Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Datuism and Maratabat in the Bangsamoro Basic Law?

During my recent visit in my hometown in Cotabato City, I discovered a couple of good and bad things in our Muslim community. These points and nuances are things that you cannot read on paper or you see on the news.

The delays in the peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government, as initially expected by most of us, coupled with the bombings here and there, has exacerbated the desire of the young Muslim intellectuals to engage more our government and even our own traditional leaders and elders.

Among the more provocative ideas that have been given attention is the hope and desire of the young Muslims that the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB) will help not only the members of the MILF, but also the different people living in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the rest of Mindanao. Most of the young ones are considering that the FAB will provide more opportunities for development and may “level the playing field” in terms of the political landscape of the provinces.

On the part of the academe, non government organizations (NGOs), and civil society organizations the understanding that the Bangsamoro people is not a monolithic group, more and more people now are interested to understand who are the people (not only limited to the Bangsamoro), and where they are coming from. Thus, the idea of looking at the different ethno-linguistic groupings as indigenous peoples is more appropriate.

Aside from this point, most of the young Muslim intellectuals coming from the royal families of Maguindanao has a strong belief that the sultans and datus must also be consulted in the whole peace process. These indigenous leaders are effective power players who have helped the early moro revolutionaries in their fight against the martial and dictatorship of Marcos. Even during the colonial period the sultanates played an important role in fighting the forces of Spain and Americans. These traditional leaders are the gatekeepers of the maratabat of the family, the clans, and up to some extent, the Muslims of Mindanao. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to understand the ethnic code of maratabat that have allowed the Iranuns, Maranaws, Tausugs, Maguindanaons, and others to thrive for centuries.

In Central Mindanao, the Maguindanaons and Iranuns are the principal ethno linguistic groups of the Muslim Filipinos. They may then be divided into sub-groupings, clans, families based on lineage. The clan cohesion is strengthened through cultural norms and a centuries-old code of law, taritib and maratabat (family honor), form part of our identity which have existed even pre-Islamic period.

The central social capital of our people is the system of ranked status which is called maratabat(from the Arabic martabat, or rank). Among the Maguindanaons and Iranuns, maratabat  primarily connotes rank and secondary the honor due to the rank in the clan or community.

Thomas Mckeana has a clear discussion about maratabat. He said that, “[t]he conceptualization of maratabat among the neighboring Maranao is dramatically different from its use among the Magindanaon. Among the Maranao, maratabat primarily denotes rank honor and sensitivity about rank. It is a central and compelling social value that reflects pre-Islamic cultural traditions. Offended maratabatdemands retribution that often takes the form of violent retaliation. The most distinctive aspect of Maranaomaratabatis its relation to lineal descent and corporate kin responsibility. To defend one’s maratabat is to uphold one’s descent line. Both the responsibility for defending maratabat and the culpability for insulting it extend beyond the individuals involved in any particular incident of soiled maratabat. The pursuit of retribution for an offense to maratabat can last for generations. Thus, an old adage says, “A man who has lost hisbangsa has no maratabat“.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will also take into consideration traditional laws and practices. How then are we going to integrate customary law, traditional leaders’ role in local customs, tribal laws, and even shariah law?

The challenge however that I learned in my recent visit was how to respond to existence Maguindanao traditions that are “obsolete” in the present time. What would we do if the dark side of datuism alters our people’s economic and spiritual development? If the old style of datuism prefers the few, the family, and even individual’s interest than that of the common good. Take the case of one institution in Maguindanao where blood relatives fight over a certain position in government office. Both parties claim that they are entitled to such position. How is the maratabat of the family can be defined when the common good of all people are stake? Another example is the case of public office in our local government units, how will maratabat be integrated in the whole process of election or selection?

I do believe that all sectors, especially those in the socio political landscape of the ARMM must engage the GPH – MILF peace panels. However, what proposals do we have for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)? What role will the datus and sultans play in the Bangsamoro political entity? I do hope that we can answer these questions. Now is the time to engage our government.

In one Hadith, prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: “The son of Adam will not pass away from Allah until he is asked about five things: how he lived his life; how he utilized his youth; how did he earn his wealth; how did he spend his wealth; and what did he do with his knowledge.” {Tirmidhi}

Lastly, the Holy Quran reminds us that, “truly, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11)