By: Macabangkit Lanto


President Duterte did not tell the whole grim truth about the massacre of the Moros by American soldiers.

According to media reports on the recent East Asia Summit in Vientiane, Laos, the President cited in his speech only the massacre of Moros in the great Battle of Bud Dajo in the early 1900s, during the American pacification campaign. Actually, there were about 1,000 proud Tausug Moros who perished in that battle, not 600, as the President narrated. And he failed to highlight the fact that, as history records it, “the attack ended on March 7, 1906, and not one Moro was standing, women and children among them.”

The President was being “diplomatic.” In fact, Moro history is replete with tales of more atrocities of gruesome magnitude, like the epic battle at Bud Bagsak, also in Sulu, where 5,000 Tausug Moros valiantly fought America’s mighty army led by then Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood. About 2,000 Moro lives were sacrificed. This revelation has rubbed salt on the wounds of the Moro psyche, and brought back memories of the gory Moro past.

When the President’s charge of violation of human rights by American soldiers was reported, I remembered the day a Moro activist, Bae Normala Lucman Pacasum (then vice governor of Lanao del Sur), visited my office at the Department of Tourism. She was asking for assistance in a restoration project of whatever remained of Kota (Fort) Padang Karbala in Bayang, Lanao del Sur.

I was then the undersecretary of tourism in charge of promotion and marketing. I had my staff do research on the significance of the Kota. I also rummaged through my dusty files, and what I discovered justified the need to immortalize the valor, gallantry and martyrdom of the Maranaw Moros. Indeed, the Kota needed to be restored, if only to inculcate in the succeeding generations of Filipinos lessons in patriotism and nationalism. I recommended the restoration project, but unfortunately, it was overtaken by events.

The American campaigners had started on the wrong foot in their pacification campaign. Their reputation—that they would subjugate the natives of their newly-acquired colony and impose their language and other ways of life—had preceded their campaign. The natives put up a violent resistance. Among the Maranaw then, the American administration was referred to as “gobierno o mga saruang a tao” (a government of the foreigners). And their campaign to teach the natives the English language was resisted because of the belief that going to school at that time was a form of apostasy and an embrace of the religion of the “Nazrani” (Christians, from Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus).

So as history records it, on that fateful day of May 2, 1902, after negotiations with Maranaw datus failed, American soldiers mercilessly attacked the 700 Maranaw warriors (not counting the women and children who refused to leave husbands and fathers) who stood their ground at the Kota Padang Karbala, armed only with bolos, krises and spears against the rifles, pistols and grenades of the colonizers.

When the smoke of battle cleared, all 700 Moro warriors were found martyred in the tradition of the epic sieges of Fort Alamo in the United States and the fortress of Masada in Israel.

But was President Duterte correct in raising this human-rights issue? A resounding “Yes!” is heard from us Moros.

Macabangkit Lanto (, UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow to New York University for his postgraduate studies. He is a former assemblyman and speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Autonomous Region 12, and a former congressman, ambassador to Egypt and Sudan, and undersecretary of tourism and of justice.