Insights and Analysis

In the Philippines: Conflict in Mindanao

October 31, 2007

By Wilfredo Magno Torres III

In the Philippines, the way elections are carried out tends to exacerbate political rivalries and is one of the major causes of feuding amongst families. This is one of the key findings in The Asia Foundation’s book, RIDO: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao, the most comprehensive and informative resource on rido (family and clan feuds) in Mindanao. 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. The book provides readers with findings from coordinated research on feuding, as well as a wealth of rido case studies, personal accounts and recommendations to government, communities, and conflict resolution advocates. While the book deals with rido dynamics and other related conflicts in Mindanao, it also looks into conflict resolution and healing by highlighting the vibrant and promising efforts of local communities to address such conflicts.

Even before its current book form, rido studies’ results have been informing civil society organizations on programming interventions, influence seminars on peace education, and the conduct of conflict management trainings.

Through the help of a dedicated team of local partners and the support of USAID, the Foundation’s conflict management program is actively engaged in supporting the settlement of feuds across rido-prone provinces in Mindanao. Each of the Foundation’s partner organizations that help settle rido has developed different strategies in addressing the conflict. Since the causes of rido are contextually varied, partners utilize an assortment of conflict resolution mechanisms available to work within the communities.

For instance, in Pikit, North Cotabato, the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) resolved a celebrated rido case between the Mangansakan and Tayuan clans. During the trajectory of this 21-year old feud, the Philippine Armed Forces, local militias, and elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were involved and more than 3,000 families across four municipalities were displaced. UNYPAD was able to settle this rido by consolidating and strengthening the council of elders of both clans, finding an acceptable mediator, and conducting a series of consultations with clan members.

The Foundation is also supporting the Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities in resolving rido in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur. This organization has been leading mediation efforts by using genealogies, which are useful for locating neutral relatives who can mediate conflicts, and also by using traditional authorities, like sultanates of Marawi, who are highly respected in the area.

In Sulu, a locally-based NGO, Tulung Lupah Sug, uses mosque-based approaches to address clan violence. Traditional leaders like the imam, hatib, bilal, and panglima are more involved in the everyday activities of the people. These influential traditional leaders, together with some MNLF members, are spearheading mediation efforts in three municipalities of Sulu (Patikul, Jolo, and Indanan). The Foundation has also partnered with the Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission (RRUC) under the office of the regional governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Foundation support to the RRUC has been critical in facilitating the rapid settlement of prioritized rido, preventing its escalation.

The common thread in conflict resolution strategy is working with local governments while using and strengthening local conflict resolution bodies like peace councils, councils of elders, and other hybrid groups of local chief executives and religious and traditional leaders. The variety of local efforts that manage conflicts are inclusive and provide innovative solutions when formal legal systems fail. Within a span of eight months this year, the Foundation and its partners were able to support training for more than 253 local peace mediators, who then helped resolve 34 rido cases. As of this writing, more rido cases are lined up for resolution and mediation efforts are ongoing.

Despite this success, some of these community-based efforts face serious obstacles from mainstream governance processes. Last week, the sultan of Marawi, an active conflict mediator, expressed his fear about the upcoming local barangay (village level) elections and appealed for government action in reforming the electoral process as elections tend to polarize and destroy Moro families and communities. On Monday, only five days after this appeal, the barangay elections triggered a series of violent conflicts and retaliations that killed 11 people in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur.

Addressing rido and attaining a just and sustained peace in Mindanao demands multiple approaches at multiple levels. The purpose of the book is to amplify community-based peace efforts that will hopefully influence national policy, allowing us to find a strategic thread that will tie together community-based best practices with national government efforts.

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

Wilfredo Torres is a Program Officer for The Asia Foundation in the Philippines.

Related locations: Philippines
Related programs: Conflict and Fragile Conditions


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