Lidasan: Understanding the complex situation in Marawi

IT WAS reported in the news recently that while other children dream of becoming professional teachers, lawyers, and doctors, some young evacuees from war-torn Marawi City want to be part of international terrorist network of Isis.

According to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, "Pangarap po namin maging Isis (Our dream is to become an Isis member)." This was reported to him when he and a group of coaches from PSC went to an evacuation center in Iligan City to conduct psychosocial intervention.

When Chairman Butch asked why some kids want to join Isis, they said, "Nagbibigay sila ng pagkain, eh. 'Saka 'yung aming mga tatay binibigyan nila ng suweldo (They are giving us food. They give salaries to our fathers).” He added, “Our government should be alarmed that some Marawi children are feeling love from the terrorists, and neglect from the government.”

My immediate reaction when I heard this news was not really of a surprise. I could say that the report about these children, looking at Maute and Isis as their heroes, shows the direct link between armed conflict, human and food security, and local politics. We know that conflict has many interrelated and mutual dependencies such as these situations, which clearly illustrates the complexities of what we are dealing with in Marawi City.

What is the current mindset of most people in Marawi?

Let us try to read the human terrain of Marawi City. Like most Moro communities and municipalities, Marawi has its share of problems of “rido” or clan feud. In a book entitled, Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao, rido is defined as “a type of conflict characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups as well as between communities.

It can occur in areas where government or a central authority is weak and in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security”. Many armed confrontations in the past involving insurgent groups and the military were triggered by a local rido.”

Aside from rido, we also hear about the problem of misplaced “maratabat” mindset among the different ruling clans, narco-politics in Lanaodel Sur and in the City of Marawi. According to Nainobai Disomangcop, professor from Mindanao State University-Main Campus, “the Maranaos are traditional people whose rich cultural practices continue to perplex even social scientists. Their resistance to change is seen not only in their slow modernization process, but also their continued faithfulness to customs and beliefs.” The concept of “maratabat” has its roots from the ancient caste system of Hinduism.

Dr. Disomancop also claimed that the Maranaw Maratabat is equated with “hiya” or shame, honor and dignity, rank, self-esteem or “amor-propio,” reputation and “face. There is no single word or phrase that can clearly define maratabat, for the Maranaos have surrounded it with many socio-psychological concepts of their own. It is directly proportional to a person’s social rank. One social scientist views it as a blind, irrational pride of clan and tribe and a deep sense of personal honor and face. The substance of maratabat lies in the symbols, shared beliefs, images in the collective reputation, and in public morality of the Maranaos. When positively directed, it gives them unity, strength, and identity; it serves as a driving force in Maranao everyday life, be it social, political, or economic.”

Historically, there is also the story of the Battle of Bayang or the Karbala in Bayang, Lanao where hundreds of noble Maranao datus were martyred in defense of their homeland and Islam against the American colonizers on May 2 to 3, 1902, which started the Moro-American War. During those times, there was no Lanao del Sur nor Lanao province, but only the Pat a Pangampong sa Ranao. The battle was described as Padang Karbala, or Karbala Plains, in memory of Karbala in Iraq where the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and about a hundred of his relatives, followers and supporters were killed as they fought against the tyrant rulers in the Hijaz. Most Maranaws believed that the Battle of Bayang in Padang Karbala has originated a patriotic monument in the heart and soul of every Maranaw of any generation. It remains a guiding spirit in the defense of the homeland and in the fight for self-determination and freedom.

The occurrence of rido shows the human insecurity in the area, where people take matters in to their own hands, This shows a lack of trust to the present government systems ingrained within the Maranaw culture, In fact, clans and family relations are more important to them than the Filipino nation. The Moro identity, on the other hand, shows the struggle in identity of these people, a clear distinction from the Filipino setup, making them feel like they don’t belong to the Filipino nation. Lastly, the historical injustices like that of the Battle of Bayang is a legitimate grievance that still needs to be addressed.

All of these - human security, problem with identity, and delay of correction of historical injustice, is the perfect formula for people to lean towards violent extremism, and view extremists as heroes that is fighting for what is rightfully theirs.

For a comprehensive and effective approach in to the Marawi situation, our government needs to understand the terrain within the moro communities. They need to decipher and understand tribal structures, formal and non formal structures, and explain cultural differences from Islamic views (religious/theology), in order to relate and therefore create a far more effective solution to present problems.

Lastly, I would also recommend to see the situation from a millenial Maranaw perspective and gradually, cut down on combat operations. The aim here is to empower their local leaders and to improve the performance of local government officials, persuade local datus to work for common good, ease poverty and protect not only their families but also their communities.


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