Notes from the Field

From the Philippines: Definitive Reference on Clan Feuding in Mindanao Published

October 24, 2007

Mindanao, home to a majority of the country’s Muslims, is a region suffering from poor infrastructure, high poverty, and violence that has claimed the lives of more than 120,000 in the last three decades. At a ceremony held today at the Intercontinental Hotel Manila, The Asia Foundation released Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao, the definitive reference book on clan violence and conflict resolution in the Philippines. The book offers the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of rido, which is defined as feuding between families and clans and is characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families, kinship groups, and communities.

Written by leading conflict resolution scholars and advocates, the book aims to dispel widely-held stereotypes. Indeed, rido is only one aspect in the complex web of violence in Mindanao, which also includes Muslim separatism, communist insurgency, and banditry. The interaction of these different conflicts has explosive consequences for the long-running separatist war in Mindanao. A deeper understanding of specific conflicts is crucial to disentangling the blurred lines of conflict and to enable communities and the government to effectively address the problem.

Presented in 10 chapters and concluding with a stirring personal account and recommendations, Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao offers for the first time a clear understanding of the root causes of the conflict, the parties involved, the conditions for escalation and recurrence, and the potential for conflict resolution. The first three chapters provide a general overview of the prevalence of clan and family feuds across Mindanao. Three research institutions inventoried rido cases in 11 provinces and documented a total of 1,266 rido cases that killed over 5,500 people and displaced thousands more. These chapters record the number of settled, unresolved, and recurring cases of rido, as well as the number of fatalities, injuries and persons jailed in relation to these feuds. Chapters 4 through 9 utilize detailed investigations to dissect important conflict dynamics from escalation to resolution. The case studies illustrate how rido escalates from petty offenses to more serious crimes, oftentimes accelerated by land disputes and political rivalries. Chapter 10 gives a unique juxtaposition between clan feuding in Sulu and in Corsica. Finally, in “Conclusion: A Personal Reflection,” the author presents prospects for sustained peace in Mindanao.

The volume chronicles the result of extensive research conducted by The Asia Foundation beginning in 2002. The coordinated study on clan conflicts began with a household survey in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and adjacent areas on the local citizens’ perceptions of conflict. The survey results showed that while the Muslim-Christian conflict in Mindanao dominates the attention of the media, clan conflicts are actually more interwoven in the daily lives of the people. Findings showed that citizens are more concerned about the prevalence of clan conflict and its negative impact on their communities than the conflict between the state and rebel groups in Mindanao. This insight illustrates the complexity of conflicts in Mindanao and encouraged the Foundation to help address the problem. With support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Foundation carried out a set of diagnostic activities and project-design efforts that are helping communities and government agencies to prevent the escalation of conflicts.

“Our aim in this book is to provide a careful expert review of data concerning clan feuds,” said Dr. Steven Rood, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation. “This book is a vital resource for understanding complex issues and will help promote the important long-term benefits of cooperation among all stakeholders.”

Results from the survey and the research have been provided to such institutions as the Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities, which is responsible for maintaining the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Currently, the studies are helping local governments, civil society groups, and local communities to design more effective strategies to address these conflicts.

Wilfredo Torres, who is a program officer at the Foundation, coordinated the research, edited the book, and authored the Introduction. He observed, “The Asia Foundation published this book to empower communities to break the cycle of violence. In putting this collection together, we have already seen the positive results of fresh, constructive dialogue through a better understanding of rido.”

For instance, through support from The Asia Foundation, funded by USAID, Muslim organizations like United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) and Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities (RIDO) have been settling clan feuds and preventing the escalation of violent conflicts. In 2007, within a span of eight months, The Foundation was able to support capacity building for 253 local peace mediators, and its local partners were able to resolve 23 rido cases.

For additional information about the research, to read an executive brief of the book, and for additional information about Rido, please click here.

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