"Filipinization" 1914 - 1920

Photo taken in 1914. At center, bottom row is Governor-General Harrison. To his left is Vicente Ilustre, a Filipino member of the Philippine Commission who together with Frank Carpenter (middle, second row), drafted Act No. 2408 of July 14, 1914, which abolished Moro Province and erased the separate status of Moroland from the the rest of the Philippines. Most of the rest are Moro datus who had been appointed Presidentes, or Mayors, of their various villages.

    The official history of the "smooth transition" from military to civilian rule of Moroland, as written by the US Army, asserts that following a "successful" disarmament campaign and the "final defeat" of Tausug dissidents at the Battle of Bud Bagsak, the American civil government and the Army concluded the Moros had at last been pacified and willing to give allegiance to the colonial government in Manila. This is far from the much messier truth. Top echelons of the US Army had gradually come to the conclusion that in Moroland they were mired in a dead end mission that was leading nowhere. Their immediate concerns were the unsettled situation on U.S.-Mexican border due to that nation's civil war and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Europe.

    This coincided with the return of Democratic control over the Presidency for the first time in sixteen years with the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson March 4, 1913. While Wilson was largely indifferent to the fate of the islands, he appointed a man who held strong beliefs regarding the future direction of Philippine policy and a willingness to act on them. Francis Burton Harrison was a wealthy former Congressman and New York blueblood with southern roots. In Washington, he had come under the influence of Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeņa, leaders of the Nacionalista Party, which dominated the Filipino legislature. The Nacionalistas saw the change of party control as an opportunity to finally set a firm date for the eventual independence, something which had been promised and talked about but seldom acted upon by the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. Harrison became the Democratic successor to Taft as the architect and arbiter of U.S. policy towards the Philippines. Within days of his arrival he was confronted by Generals Pershing and Bell and informed in no uncertain terms that the Army was determined to withdraw from Moro Province within months. Pershing tour of duty would end in only a few weeks and Army, with the approvals of the Secretary of War and Army Chief of Staff had no intention of replacing him. If Harrison resisted, they were prepared to fight him all the way to Wilson himself.

    Harrison had already decided to impose a policy of what he termed "Filipinization" of the colonial government, the purging of American functionaries from power and the handing over of the control of the bureaucracy to the native Philippine Assembly, which in turn was controlled by the Nacionalistas. By doing so he hoped to speed up the process of Filipino self-government and build a strong argument for early independence. Before his meeting with Pershing and Bell, he had paid little attention to "the Moro Problem." Following a brief orientation visit to Zamboanga and Jolo, Harrison seized upon an analogy to justify his next decision, to make Moroland, if not necessarily its peoples, "fundamentally and essentially a part of the body politic of the Philippines," He referenced the displacement of the American Indian nations by European immigrants in North America. He saw the Moros (largely due to their embrace of Islam) as being "one or two rungs below the Christian Filipinos on the upward path towards civilization." As it had supposedly been the solemn duty of white Americans, mandated by God, to "uplift" and "civilize" the Indians through their subjugation and imposed "guardianship" to bring them to a higher plain, so the Christian Filipinos could be entrusted to perform the same function for their "obviously backward" Muslim cousins.

    Harrison appointed a civilian, Frank Carpenter, to replace Pershing in his capacity as Governor. Carpenter was given a mandate to temporarily govern the province while step-by-step bringing the Moros under the Manila government. He was to work himself (and all other Americans) out of a job within a 2-3 year time frame. To make up for the withdrawal of the Army from the province, Harrison authorized the more than doubling of the Philippine Constabulary and gained a concession from General Bell to leave a battalion of Philippine Scouts in Zamboanga as an backup in case of an emergency. Ironically, in a private and confidential letter Bell protested the decision and asserted that, had the Army known he would end the separate status of the Moros they would never had relinquished control (however this seems unlikely). But by then, by their own actions, the Army had lost their seat at the table.

    Carpenter diligently and faithfully met his charge. By 1920, Moroland, at least on the map, functioned as an integral part of Philippines, although with only nominal representation and little if any say in their own governance. In 1935 the Tydings-McDuffie Act established the Philippine Commonwealth as a 10-year transition to full independence in 1946. Moroland became a part of the Republic of the Philippines by an Act of the American Congress. But as has happened so often in world history, the arbitrary drawing of a line on a map by a distant, colonial overlord does not necessarily forge bonds of comity among disparate peoples. It is reliably estimated that since the mid-1960's alone 150,000 persons have died in the seemingly unending conflict between the central government in Manila and Muslim separatists.

                                              Woodrow Wilson                                   Francis Burton Harrison

                                                Sergio Osmeņa                                                 Manuel Quezon

Frank Carpenter, third from left, back row with to his right Col. Mark Hersey and Capt. J.M. Macleod of the Constabulary, to his left, back row, Edward Dworak, Governor of Cotabato. First row, second is Luis Lim, Chairman Nacionalista Party of Sulu and Mindanao of the , Datu Piang with cane, and Justino Marquez, Municipal Presidente of Cotabato (1914)