Four hundred and ninety-four years ago this month Ferdinand Magellan landed on the shores of Samar, the first island in the group of islands that would eventually be colonized by Spain and called Filipinas. While very little resistance was offered by the natives in most of the central and northern islands of the archipelago, the Spanish conquistadores met fierce opposition in Mindanao and Sulu. Mindanao, Jolo, and Sulu never came under Spanish rule.
The war between Spain and the United States in 1898 ultimately ended Spanish rule in Filipinas. In the Treaty of Peace between the two nations, Spain ceded to the United States the archipelago known as Filipinas, including Mindanao, Jolo, and Sulu, islands that Spain never possessed.
The 1987 Constitution, which we swear to uphold, says that the national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, assuming that the archipelago is that one ceded by Spain to the United States. But parts of the archipelago are islands that Spain never possessed. So, technically, Mindanao, Jolo, and Sulu are not part of the Philippine archipelago.
Retired justices of the Supreme Court, senators, and eminent constitutional lawyers and experts who say that the Basic Bangsa Moro Law is unconstitutional because it virtually proclaims the Bangsa Moro a sub-state are wrong. Bangsa Moro is not a sub-state of Filipinas because it was never part of Filipinas. Spain had no legal basis to cede – sell is the right word – Bangsa Moro and the rest of Mindanao.