The Philippines comprises all the territory ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris concluded between the United States and Spain on the tenth day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, the limits which are set forth in Article III of said treaty, together with all the islands embraced in the treaty concluded at Washington between the United States and Spain on the seventh day of November, nineteen hundred, and the treaty concluded between the United States and Great Britain on the second day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty, and all territory over which the present Government of the Philippine Islands exercises jurisdiction.
The provisions are as follows:
“A line running from west to east along or near the twentieth parallel of north latitude, and through the middle of the navigable channel of Bachi, from the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) to the one hundred and twenty-seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, thence along the one hundred and twenty seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the parallel of four degrees and forty five minutes (4 [degree symbol] 45′]) north latitude, thence along the parallel of four degrees and forty five minutes (4 [degree symbol] 45′) north latitude to its intersection with the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty five minutes (119 [degree symbol] 35′) east of Greenwich, thence along the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty five minutes (119 [degree symbol] 35′) east of Greenwich to the parallel of latitude seven degrees and forty minutes (7 [degree symbol] 40′) north, thence along the parallel of latitude of seven degrees and forty minutes (7 [degree symbol] 40′) north to its intersection with the one hundred and sixteenth (116th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, thence by a direct line to the intersection of the tenth (10th) degree parallel of north latitude with the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, and thence along the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the point of beginning. The United States will pay to Spain the sum of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) within three months after the exchange of the ratifications of the present treaty.” (Article III, Treaty of Paris).
The 1935 Constitution in defining the territory of the Philippines provides in Article 1:
“The Philippine archipelago is comprised of the territory “ceded” by the Spain to US in the treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898
The 1973 and 1987 Constitutions define Philippine territory as follows:
“The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all the other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic or legal title, including the territorial sea, the air space, the subsoil, the sea-bed, the insular shelves, and the submarine areas over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, irrespective of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.”
We as laymen, come to know our territories as the main islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao comprising of some 7,107 islands.
We did not agree that our country was ceded by Spain to the US on December 10, 1898 because we have become independent 6 months before that when Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence on June 12, 1898. This is the reason why we continue to celebrate our independence day on this date and not July 4, as we previously did.
From the time of the revolutionary government of Aguinaldo up to the present time, we have exercised sovereignty over the island of Mindanao. Mindanao had recognized our government when its tribal chieftains have run for public office and had pledged allegiance to the Philippine flag.
Later, when Malaysian and Indonesian influence on the minority Muslim in Mindanao, created a vibrant religion that proselytized most of the Mindanao inhabitants, certain chieftains of the island would like to establish a Republic of Mindanao. The rise of Muslim extremists of the Al Queda type found surrogates in the Muslim inhabitants in this island. The issue of the island being neglected by the central government in Manila and the poverty level of the people in this island were used to drumbeat the need for a “Mindanao Republic”. This aspiration culminated in rise of the MNLF and MILF, or even the brigand group of Abbu Sayaff, whose chief objective is to finally establish a separate Republic of Mindanao.
ARMM is the political aspect of this struggle. The peace process between the MILF or MNLF and the Government, while it is being undertaken by the government to address and appease the grievances of the people of Mindanao, is from MILF’s or MNLF’s standpoint a strategic struggle to establish a Mindanao Republic.
It was to the credit of some of our people who see the bigger picture that the ARMM elections and “peace negotiations” between the MILF/MNLF and the government were being used only to negotiate for time, just enough time, when these group of armed militias have all the strength and resources to wave their own flag in the island and declare the “State of Mindanao” and drive away all the Christians in the island.
Just like the “peace negotiation” the government has with the NPA, it is being undertaken only to negotiate for time before the eventual kill. Whoever thinks that the MILF/MNLF and the NPA have the desire for peace is a real dreamer. All these groups want is power and the subjugation of people who do not think just like them.
Great nations would desire for more territories, while we parcel out our own under the guise of promoting peace. We have already abdicated our rights over part of North Borneo (Sabah) during Marcos time. We are abdicating our territorial rights now over Spratlys. We are about to abdicate our territorial rights over Mindanao.
And some of us see nothing wrong with the way we mutilate our sovereignty and national territory. We lack the concept of nationhood and the candidness to tell our brother Muslims that the concept of one nation and one flag transcends the parochial concerns of tribalism and wardlordism.