ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Kalinaw Mindanaw: The Story of the GRP-MNLF Peace Process, 1975-1996 (17)

17th of 18 parts
Rudy B. Rodil

(This is a revised version of the book “KALINAW MINDANAW: The Story of the GRP-MNLF Peace Process, 1975-1996” published in 2000)

The Tri-People Approach: Citizens’ Participation in Creating a Culture of Peace

The marginalization experienced by the Lumad and the Moros in the last 100 years are not perceived as acts of fraternal love from either government or Christian settlers or corporate institutions. They have reacted to this each in their own way. The MNLF led the Bangsamoro in an armed struggle for national liberation. The Lumad founded Lumad Mindanaw and articulated their own desire for genuine self-determination in their own ancestral lands; Lumad Mindanaw as an organization is now extinct but their articulations have remained. Recent events and circumstances have changed for the better. Already we have the GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement for the Moro people and we have the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act for the Lumad. The energy of sustained implementation must be consciously maintained by the people themselves. But how?

Some Basic Realities to Consider

In creating a culture of peace in Mindanaw, we need to acknowledge some very basic realities or make some fundamental assumptions. The first is that Mindanaw is inhabited by a population that may be classified broadly into three distinct segments, namely, the Lumad, the Muslims and the Christian settlers. Second, at this point in our history, not a single segment of the population can claim Mindanaw as theirs any longer; Mindanaw is already a shared territory. Third, despite their differences, the three segments of the population are capable of working out a modus vivendi that can make Mindanaw a home of peace and harmony. This is the challenge that we must all face.

While diversity of ethnicity is a given, only one, the Muslims, under the leadership of the MNLF, saw the need to assert themselves as Bangsamoro and have succeeded in obtaining a Tripoli Agreement. On the other hand, the non-Muslims, as may be expected, cannot quite naturally identify themselves with it. This is a situation that is almost not possible to balance in the negotiations between the government and the MNLF, not even with the participation of the OIC.

What Mindanaw has taught us is that we can still be Filipinos, but the basis of our unity cannot be our differing experiences with Spanish or American colonialism. It must be our mutual acceptance of one another as distinct peoples in one nation, sharing the same territory. It must be our common vision crafted from present realities.

We have also learned that the major segments of the population must take part in identifying what is common among them and work out a modus vivendi from there. This is not something that can be the subject of negotiation between the GRP and the MNLF.

Unite as Equals

Perhaps, this is one moment in history when we must grapple with realities in a manner radically different from the way the colonizers did it for us. In the past, the colonizers used us to accomplish their ends whether the process hurt us or not. How we felt was never a factor in their decision-making. Today, if we must unite, we must do so as distinct entities; we must do so as equals accepting and respecting each other’s unique identity and dignity – regardless of population size, and we must do so because unity in diversity is mutually beneficial and best for all concerned. This is an important first step in the creation of a culture of peace as well as in the unification of the Filipino people in this part of the nation. Balanced with one another, ethnicity can be an instrument for sustaining a peace culture – which, in turn, is a vital component for the development, not only of the autonomous region but also of Mindanaw and the Philippines.

Peace Credo, a Modus Vivendi at the Community Level

Peace advocates and educators drawn from the Lumad, Muslim and Christian settler of the Mindanao population, gathered at the Consultation-Workshop on Peace Education in Mindanao with the theme: Journey to Peace and Harmony at the South East Asia Rural Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN), Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, on July 4-6, 1996. This was jointly hosted by the Mindanao Support and Communication Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (MINCARRD) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The participants collectively agreed to constitute themselves into a loose grouping of peace advocates called Kalinaw Mindanaw. Their vision is embodied in a Peace Credo which they also produced, ratified and adopted on the same occasion. Reproduced below, the original of the Peace Credo is in Filipino; the English translation is ours.

Kalinaw Mindanaw!!!
Lumad, Muslim, Kristiyano
Magkaiba, Magkaisa
Isang Diyos
Isang Lupain
Isang Adhikain
Kalinaw Mindanaw!

[English Translation]

Peace Mindanaw!!!
Lumad, Muslim, Christian
They are different,
they can be one
One God
One land
One dream
Peace Mindanaw!!!

Zamzamin Ampatuan, a Maguindanaon, introduced the original music. To a great extent the consciousness that was created in that forum has found a home in the heart of all peace advocates associated with Kalinaw Mindanaw.

What it upholds is that at the level of the people, the tri-people approach in peace advocacy is creating a stream of unifying ideal among a diverse population whose basic interests may sometimes be conflicting. It is molding a common agenda and a common vision; it is creating unity out of diversity. It is seeing ourselves as integral parts of an organic whole. To date, the Peace Credo has been translated into 14 local languages, English excluded, and sung in 10 different tunes indicating the possibility of unity in diversity.

Implication to National History

The Filipinos of today are not the same as the Filipinos of 1898.

In those days, the Filipinos, the colonized segment of the population which felt the need to liberate themselves from the clutches of Spanish colonizers, did so and in the process produced the Filipino identity, the Filipino nation and the Filipino Republic. They put together a flag which faithfully represented their political realities and consciousness.

But there were other segments of the population which we cannot so identify for lack of basis in historical fact. The Sulu Sultanate fought Spanish colonialism as a state; so did the Maguindanao Sultanate. And the Moros are extremely proud of it. We cannot take this away from them. Yet it is also true that on July 22, 1878, Sulu Sultan Jama ul-Azam and the Spanish government, represented by Col. Carlos Martinez, signed a peace treaty which was ratified a month later by the Manila Government. Dr. Cesar Adib Majul, author of the authoritative Muslims in the Philippines, observed that “It made Sulu a sort of a protectorate of Spain while retaining a great deal of autonomy for the Sulus in both matters of internal administration and commercial activities.” Further, “the Sulu Sultan bound his subjects in the Sulu archipelago and dependencies to obey the Spanish King.” [1] To modern political scientists, the Sulu sultanate lost its de jure status but it was still state with only its de facto status. A similar phenomenon took place in Cotabato where on March 10, 1887, Datu Utto signed his capitulation to Spain, along with Rajah Putri, and all the principal sultans and datus of Buayan, acknowledging themselves “as loyal and obedient subjects of the King of Spain.”[2] Datu Utto was the last of the resistance leaders; all others in Maguindanao had submitted earlier to Spanish might.

The Lumad who avoided contact with the Spaniards and were therefore not colonized could neither be identified as Filipinos because they were not part of that process that brought about the Filipino nation.

The American segment of our colonial experience changed all these. Having conquered and colonized all of us, the American colonizers decided that we share the same territory and should all be Filipinos. This is why only one independence was restored in 1946. The Muslims were not particularly happy about that. But content or not with what we have inherited from the American colonizers, we have a problem to solve. We have a shared destiny and a shared territory but we have conflicting views about it.

Peace Initiatives at People’s Level

Confronted with their own conflicts through which they must survive, people at the community level have decided to create their own modus vivendi. The establishment of peace zones is a new phenomenon in Mindanao, born out of violence and bred by and nurtured through martial law. Some of the conflicts were not of their own making. There were communities that found themselves torn between the forces of the AFP and the New People’s Army (NPA); others were at the tail-end of Muslim-Christian clashes exacerbated by the participation of organized paramilitary groups like the Ilaga on the Christian side and the Blackshirt on the Maguindanawon Muslim side in Cotabato; others still must live through the constant perils of family feuds called rido among the Maranaos in Lanao.

Maladeg Peace Zone

Homespun, designed by the very people themselves, the Maladeg Peace Zone[3] stands out as the most unique all over the country. It sprang forth in Maladeg, a coastal barangay of Sultan Gumander, Lanao del Sur, a province more than 93 percent of whose population is Maranao Muslim.

Sultan Gumander itself is nearly 98 percent Maranao.

But in Maladeg itself, the population is 90 percent Maranao and 10 percent Christian, made up of 876 houses in all. When the zone started, there were slightly more than 10 Christian houses, now there are more than a hundred.

Many of the Maranaos do not come from Maladeg. A good number of them hail from the nearby towns of Nunungan, Calanugas, Malabang, Ganassi, Karomatan and Balabagan. They either came as evacuees during Martial Law days or simply sought shelter on account of unstable conditions in their places of origin. Muslim residents are clustered on the north side of the coast, the Christian on the south side; the leading families, the Antons stay in the middle.

They used to be mixed in the early days but then because of differences in culture, like the sale and drinking of liquor and the raising of hogs among Christians, which were built-in irritants among them, they decided that it was best to have the Muslims on one end and the Christians on the other. Islam prohibits the sale and drinking of liquor so Muslims are not allowed to buy or take liquor. There has been no trouble ever since.

Elected leader of the peace zone is 60-year-old Manuel Anton – more popularly known as Bob, half Maranao, a Catholic Christian. Youngest in a brood of eight, his father was Miguel, half Spanish, one-fourth Maranao, one-fourth Maguindanao, former Chief of Police and four-term mayor of Malabang, Lanao del Sur. His mother is Mareg Limano of the respected Ibrahim clan of Pualas, Lanao del Sur. Her own father was the former Sultan Dalumangkob of Pualas. Married to a Trinidad Carpio, a charming Zamboangueña, Bob is referred to endearingly by the Maranao residents as the Ama-Ina (Father-Mother) of the zone. One reason he is called Ina-Ama, said Mauyag Ampuan, one of the original authors of the Peace Zone, is that “he protects his family, meaning not only his blood relatives but all the people who believe in him in the peace zone. When his family is in distress, he forgets himself and he will take maximum measure to save the lives of his family.”

All the signatories of the Covenant of Peace and Development – the original of this document is in Maranao – used to be Bob’s mortal enemies, ridu-ai in Maranao, with whom his family was at war for more than two decades. They were sworn to eliminate his family from Maladeg; his family fought them to survive. In the process he lost some members of his family. He himself is a veteran of countless armed encounters with them. Now, they are allies, sworn to protect each other in a peace zone.

When they arrived in Maladeg, said Sangcupan Kilab, one of the authors of the peace zone, there were about 10 houses there. They conferred with the Antons. They decided to create a committee whose task was to fix all kinds of rido, and also to prevent the escalation of trouble particularly inside the zone. There were so many rido all around them at the time. Now, the committee has more than 30 members and the houses have increased to more than 800.

They also decided to create a Peace Zone which would be bounded by areas inside Turayas in the east, boundary of Liangan-Subuan in the west and then, going up to the north, Kalumpang or Kaludan and then going up to Mamaanan and back of Turayas. The area is about seven kilometers in width and about 15 kilometers in length.

The members of the peace zone represent clans; they also have MNLF and MILF commanders among them, all sworn to uphold the eight rules and regulations of the zone. The Zone did not have a name in the beginning, just a Committee made up of 13 leaders, and the covenant was not written either (it was put on paper later). From the original 13 in 1978, the Zone covenant’s signatories has now increased to 41. Four of the signatories are MNLF commanders, one a Chief Inspector of the PNP and another a Colonel of the Philippine Army. The incumbent mayor of Sultan Gumander is so pleased with the peace and order situation in Maladeg he decided to relocate his office there.

A Council of Elders sees to it that these rules are implemented. To ensure proper implementation the rules are disseminated to all the families in the zone. Where a family or clan is unable to implement the rules, the signatories – datus and leaders – of the covenant will take over the implementation. They have a community jail for violators. The first tenant was the son of Bob himself for a minor infraction, proof that he (Bob) favored no one. The community respected him for that. Many others have been imprisoned there, including soldiers, CAFGUs. There were no exceptions for those who violate the rules.

Armed conflict, gambling, the use of prohibited drugs, any form of criminality, in fact, anything considered bad, are prohibited inside the Zone of Peace. Good deeds, however, are encouraged.

Outsiders who wish to reside inside the Zone are required to seek the permission of the Council of Elders and commit themselves to a strict compliance of the rules and regulations prior to approval.

Any outsider of the Zone who has rido or family feuds but does not wish to be part of the rido, can avail of sanctuary inside the Zone, provided he will promise to renounce violence and cut off his support for his relatives involved in the rido. This also means that he may not use the Zone as his base of operations to participate in rido. The Zone leaders, in turn, will provide him protection and assistance from any trouble-maker.

They also have a committee whose members are constantly alert for any outbreak of actual conflict or potential conflict. If they feel that a conflict is about to break out, they would immediately visit the involved parties and talk them out of it. Where armed conflict has already broken out, they will visit the contending parties and persuade them to a cease-fire. As soon as the parties agree, the next move is to get them to negotiate for a peaceful resolution. In cases of murder or attempted murder, Zone rules require that the weapon used in the crime must first be turned over to the Committee before resolution.

The committee has not only confined its services to the people of Maladeg, it has also extended assistance to those in need in nearby Maganding, Malabang, Nunungan, Karomatan,

Women violators, married or unmarried, may not be subjected to interrogation without the presence of male relatives of the first degree.

The Committee’s success record at settling conflict has been spectacularly high. Also, contrary to the practice of mediation common among Meranaos of requiring a fee of 30% of the settlement sum, they as mediators do not charge a single centavo for their services. Neither are they compensated for their work. They have also built a reputation for fairness, regardless of social rank.

Feedback from the People

Some feedback from the signatories will reveal to what extent the Peace Zone has been successful in creating a new way of life in Lanao del Sur. In the interviews with the Maranao leaders, they were asked to respond especially to two questions: (a) How do you describe life with rido and life without rido, and (b) Why did he choose to live in Maladeg?

Originally from Nunungan, Mauyag “Mawi” Ampuan has lived 40 years in Maladeg. He is one of the authors of the Peace Zone and is also one of the signatories of the Covenant of Peace and Development. Asked about his opinion on life with or without rido, he said: “A person without rido can go anywhere. A person with rido is like a carabao tethered to a tree. He can only move around as far as the rope will allow.”

To Ustadz Ampaso, originally from Uyaan, leader of more than 50 families from the same place and one of the original signatories of the covenant, life with rido is being a “prisoner inside your own household.” What attracted him to Maladeg was that the place is “peaceful and I decided to stay here because this is where I found peace of mind.”

Kadi Abbas who hails from Nunungan heads more than 200 families. He has lived in Maladeg in the last 20 years. He commented: “When you have rido, you are never stable, you are like a prisoner. You cannot work, you cannot go out of your house, you cannot extend assistance to anybody because you are afraid to go out. Your enemy might be somewhere else and might take a chance on you. He can kill you.”

He chose to stay in Maladeg “because of you and your brothers,” he told Bob Anton. “We have identified you as people who are concerned about helping other people especially when they are oppressed, when they are hard up. Your family is always there to extend assistance to these oppressed people, to these people who are financially hard up. And most of all, your place is identified with peaceful coexistence among the inhabitants. We find this place very ideal for future plans. This is the place where we can rest with peace of mind. This is a place where we can feel safe even if we have enemies. We believe you will not leave us unprotected.”

To Datu Bra who has lived in Maladeg for 40 years, “The bad thing about rido is that our livelihood is really paralyzed. The advantage of having no rido is you are free to move wherever place you like to go, no problem.” Why did he choose to stay in Maladeg. This is where he discovered that he can make a living in peace.

Alim Abu Jabir, originally known as Khalid Rajah Muda Ali, is from Nunungan. He studied Arabic in Matampay, Marawi City and went to Kuwait University on a scholarship. He graduated in 1991. He came home when Iraq attacked Kuwait. As an Islamic teacher, he moves around a lot. Even if he does not concern himself with the rido of his clan, he still takes precautionary measures. He plans his movements. He is aware that rido is prohibited in Islam. One of the things he does in his travels is to tell people the efforts being made by the people of Maladeg.

But how does one sustain the peace zone? Makaorao Sarif, Sultan sa Liangan and regular emissary during settlement processes, believes that to maintain the integrity of the peace zone, the datus must first of all agree. Every leader must discipline his followers and his subjects. When the datus agree among themselves, it means that they have one motive, which is to find peace for themselves and their followers. Leadership is very important. The leaders and datus’ participation is very important to achieve this aim.

Dungos Peace Pact

We visited Barangay Dungos in Tulunan on September 11, 1999. One month before the visit, Barangay Chairman Mario M. Baloniebro Sr. said that a group from the MILF arrived at the place to inform the people that they were going to establish an armed detachment there, Dungos being part of MILF Camp Rajamuda.

Christian and Muslim residents of the place met with them to inform them that they have this peace pact in Dungos not to allow any armed men inside the area. And this included the military and police as well.

They recalled that this Peace Pact was signed on March 20, 1995 by representatives of the Christian and Muslim inhabitants of the Barangay. Among the signatories were the Barangay Chairman himself, Mayor Rodolfo Peñafiel of Tulunan, the parish priest, Father Buenaflor, and witnesses included no less than Governor Rosario Diaz of Cotabato, Congressman Gregorio Andolana of Cotabato, Mayor Ibrahim Paglas III of Datu Paglas, Mayor Saidona Pendatun of SK Pendatun, the Provincial director of the PNP, the Battalion Commander of 40IB, 6ID, and Boy Hasim, MNLF Brigade Commander of the Upper Kutawatu Revolutionary Command.

Sometime after the signing, a delegation led by Mayor Peñafiel traveled to Camp Abubakar where they informed Hadji Murad, MILF Vice Chairman for Military Affairs, about the peace pact. The response of the MILF leader was encouraging. As a result of the August attempt of the MILF to establish a detachment in Dungos, the people again conferred with the MILF leadership. The latter decided to respect the agreement of the people.

The Dungos peace pact was born out of the turbulence of the early ’70s and the insecurities resulting from the raging war between the AFP and the MNLF afterwards. It was also inspired by the successful creation of the Peace Zones of Sitios of Miatub and New Alimodian and barangays Bituan, Banayal and Tuburan in the same municipality of Tulunan that became one of the Ten (10) Outstanding Awardee for development programs throughout the country. Declared as a Special Development Area (SDA), the Peace Zones gained the support of the national government and were extended financial support for the people’s livelihood program.

Among the agreements of Dungos were the settlement of internal conflicts by peaceful means and the disallowance of armed groups, including the military, to enter the area unless requested by the members of the Ad Hoc Committee.

Lessons from the Peace Zones

What the peace zone of Maladeg and the peace pact of Dungos teach us is that the people need not wait for top level negotiations between GRP and MNLF to come to terms. They know what kind of peace they want and they can agree among themselves within the community. Self-regulation is an important ingredient here because it illustrates that establishing a peace zone or the creation of a peace pact area and maintaining the same requires vigilance and a constant demonstration of the stakeholders’ political will. There is nothing better than peace that flows and is nurtured from within.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate.)

Tomorrow: Birth of Kalinaw Mindanaw; Spread of the Culture of Peace

[1] Cesar Adib Majul, Muslims in the Philippines (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1973), p. 299.

[2] Reynaldo C. Ileto, Magindanao: 1860-1888 Originally published as Data Paper No. 82, by the Southeast Asia Program, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A., October 1971. Reprinted by the University Research Center, Mindanao State University, Marawi City, , pp. 83-84.

[3] My wife and I were at the Maladeg Peace Zone on May 6-10, 1998 as guests of Bob Anton. All interviews about the Zone were conducted at that time.