HOW THE SABAH CLAIM ORIGINATES – PART 4 By Awang Kerisnada Awang Mahmud

It is imperative to note that it was always the stand of the Spanish government that it claim sovereignity to the whole of the Philippines even as far back as to the Treaty between the Spanish and the sulu sultanate in 1851. The Spanish version of the … 1851 Treaty is that it holds sovereignity over sulu while to the sulu, this treaty is just a form of protectorate.

Another Treaty on July 22, 1878

There is another treaty signed between sulu and the Spainiards on this date. This treaty had the same translation as the one entered into in 1851, where the Spanish version stated it had sovereignty over Sulu whereas the Tausug version had the description of the relationship as being a protectorate rather than a dependency.

In 1896 a short war broke out between Spain and the USA. Resulting from this war, a Treaty was signed between Spain and the USA on December 10, 1989 in which Spain had janded over the Philippines to the USA for an agreed amount of USD $ 20 million dollars. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Paris.

Treaty of Paris 1898

This Treaty is significant because Spain handed over the sovereignity of the Philippines to the USA. The Spainiards left the Philippines on the 1st. May 1899 and the Americans then occuppied Jolo islets.. ( pronounce as Yolo )

The sulu Sultan was in a fixed position. This time he had to deal with and face the Americans. To avoid an open war with the Americans the sultan entered into an agreement with the USA on the 20th. August 1899. This is known as the Bates Treaty because it was signed between General Bates from the USA and the sultanate. Among the provisions of this agreement of 1899 are :

BATES Treaty 1899

1. Mutual respect
2. Americans not to interfere with religion, social and domestic customs or internal economic or political affairs of Moros unless requested to do so.
3. Americans not to give or sell Sulu or any part of it to any other nations continuation of the money payments initiated by the Spaniards, a monthly allowance of $250.00.
4. Abolition of slavery through purchase of their freedom
5. Protection of Sulu from foreign interference
6. Suppression of piracy, fly American flag and stop rifle purchases

The southernmost outlying islands of the Philippines–Turtle Island and Taganak were incorporated at a much later time period. They were part of the territories originally “ceded” (leased according to Tausug translations of the documents) by the Sultan Jamalul Alam to the North Borneo Company.

The Americans disliked slavery and had a great disdain to the sultan practices of keeping as many as 500 slaves at one time. This created resentment and dissatisfaction among the Tausugs ( Sulus ) which led to a series of Cotta (trench) wars against the Americans led by Panglima Hassan.


There were several armed conflicts between the Moros and the Americans. Among the notable dates of open conflict and their reasons and causes were :

1901 – General Pershing of the USA wanted to enforce the Bates treaty in which one important rpovisions was for the Sulus to give up their rifles. The Sulus and the Morons refused. This Policy of Disarmanent implemented by General Pershing met with resistance that culminated in the Battle of Bud Dajo on March 7, 1906. 700 morons were killed in that battle.

On August 13, 1913 The People in Talipao municipality on island of Jolo refused to pay road tax. They fortified themselves in Mount. Talipao. On Oct. 22, 1913, engagement ensued and the Moros were defeated. That was to be the last of the Moro province which was then abolished by the USA. It was said that the sequence that followed was that the Americans had decided
not to recognize the continued existence of the Sultanate of Sulu, particularly in reference to North Borneo….

( for further reading see the Book – Gowing, Peter Gordon. MANDATE IN MORO LAND: The American Government
of Muslim Filipinos 1899-1920. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1983. )

Picture – American soldiers in the Philippines in 1900

Part 4 has ended…. The final part shall be Part 5 entitled ” The Constitution of the International Court of Justice ( ICJ )

(The writer is a Session Court judge)

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2 Responses to HOW THE SABAH CLAIM ORIGINATES – PART 4 By Awang Kerisnada Awang Mahmud

  1. Shahizul Hashim says:

    I can’t wait to see Part 5. Thanks for the valuable information.

    • Awang Kerisnada Awang Mahmud says:

      Assalamualaikum wrbt. Saudara Shahrizal Hashim, Thank you for your interest and Part 5 will be publish this evening…. It is already ready but I just want to re tune it accordingly…. Thank you once again – From the author – Awang Kerisnada bin Haji Awang Mahmud

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