People With No Identity

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The disqualification of Grace Poe as presidential candidate by the Comelec is news that is now all over. I know it is interesting to many, even if there is yet no finality to that disqualification. After all, Grace Poe is not just one of the candidates, not a nuisance candidate either, but the frontrunner among all. There is a drama that has yet to be played out, and only the Christmas season is cushioning the reaction of her followers.

There is, however, another angle, and a far more important one for me, that hopefully will draw great interest along the way. The citizenship and residence issues that have become the greatest challenge of Grace Poe are less my concern than what it should provoke to be more discussed. After all, Grace Poe is but one Filipino, even if she aspires to be the leader of all Filipinos. Her qualifications as a candidate are crucial but not as vital as the lost identity of millions of Filipinos.

The Filipino race evolved from the land of their birth. The identity of the Filipino race has less to do with genetics, or their DNA; rather, it has everything to do with their land of birth. While parentage may be an important issue, it is not the most important. What is vital is the land where the natives were born, because that land made them Filipinos and not Malaysians, not Indonesians, not Chinese. In other words, if there is no Philippines, there will be no Filipinos.

The identity of Filipinos follows the identity of their motherland. After all, if the Philippines were part of China, and the present regime in China might just want to claim that by pushing their 9-dash-line a little further, then Filipinos will be Chinese. The people of China are Chinese because they are from the land of China more than they are because their color is yellow or brown. It is the land, the motherland, the homeland, that first and foremost gives the identity—not the government, any government.

Citizenship is an offshoot of identity, social structure and legal protocol. Citizenship is important but not the fundamental source of its own existence. It is an offshoot, not a parent. The parent is land and identity, land that is country, land that is home to a people, land that gives nominates the identity of a race. If the land where we were all born, the land where our ancestors where born, had not been the Philippines, there will be another race but no Filipino. Land gives the identity, not the citizenship.

The legality or illegality of the presidential candidacy of Grace Poe is not my issue; it is the lost identity of millions of Filipinos. I am hoping, of course, that the current controversy will spark a bigger controversy. I question how a landless people can be considered Filipinos when their very identity is dependent on being children of a motherland to which they have no right. Or, another way of saying the same question—how can children of a motherland have no right to their native home except as informal settlers.

Squatters have been termed informal settlers out of delicadeza, or political correctness. The term “squatter” is less vulgar than the fact that they squat on land they have no right to.  A native that is landless by legal decree is what is vulgar, even criminal. Yet, the victim suffers while that which victimizes them is the law. This is not ironic, this is tragic.

The Supreme Court will soon, and finally, decide about the qualification of Grace Poe as presidential candidate. But it will not even consider the qualification of people born landless and, therefore, lose the main basis of their identity. The Supreme Court will not pay attention to something its justices do not know anything about. If they do, then they do not care about it. The same with Congress, the same with all presidents from July 4 of 1946.

History clearly shows how a foreign invader became the foreign master of the natives of the islands we now call the Philippines. History is not deficient in reporting what the invader-turned-master did to the land that gave the identity to its natives who were born in it. History admits that the king of Spain decreed that all lands that had belonged to the Filipino race already belonged to him, to the Spanish throne.

The king of Spain has long left our land, not just that concerned King Philip but the throne of all Spanish kings thereafter. By the design of God or creation, the kings were not able to transfer our islands to the territory of Spain. Yet, the original owners, the natives of all our islands, remained landless. Filipinos who eventually acquired lands by buying back what had been stolen, and their descendants who inherited what they bought back, are now not landless. The same crime committed against them remains unresolved, but at least they are more fortunate than the rest who do not even know the rights they had lost.

Knowing they could not hold on to the lands they had confiscated from the real owners, from the natives of our islands or our own ancestors, the Spanish forces surrendered the country to America—for a fee. Wow, they sold stolen goods but who cared then? Certainly not the buyer of the same stolen goods. But, like the Spanish before them, the stolen lands that America fought and paid for could not be exported to the United States. America, however, turned over all lands to a new independent government of Filipinos.

Unfortunately, the amnesia of Filipino leadership remains a national amnesia, except maybe for the Muslims who would not forget and keep fighting for their lands. But most other Filipinos do not remember their own history. This self-inflicted amnesia perpetuates a historical crime that continues to inflict misery to Filipinos.

Of course, we will instead prefer to debate about the disqualification of Grace Poe. What a steep price we pay for forgetting where our identity comes from.


Leave a Comment