Tag Archives: OPINION

THE DURIAN BEAT: Duterte and the race to peace in Mindanao


President Rodrigo Duterte is racing against time to meet a deadline for the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Congress itself is working overtime in putting the finishing touches and the eventual approval of the landmark legislation seen as the final and lasting solution to the Mindanao problem.
While Mindanao Muslims, in general, are all-out in their support, President Duterte believes that the BBL approval by Congress is not yet the light at the end of the festering, decades-old Moro problem, and is not leaving any stone unturned in a bid to clear whatever rough roads that may derail the BBL.
One of these roadblocks is the apparent apathy between two of the Bangsanoro’s leaders, who, while in solidarity with the quest for peace in Mindanao, are not totally in the same page in their views on many provisions of the BBL.
It is crucial, indeed, that President Duterte should smoothen the kinks and rough edges in Moroland by meeting with Chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Nur Misuari of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
It would be a tragedy if the continuing rivalry, over who should carry the voice of the Bangsamoro, between the MILF and the MNLF should be allowed to jeopardize the quest for lasting peace in Mindanao and President Duterte’s timeline for BBL to be in place before he bows out of office in 2022.
Would you believe that there are Muslims in Mindanao who dislike being called “Moro”?
But it is not because they want to be called by other names, hate their blood brothers or sisters who call themselves “Moro” or that ethnic conflict is rending Moroland.
This is due to history.
Moro refers to the name ascribed to Mindanao’s first and original inhabitants by foreign invaders, and its continuing use today is perceived as derogatory by some Muslims.
Even Bangsamoro, the collective word used to refer to the Muslim population as an ethnic group with a distinct custom and tradition, is likewise frowned upon if used to refer to the “Moro nation.”
There had been, for years, intensive debates among the Muslims themselves on the Moro. At times at the sideline of the debates came mild threats against those who call Muslims in Mindanao as Moros.
Moro is a two-faced description to explain the debates. For those who despise it, cite its history as a name that denigrates Mindanao Muslims with blasphemy. Those who stand proud to be called Moros praise it as a unifying factor among the Muslims.
The sentiment against being called a Moro is that it is, to some, an insulting colonial tag, that still persist today, heaped on them by Spanish conquestadors in the 16th century.
Making the name more repulsive is the violent adjective, juramentado , attached to Moro at the turn of the century by the Americans.
Mindanao Muslims fiercely opposed the occupation of their homeland and the Americans were forced to develop the powerful Colt .45 1911 semi-automatic pistol against suicidal Muslim warriors who armed only with a kris would face American soldiers in a man-to-man combat. The “juramentado” is a criminal running amuck, an image that took Mindanao Muslims decades, after the Americans left, to erase.
Modern liberation movements starting from the 50s added further a bad meaning to the word Moro, as Mindanao Muslims’ demanded for self-determination and engaged a bloody war against the government. The Moro war killed thousands and displaced millions.
Happily, the bad connotations smeared in the past on the Moro, has been totally obliterated with acceptance of Moro as the name for Muslims of Mindanao, by Muslims themselves, the public in general and by the government.
The recognition is enshrined in no less than the proposed law that aims to carve out parts of Mindanao as the Bangsamoro of the Moros of Mindanao.
Still, the debate over Moro and Bangsamoro as representative of the Muslims of Mindanao, lingers.
Although the Muslim of today no longer abhor being called a Moro, the word having found acceptability, the debate over the use of the Moro that in the past spawned conflicts among Muslims and between them and Christians, has been revived.
It is sad that the debate, particularly in social media, has caught in its web the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the law that is on its last stretch of approval by Congress, that would give the Muslims a semblance of self-determination.
It is also sad that respected Muslim leaders, who cannot forget the past, are behind the resurrected debate over the Moro and Bangsamoro.
“I am greatly embarrassed, and ashamed if somebody calls me Moro or Bangsamoro,” said Lanao Del Norte Congressman Abdullah Dimaporo who is opposing the BBL.
First posted in Luwaran.com, Dimaporo’s statement has crossed over to Facebook and is generating a whirlwind of comments from the pros and the cons thus, resurrecting an issue that should have been best forgotten.
Dimaporo aired his sentiment against the continuing use of Moro to describe Mindanao Muslims and its inclusion, along with Bangsamoro, in the BBL, during a recent widely-attended public consultation on the proposed law in Marawi City organized by the House of Representatives.
Dimaporo summed up his disgust at the tag: Moro is a shameful word, meaning ignorant, illiterate and pirates, coined in the 1600s by the Spaniards who invaded Mindanao and tried to Christianize the Muslims.
The statement of Dimaporo, contained in a news report by Luwaran.com, has elicited a cacophony of comments and discussion and debate, from recollection of “historical injustice” committed during centuries of violence against the Muslims in the hands of foreign invaders to the state of affairs of the Muslims under the past and present administrations.
“Where is the justice for all of us who are offended by this Spanish insult?” said a commenter to a post by Marawi City-based Norodin Alonto Lucman, who reposted the Luwaran.com story in his Facebook account.
And there are more who pitched side with Dimaporo:
“Nobody wanted to be called Moro because Moro meant marauder and pirate. The Spanish colonizers came to our shores and branded us as Moros because they considered us as ladrones , moros , magnanakaw . Ngayon, you find distinction and glory in being called Moro. Please don’t be fooled by those same enemies of our race. They are all the same dogs in sheepskins. They can fool us some of the time, but they can not fool us all of the time. The BBL Will eventually cause our people and territory to dissipate and then on, we can no longer be called a people, not even indigenous because we Will have no more territory to claim as ours, and our identity will be gone forever and become part of history.”
“There is an Identity Crisis.”
“If politicians have a little sense of self-respect, they should follow the lead of Dimaporo.
To be proud of the Spanish insult is totally mind-boggling.”
“This is a case of cultural genocide concocted by the Castillans .”
“Usurping a foreign identity.
Goddamn, mind-boggling!”
“Don’t change the name Muslim Mindanao.”
“The name Moros is racist. It’s politically incorrect.”
“We have constitutional rights to a proper identity.. can’t change the identity of the entire Muslim population to a made-up Bangsamoro.”
“Only wise, intelligent and learned people know how to react against colonial imposition against us. Others are silent bcos they have limited knowhow . Congrats to the Dimaporos.”
“If we do not want to be called Moro, what would you call people who originally inhabited Mindanao? My tribe is Maranao and also do not like to be called Moro not because I am ashamed but because I felt insulted knowing that being called a Moro meant being uneducated and uncivilized.
However, for the sake of unity in building our own territorial land , we must be united to one common goals for the benefit of our children’s children.”
“Bangsa” means nation. The Philippines should remain one integral nation, and not be divided into many nations.”
But there is another side to the coin.
Luwaran.com reports that Dimaporo’s statement “reaped negative reactions” and described as “against the aspirations of the Bangsamoro in attaining a just, and lasting peace in Mindanao.”
Officials of the Federation of the Royale House and Sultanates of Lanao Del Sur, reports Luwaran.com, were “wondering” why Dimaporo “cannot accept to be called as Moro or Bangsamoro when historical injustices were clearly committed by colonial powers and accepted by the government leadership.”
“The Bangsamoro people have the legitimate right to determine a political solution to the Moro Question, and this can only be realized through the passage of the BBL.”
“Let us strengthen our unity, and solidarity in facing various challenges ahead, and work hard for the passage of the BBL by Congress,” the sultanates’ leaders urged in the luwaran.com report.
President Rodrigo Duterte, has certified BBL as a priority bill, and is steering up Congress into its early approval.
While BBL is looked up to by many as the road to peace in Mindanao, we are mystified that there are still many Muslims who suffer from historical hangover over the word Moro, and in the process derail the collective efforts to find peace in Mindanao..
We are not saying that the debate over Moro and Bangsamoro is trivial.
But having gained acceptability, it is now time for Muslims to stop the debate and accept Moro and Bangsamoro not only as cultural and political identities of the Muslims of Mindanao but as well as a unifying factor in the search for lasting peace.

After all, Moro is the banner word in Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the liberation movements that carry the voice of the Moros, who fought for decades for self–determination for the Bangsamoro. ALSO READ IN PNA




Studying the genesis of Davao newspapers is an interesting field that has yet to be explored and researched extensively.

Especially for students taking Mass Communication and Journalism courses, the study must go beyond Tomas Pinpin, the father of Philippine printing who published in 1637 the country’s first newsletter titled Sucesos Felices (Fortunate Events).


Historically, Davao City has produced many engaging publishers and journalists, including broadcasters, who would become political stars in their own right. Names like Davao lawmakers Artemio Loyola,  and Jesus Dureza, Davao del Norte governor Verulo C. Boiser, Davao City mayor Zafiro L. Respicio, broadcaster-brothers Alfredo and Antonio Vergara, Davao City councilors Zacarias Solon, Danilo Dayanghirang, and Jesus Zozobrado, and Davao del Sur vice-governor Bienvenida Saceda, to name a few.

Founded in 1917, El Eco de Davao (The Voice of Davao)—most likely inspired by El Eco de Vigan, the country’s first provincial newspaper, and other Manila publications bearing the iconic ‘El Eco’ masthead before the American regime–was funded by Spanish lawyer Joaquin Rodriguez, who was appointed de facto Davao governor by Gen. John ‘Blackjack’ Pershing in 1913. It may well be considered as Davao region’s first newspaper in the absence of any contender.

(Atty. Rodriguez’s grandson and namesake would later marry Sonja Habana, daughter of Antonio Habana Jr., the son of Capiz congressman Antonio Sr. who was married to the first cousin of post-war president Manuel Acuña Roxas.)

A year later, another newspaper, El Sur (The South) followed suit; this was published by the Davao Publishing Co., Inc. in 1918. Year later, another local paper, Maguindanao, was born. Edited by pre-war critic and later Davao governor Celestino Chavez (1922-25), it was the voice of dissent and public outrage. Cesar M. Sotto, who became Commonwealth-era assemblyman (1939-41), took over as second editor.

Contrary to claims, Mindanao Times, formerly known as the Davao Times under its Japanese owners, is not the oldest newspaper in Southern Philippines. It adopted its present name only in 1946, five years before Mindanao Mirror, then a weekly, was established by Dean Demetrio Flaviano and wife Anita. The contemporary of these iconic papers was the defunct Mindanao Mail founded by Emilio Abarico, father of the late Davao City press secretary Angelo Abarico.

Founded by Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) missionary Gerard Mongeau, the first bishop of Cotabato, the Mindanao Cross came out with its maiden issue on Feb. 6, 1948, making it as the oldest Catholic publication in Mindanao. This is far older than The Sentinel, which released its first issue in January 1952 in Manila. On August 23, 1952, The Sentinel came out with its local edition renamed as Davao Sentinel. In 1973, it was independently published as Ang Taboan (The Marketplace) by the archdiocese of Davao and ten years later adopted the new name The Catholic Herald, to highlight its denominational afilliation.

printing press

Commercially, only early post-war papers Mindanao Times and Mindanao Mirror have survived after their founders had died or ventured into other business. In December 1978, San Pedro Express surfaced as a newsmagazine edited by who’s who in Davao literature but later joined mainstream community papers as a daily (It was edited by Roger Balanza from 1985 to 1998); The express also came out with a short-lived weekly magazine including provincial editions, Kutawato News in Cotabato City and Prensa Zamboanga in Zamboanga City.

People’s Daily Forum, meanwhile, started in 1979 as Davao Forumand later evolved as Mindanao Forum before it became a daily publication in 1983. Sun-Star Daily, one of four daily papers in Davao City, started as Ang Peryodiko, then Davao Peryodiko, but was later renamed after a Cebu company took over it. And who would forget the iconic Davao Star and its controversial publisher Jose Santes, a feisty World War II veteran?

Briefly, The Fiscalizer created a stir when it came out in February 1990, carrying its much-ballyhooed ‘Sexcapade’ column (which this author created). Fiscal constraints forced itspublisher, Jesus Pauliño, to shift from daily tabloid to weekly, then later to monthly. In August 1993, the Mindanao Gazette, published by Ben Diansay, was launched as daily but, again, funding issues hounded it along the years, forcing it to publish weekly with hugely decreased circulation.

Other community papers and magazines that entered the competitive world of newspaper publishing are The Durian Post (2009-2016), published and edited by former Davao City Press Secretary Roger Balanza (1998-2001), Edge Davao (published by Antonio Ajero), Southern Post (Pablito Salinas), Mindanao Post (Elena Baron), Prime (Salvador del Rosario), Southern Philippines Chronicle (Pat Tubat), Mindanao Journal (Serafin Ledesma), Mindanao Business Reporter (Angelo Abarico), Barangay Balita (City Government of Davao) Mindanao Free Press (Isidro Sandoval), Fourth Estate News ( Jose Pascual), and Mindanao Punch (Bong Saberon).

Moreover, the list of newspapers also includes Star Superbalita (sister publication of Sun-Star Davao), Mindanao Standard (Dorita Flaviano), Mindanao Today (Senforiano Alterado), Davao Tribune (Cesar Villamor), Mindanao Pulse (Elmer Yaun), Trends and Time(Dennis Denora),  Pacific Tribune (Tagum City), and Mati Tribune (Mati City).

And who can forget the now-online publications such as Durian Post and Top News Now! (Roger Balanza), Mindanao Insider (Virgilio Bermudez), and internet newcomer Davao Today (Webworks Multimedia ventures, Inc.)? The local magazine landscape has also seen the rise of hometown publications like Pag-asa (Carol Arguillas), Dimensions (Willie Rola), M Life and Living in Mindanao (Cr8ve Minds, Inc.), Madayaw (sister publication of San Pedro Express), and Mindanao (MindaNews).