Notes from the Field

Philippines Elections: From Rido Resolution to Peaceful Elections

May 12, 2010

Among the most prominent rido (clan conflict) reconciliations facilitated by The Asia Foundation’s partners in the Philippines is the celebrated resolution to the feud between the Imam and the Macapeges clans. In the small municipality of Matanog in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the former mayor (Macapeges) and his political rival and successor (Imam) had been embroiled in a seemingly endless conflict over disputed 2001 election results. For over six years, the families of Kahir Macapeges and Nasser Imam had been engaged in a notoriously bloody war that left nine relatives and two bystanders dead and 13 wounded. This dispute wrought devastating emotional losses, destruction to property, and, because security resources were sometimes focused on protecting the two political figures, often disrupted day-to-day municipal governance.

Imamandmacapeges

Kahir Macapeges (left) and Nasser Imam (right) swear on the Koran in a reconciliation ceremony in Davao City on Jan. 30, 2008.

Through the efforts of a local NGO, Community Organizers Multiversity sa Mindanaw, and resulting multi-sectoral support, the resolution of the Imam and Macapeges feud in Jan. 30, 2008 ended one of the region’s most notorious disputes.

The Asia Foundation’s partners’ careful study of each rido case and meticulous attention to local dynamics, allows them to better navigate the complexities of each resolution process and to be more nuanced in their approaches to attain resolutions. For instance, recognizing the need to sustain the peace agreement in Matanog, partners from Integral Development Services conducted follow-through settlements to resolve several rido cases that branched out from the major Imam-Macapeges feud. The newly-reconciled heads of the Imam and Macapeges families themselves worked hard to resolve these offshoot rido cases which culminated in a community celebration on Sept. 18, 2008, in Parang, Maguindanao.

The resolution of the Imam and Macapeges feud and the offshoot rido cases eventually paved the way for the development of the Iranun Supreme Council for Peace and Development which played an important role in keeping the peace in the recently concluded elections. This council, mostly composed of influential and respected traditional and religious leaders from the Iranun communities, is an independent body that promotes peace, reconciliation, and the resolution of conflicts such as rido as well as the mitigation of anticipated election-related violence.

To prepare for the possibility of election violence in the May 10, 2010, elections, the Council conducted strategic planning workshops, mapping of election “hotspots,” and conflict mapping to identify conflict cases to be resolved that can impact during the election period. One of the challenges faced by the Council during the election period was to negotiate with an opposition candidate to allow Nasser Imam to have his third and last term as Mayor of Matanog. The opposition candidate was the wife of a former vice-mayor (Maguntia Macapaar) who was killed because of the Imam-Macapeges feud, while filing an election protest at the COMELEC in Manila. The possible opposition candidacy created tensions between the Imam and Macapeges families, and its withdrawal reduced those tensions.

More importantly, the Iranun Supreme Council spearheaded a multi-sectoral effort to forge a commitment among local candidates and their supporters in six towns in Maguindanao for peaceful and clean May 2010 elections. The covenant signing, which was graced by COMELEC Commissioner Elias Yusoph, was attended by around 1,000 people, which included the townsfolk, the local candidates and their supporters, the military, police, members of the academe, and several NGOs. While it was observed that some members of the Supreme Council became politicized during the elections, local partners are still happy to note that there was no widespread violence and election-related deaths on election day in the areas covered by the Iranun Supreme Council – Barira, Buldon, Parang, Matanog, Sultan Kudarat, and Sultan sa Mastura in Maguindanao as well as Kapatagan and Balabagan in Lanao del Sur.

The Asia Foundation and its partners have indeed gone a long way since conducting the coordinated study on rido and translating research into action and then back again to knowledge generation. The pioneering work of Foundation partners in rido resolution has provided important venues for much-needed experimentation in conflict management. The learnings gained, increased capacities, and networks established in resolving rido are now being utilized to evolve better responses to other types of violent conflicts such as localized flare-ups and election-related violence.

Wilfredo M. Torres is The Asia Foundation’s Program Officer in the Philippines. He wrote a chapter on rido for the newly published book (PDF) Clan Conflicts and their Management in Human in Security in Complex Situations: The Case of Conflict in the Southern Philippines, published by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network. He also edited the definitive reference book on clan violence and conflict resolution in the Philippines, Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao. He can be reached at willy@asiafound.org.

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