can conceive. Three companies of soldiers were in line, as also the “Moro guard” and a company of native police decked out in all the upriver Datu’s and their following had donned their bravest and came to town, never before in all like hood has there been such a gathering to datu’s at one point”
“It being the present policy of our authorities to occupy merely the role of counselors and arbitrators in Moro affairs, no effort was made to establish to local government. The Moro, although primitive in many ways, seem to work out substantial justice among themselves.”
In Dulawan, Datu Piang entertained on a grand scale. According to Col. John White, to most of his visitors Piang made presents. It was reported that “the Datu had a carefully graduated scale of gifts that ran from an engraved Lantaka (brass cannon) or valuable piece of brass for a general down to half a dozen eggs for a second lieutenant. Piang died in 1933 at the age of 84.
The government instituted under the military district may be given in summary. The commanding officer became not only the governor of his district, but also mayor of the capital town of Cotabato. It was the principal business of the commanding officers to hear and decide compliant. As this procedure became cumbersome, it was decided to organize a board of arbitration, chosen by the moro’s by themselves, to hear all such complaints of a purely civil nature. The result had been most satisfactory since this was done as of December 7, 1901. in the same year telegraph lines were extended from Cotabato to Davao; it was connected to Tamontaka by telephone later, then followed by Taviran, Kudarangan and Regina Regente. Significantly, during the hearing before the US senate committee on the Philippine problems on Ap.10, 1902, recommendation was made “for the extension of a road around the lake Lanai to and across the divide to Paring which would be the base ultimately and commercial portfor all southern Mindanao, the road to be extended to Cotabato.”
The so-called Philippine Bill of 1902” recognized the distinction between the Moro’s, pagans and Christian Filipinos, which basically determined the feature of government worked out by the Americans for Mindanao and Sulu, where the Muslim population prevailed. Among the problems initially tackled were the position of then local datus. It was first suggested to institute there residency introduced by Sir Andrew Clarke for the malays of the straight settlements. But after consideration of local conditions it was decided by the Philippines conditions for the moros, modeled, so far as related to the chief executive offices, upon the general lines followed in establishing provincial governments for the Christian Filipinos, accordingly, the commission passed on June 1, 1903, act no. 787, organizing the Moro province.
Under the Moro province there were five district provinces one of which was Cotabato. On October 29, 1903, the legislative council of the Moro province approved an act establishing the municipalities of Cotabato and Makaramong. Next to the municipalities in category and importance were the tribal wards to accommodate through a simple structure the non-Christian inhabitants. Thus, by way of recapitulation, the district province of Cotabato two organized municipalities (Makar and General Santos) and 18 tribal wards. On October 6, 1905, the legislative council of the Moro Province also passed Act no. 142 organizing the tribal wards courts which had the power and authority to try civil and criminal cases when parties involved were Moro but not Christians. The Philippine commission also clearly as 1903 approved the formation of a Moro Constabulary units, they were required to wear a red fez with either a black or a gold tassel, the manila times a reported on October 13, 1908.
In 1903, the legislative council, enacted Act no 8 making the ownership of slaves a crime, and punishable by twenty years imprisonment. Datu Ali who was not likely to take this with slight provocation took the field once more. General Leonard Wood, the first governor of the Moro Province, decided to conduct a military operation against Datu Ali at Salunayan, within the jurisdiction of the Midsayap Town now, still has visible trenches, a living testimony to the first clash in May, 1904 between the American troops and Maguindanao warriors.
In this encounter, General Leonard Wood personally led the reconnaissance, which resulted in a ambush of a company of the 17th Infantry, losing two officers and seventeen-foot patrol. But the American were quite strong for the for the fort, and Datu Ali ordered t retreat of his men from their dugouts. In the hot pursuit that Datu Diambangan who was a brother of Datu Ali as has been indicated earlier, was captured and taken to Cotabato, from this point onward in what marks first history of the guerilla warfare type, to the efficient-run American Military force. At Sempitan, Datu Ali made another stand but was routed out of this conventional position; he fled to Malala where he remained in hiding. But one of his men named Datu Enok turned against him.
Datu Sansaluna, son of Datu Ali who was with him at the time of capture (he was only 18 years old at that time). Explaining, the betrayal, Datu Sansaluna recalled that the place up there was so wild it would ordinarily have been quite impossible for the American forces to reach our camp, least of all find it. But one of our men turned traitor. Before the opening of the campaign, my father had taken a woman from Dulawan, who I think owned by Enok even went as far as Digos, Davao and personally conducted the Americans westward for five days through swamps, mountain and jungles, until they saw Datu Ali house beside Malala river. The capture took place October 2, 1905.
On November 17, 1905, the national daily “The cable News reported that affirm in the Moro province appeared to improved a telegram from acting Governor Langhome t executive secretary Ferguson read as follows: “fifty seven guns in good condition Lately surrendered in Cotabato valley and 1,000 Moro came in and settled in their old homes. Captain Van Horn, District governor, has heard from remaining chiefs who are coming in with guns. Some 2,000 will be settled in Paidu Pulangui under Datu Sansaluna”.
Datu Sansaluna was brought to an exposition in Jamestown Beach, Virginia, USA, where he was exhibited possibly bally hoed as the son of a famous Moro warrior he was later presented to president Roosevelt.
As Peace settled in the Cotabato Valley between 1906-1909, general Tasker Bliss, the second governor of the Moro Province, thought of imposing “a disarmamament Policy in the district Governor Mayor A.B. foster advise against it, arguing that most weapons in Moro hands were obsolete, and were use mainly for game hunting and for protection from lawless elements. In 1908, General bliss reported that Cotabato was the most peaceful district in the province, stating that there were only five cases of assassination, 3 homicides and one reported assault. In another part of his report, General Bliss mentioned that the assistant Superintended of schools, Charles Cameron issued a directive in Marched 1907 t revise the curriculum to include teaching of industrial work in Muslim schools. By 1909, the Moro province enrollment had reached 4,894 out of which 3,897 were Christian Filipinos, 842 Moro and 130 highlanders of a plan to bring Islamic preceptors into province to teach Islam in the public schools in order to dissipate Muslim apathy was proposed. But it was opposed by Governor John Pershing.
In one sense Cotabato had become a center of interactions between the government and Datu’s of the interiors, which at times were beyond reach of public service. A report of secretary of Interior to the Philippine Commission. 1908, stated that town sites surveys have been completed for Dulawan, Dansalan, Parang-Parang and Cotabato. By 1911, soil test had been completed also which showed that the Cotabato valley was well suited for hemp, rubber, coconut, sugar cane, rice corn and sweet potato in that order; Pikit and its neighborhood were found to be favorable for the growth of rubber trees. Some statistical figures reveal these comparisons; in 1901, the Philippine Commission was informed that rice, coffee, guttpereha (rubber), almaciga and bees-wax were the major exports of Cotabato sent by the Chinese to Singapore. The two months with aggregate of about $ 150,000 (Mexican dollars). In 1911, Cotabato exports valued at P 137,892.13, which leaped in 1913 to P 391,135.78. Drought caused serious decrease in rice supply so that it was decided to bring homesteaders from overpopulated parts of the country to Cotabato.
Pursuant to Act no. 2254, Christian settlers in the upper part of Cotabato, in the southern coast was planned with the following objectives: (a) to increase the production in this imported in large quantities for local consumption; (b) to equalize the distribution of population in these islands; (c) to afford opportunity to colonist to become land proprietors and to bring under cultivation extensive wild public lands. The Cable News reported on June 3, 1913, that first actual shipments of colonist to the new Cotabato project would take place. In a chattered steamer 150 families, averaging five members each, would leave Cebu to take up their homesteads in Mindanao. Given the families were necessary implements to till the soil; supplies sufficient to tide them for the first few months would be advanced by the government, including the value of work animals and tools. In two other acts numbered 2280 and 2806, it was provided that the agricultural colonies at Pikit, and glam both in Cotabato town’s growth could for the settlers; some colonist in fact actually stayed instead of proceeding to their appointed places.