BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 3 July) – Hugging, forgiveness, tears of joy. All these preoccupied Mino Utap as he was about to sign a covenant with his former clan nemesis, the Utto family.
Both parties vowed to the Quran they will no longer engage in conflict.
Utap, who belongs to the Cabugatan family, lost his right arm in the rido. His left hand only has two and a half fingers left. He has several bullet scars in his chest and other parts of the body. All these are his mementos as to how brutal rido is.
He survived a murder attempt last year in Barangay Mileb in the municipality of Rajah Buayan.
“Our Ramadan fasting would mean senseless if we will continue to live in atrocities. That is not what is taught in this holy month. Though painful, but it is righteous to forgive,” Utap said.
The decade-long feud between the two clans was put to end as the Maguindanao Task Force Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU) succeeded in convincing both parties to come into a truce, this time to give more value and essence to the observance of Ramadan.
It took 10 months for MTFRU to convince both sides. The conflict erupted in a misunderstanding triggered by complicated political alliances and land conflict.
“We explained to them that if they continue to fight, where they will go after? If they fight for a hectare of land that costs hundreds of thousands [of pesos], it would cost them much more because they could spend millions of pesos in investing in bullets, guns and war budget, excluding the damages, displacement, loss of lives and hesitation to till their lands. And so the realization took place,” said Tommy Malingco of the MTFRU.
The peace pact Wednesday was witnessed by Maguindanaon elders, Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders, Army officers, local government officials and Governor Esmael Mangudadatu.
Mangudadatu said the truce is timely during this season of self-cleansing for Muslims in the month of Ramadan.
“This is the best time to reconcile. That is why we are pushing to convince parents to send their children to school. Let’s forget the culture of guns, let’s invest more on knowledge, on pencils and papers. Knowledge is more powerful and has a wider avenue for peace,” the governor said.
Mangudadatu jested that some cases of rido erupted on very simple and nonsense issues like not calling someone a datu or staring sharply at someone that was misinterpreted and instantly opting to use deadly weapons.
Lt. Col. Donald Hongitan, commanding officer of the 45th Infantry Battalion who is a Balik Islam, said he is glad that the military and MILF commanders from the 106th and 105th base commands are helping each other to normalize the situation in their areas of concern.
“Well, unlike before that if our troops meet, we were the ones involved in gunfight. Now it’s a different story. We are working hand in hand to solve domestic conflicts,” Hongitan stressed.
The Cabugatan and Utto feud was the 31st rido settled in the province since the MTFRU was established.
Under the covenant, the parties are liable to the government and to the whole community once they violate the truce.
Aside from rido, cases of misunderstanding between government workers of the provincial government offices were also settled in front of the governor as these hamper services to the people when they are uncomfortable with each other.