By Dr. Najeeb M. Saleeby.Published 1908, Manila.Classic Book Section: Sulu Online Library

Politico-Military Government of Mindanao and Adjacent Islands

Chapter IV

Politico-military government of Mindanao and adjacent islands

Affairs in Mindanao had progressed so satisfactorily that Pollok, Kotabato, and Davao were occupied by permanent garrisons, and peace and tranquillity reigned over the Celebes Sea. A politico-military government was then established for all the pacified territory of Mindanao [215]and Basilan, and was designated as the Government of Mindanao. It comprised six districts, the first five of which belonged entirely to the Island of Mindanao. The sixth was called the district of Basilan and was defined as “comprising Basilan and the Spanish possessions in the Archipelago of Sulu.” Sulu was not brought under this organization until 1878, when an additional district was created for this purpose. The form of this government and its chief characteristics are best described in the words of the royal order creating it, which is herein given in full because of many points of interest which are contained in the text and form of the decree, and which can not be well illustrated otherwise:

Superior Civil Government

Office of the Deputy Superintendent of the Philippine Treasury


The Minister of War and Colonies communicated to this Superior Civil Government, on the 31st of July of last year, the following Royal order:

Your Excellency: The Queen (whom God protect) has been pleased to issue the following Royal decree: Pursuant to the reasons laid before me by the Minister of War and Colonies, and in accordance with the opinion of the Council of Ministers, I hereby decree the following:

Article I. A politico-military Government is hereby established for the island of Mindanao and adjacent islands.

Article II. The Government of Mindanao shall be divided into six districts: 1. the Zamboanga District, formed of that part of the province of the same name which includes all of Sibugay Bay, and the west coast of the island as far as Murciélagos Point; 2. the District of the North, including, in the northern part of the island, all the territory between the boundary line of the 1st District and Dapitan Point, on Tutwan Bay; 3. the Eastern District, between Dapitan Point, and Karaga Bay; 4. the Davao District, beginning on the boundary line of the 3d District and including the Bay of Davao and all the southern extremity of the island; 5. the Central District, including Illana Bay, situated between the 1st and 4th districts; 6. the District of Basilan, comprising the Spanish possessions in the Archipelagoes of Sulu and Basilan. The capital of the Government shall be in the Central District, the most advantageous place at the mouth of the Mindanao River being chosen. These districts shall be divided into two classes; to the first class shall belong the Northern, Central and Eastern districts, and to the second those of Zamboanga, Davao and Basilan.

Article III. The Governor of Mindanao shall receive 6,000 pesos as salary, and 2,000 pesos as entertainment fund. The latter shall be supplied from the revenues from Government real estate and licenses. The Governor’s residence shall also be supplied by the State.

Article IV. This Governorship shall correspond to the class of brigadier generals; but the first Governor appointed may be a colonel, who will be entitled, as a reward, to an appointment as brigadier general after three years.

Article V. The Governor of Mindanao shall be succeeded in his command by the officer of the highest rank in the island, pending the appointment of another Governor, or such action as the Captain General may deem advisable. In the districts, the Governor shall be succeeded by the officer next in rank, until the Governor of Mindanao appoints an Acting Governor and requests the Captain General to take such action as may be called for by the regulations in force. [216]

Article VI. The duties and powers of the Captain General in regard to the Government of Mindanao, and those of the Governor of the island, shall be the same as those provided for the Bisayas in my Royal decree of this date. As military authorities, they shall observe the usual relations between Captains General and Commanders General of Provinces. The Governor of Mindanao shall forward each month to the Captain General of the Philippines a tabulated record of the resolutions taken by him in the exercise of his authority, so that the latter may be able to exercise with efficiency the general supervision to which he is entitled. The Captain General shall forward to the Supreme Government, through the proper channels, both this tabulated record, and a statement of the action he has taken in the premises.

Article VII. The districts of the first class shall be governed by lieutenant-colonels and those of the second class by senior majors.

Article VIII. The duties of these district governors shall be those specified, up to the present time, for the politico-military Governors of the island.

Article IX. The Governor of Mindanao shall have a Secretariate with the following personnel: a Secretary at 2,500 pesos per year; one clerk, class one, at 1,200; one clerk, class two, at 1,000, and one clerk, class three, at 800. 1,000 pesos are furthermore provided for the salaries of copyists, and 500 for office supplies.

Article X. There is hereby created for Mindanao a Revenue Office which shall serve as depositary of the revenues, and shall have charge of collecting all taxes, and of the administration of the Army. It shall have the following personnel: an Administrator at 2,500 pesos; a Controller at 2,000; one clerk, class one, at 1,000; two clerks, class two, at 800, and a cashier at 800. 1,500 pesos are provided for the salaries of copyists and other auxiliary employees, and 600 for office supplies.

Article XI. The chiefs of districts shall remain in charge of the collection of taxes in the manner hitherto established, and shall be entitled to the allowances provided for that purpose. The provisions of this article shall not interfere with those already made for the departments of the administration which exist at the present time in Mindanao and their dependencies.

Article XII. For expediting their official business the district governors shall have a secretary at a salary of 800 pesos in districts of the first class, and 600 in those of the second class. To each secretary’s office 75 pesos are assigned for office supplies, and 150 for a copyist.

Article XIII. The mission of the Jesuits, which has already been sent to Mindanao, shall look after the spiritual wants of the island, and Jesuits shall take the place of the other priests as soon as the mission has a sufficient personnel, and in the manner which may be deemed most convenient.

Article XIV. The first and principal object of the mission shall be to secure the conversion of the races which have not yet been subjected, and even after the parishes of the island are provided for it shall maintain a sufficient number of missionaries for that purpose; each missionary shall be aided to the extent of 800 pesos a year from the Royal Treasury.

Article XV. The War and Navy Departments, together with the Colonial Office, shall decide what forces of the army and navy are required for Mindanao; the Captain-General shall have authority to make such changes as the circumstances may require, but he shall always report such changes to the respective Ministers for approval.

Article XVI. The Governor can use the naval forces whenever he finds it necessary, with the assent of the commanding officer thereof.

Article XVII. It shall be the constant duty of the army to explore and to [217]occupy the country; for that purpose, two columns at least shall be detached each year from each district, and go through said districts in different directions. The chiefs of these columns shall make out a report about the territory reconnoitered by them; said reports shall be included in a general report made by the Governor, which shall be forwarded to the Department of War and Colonies through the Captain-General of the Philippines; this information will allow the Governor to give, in the following years his instructions to the columns sent out to explore the country, without losing sight of the advantage of establishing friendly relations with the tribes which inhabit the island, and the necessity of maintaining communication between the different districts. These columns shall be provided with everything that may be required to overcome the obstacles they will find on their way; and during the expedition, officers and soldiers shall receive field rations, issued in kind, according to the advice of the Military Health Department. For this purpose 10,000 pesos shall be carried on the budget for the first year, and 100 pesos shall be given for each expedition to the officer commanding a column, for extraordinary expenses.

Article XVIII. Two special agents shall be appointed by the government for the purpose of studying means of developing all the natural resources of the island of Mindanao.

Article XIX. In order to encourage colonists to settle in such parts of the island as may be deemed best, they will be furnished, at their request, the tools and implements required for their work or trade. The Governor is furthermore authorized to pay the traveling expenses of colonists who may wish to settle in the island without exceeding the sum hereinafter provided, the expenditure of which shall be duly accounted for. The new settlers shall be entitled to the foregoing privileges for ten years, and 12,000 pesos shall be appropriated for that purpose during the first year, from the revenues accruing from government real estate and licenses. The new settlers shall be exempt from tribute; the same favor shall be granted all tribes that submit peacefully.

Article XX. The laws and regulations in force in the other islands of the Philippines shall be observed in all the offices of the Treasury Department. The prohibitions mentioned in the tariff shall apply to the custom house of Zamboanga; articles imported into the island in Spanish bottoms, and for local consumption, shall pay, during the next ten years, 2 per cent ad valorem, if of Spanish origin and 5 per cent if of foreign origin. If brought under a foreign flag said articles shall pay double the amounts specified above. If, after importing an article for use in the island, it is reëxported to some other Spanish island, it shall pay, on arrival at the latter the difference between what has been paid in Mindanao and the regular duty established in the tariff.

Article XXI. Lands now under cultivation, and those placed under cultivation during the next ten years, shall pay no other impost than that required by the regulations now in force, per quiñon of land, as an acknowledgment of ownership.7

Article XXII. The Government shall always have on hand a reserve fund of 10,000 pesos to meet any urgent and unexpected need that may arise; in such cases only, the Governor shall assume the responsibility of using this sum, or part of the same, and shall account for the expenditure, in the usual manner.

Article XXIII. A sum of 3,000 pesos per year is placed at the disposal of the Governor for presents to the independent tribes, for the purpose of gaining their friendship; the same amount is assigned to the mission of the Jesuits. These funds shall be expended and accounted for in the best possible form. [218]

Article XXIV. For the expenses of installation a special estimate shall be drawn up, and action shall be taken thereon as provided by the laws for urgent cases.

Article XXV. No extra pay or allowances of any kind shall be given except such as are provided in the present decree, and the per diems usually granted military engineers when they are sent out on official business.

Article XXVI. The War, Navy, and Colonies Departments shall execute the present Decree in the parts which respectively concern them, and shall work in common for the execution of such parts thereof as may belong to two or more Departments.

Article XXVII. So many of the laws and orders in force as are inconsistent with the provisions of the present decree are hereby repealed.

Given at San Ildefonso on the 30th of July, 1860.

Rubric of Her Majesty.—The Minister of War and Colonies. Leopoldo O’Donnell.—Communicated to you by Royal order for your information and action.

Sultan Pulalun was regarded by the Sulus as an able administrator and a just ruler. His influence and fame and that of his father endeared the house of Jamalul Kiram to the people to such an extent as to restrict the succession of the sultanate to their direct line of descent for a considerable period of time. Following the steps of his father, he published a revised code of Sulu laws and conducted the affairs of his government with care. Pulalun died September 24, 1862, and was followed by his son, Jamalul Aʿlam.

The succession of Jamalul Aʿlam was contested by Datu Jamalul Kiram, the grandson of Sultan Shakirul Lah. The wife of Datu Jamalul Kiram was the daughter of Datu Daniel Amil Bahar, and the latter was inclined to support his son-in-law. Jamalul Aʿlam, however, had the majority of the council of the datus on his side, and a Spanish commission sent to Jolo in November, confirmed his sultanate. Espina states that at that time the sultan was living with Datu Asibi, and that the portrait of Queen Isabel II was placed before the sultan when he made his declaration before the commission to recognize the authority and sovereignty of Spain over all the dominions of Sulu, including her dependencies in Borneo.

It is noted in the Sulu Annals, under date of February 1, 1867, that a Spanish war vessel arrived at Jolo and demanded the punishment and delivery of three men, one of whom was called Imam Mindang. The sultan arrested all these men and had them executed on February 9 in the presence of the officer in command of the vessel. It appears that in spite of the vigilance of the Spanish navy, piratical expeditions were kept up by discontented Moros not fully submissive to the sultan. This led to further activity on the part of Spanish gunboats, and war was consequently carried into Sulu waters and territory.

Another note in the Sulu Annals, under date of March 5, 1872, states that 13 Spanish vessels attacked Jolo, killed 3 men and 1 woman and [219]lost 2 officers and 100 soldiers. That same year the famous warrior Datu Daniel Amil Bahar died; and Puerta Princesa, capital of Palawan, was garrisoned by native troops. A naval blockade of Jolo was established and hostilities between Sulu and Spain were resumed. In 1873–1875 considerable damage was done by the fleet throughout the Archipelago, and two German vessels were seized while carrying contraband of war to the Sulus.

In the estimation of the Sulus, Jamalul A’lam was one of their best rulers. He carried out many public improvements, built roads and bridges and mosques, enforced public attendance at the Friday church services, and executed the laws with justice and force. He was as able a ruler as any sultan Sulu had since the days of Abu Bakr, but the vicissitudes of fortune were certainty against him. Before his reign ended, Spain’s hand fell upon him strong and heavy, his capital was wrested from him, and his power waned. [221]

1 See Appendixes XVI and XVII.

2 A visit to the Indian Archipelago, p. 58.

3 A big dugout canoe.

4 Vessels of some 11 meters length, 1½ meters beam, and 40 centimeters overhang at the bow. They are furnished with outriggers and a removable deck [commonly of loose slats]. (Note in Montero y Vidal’s History of the Piracy of the Mohammedan Malays.)

5 The Spanish word for conquest transliterated. The word can not be understood by the Sulus.

6 Datu Daniel.

7 Spanish. Como reconocimiento de dominio (i.e., of Spain). The idea is that the settler acknowledges that he does not own the land in fee simple, but holds it as a tenant of the state.


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