Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao


FEW weeks ago, another death in our family happened because of “rido” (clan war).

A close cousin, from my paternal side, was ambushed on his way to Matanog, Maguindanao. I was shocked when I heard the news about his death. I know that he was always security conscious. I was sad and at the same time angry because of what had happened.

I was sad because my cousin did not deserve to die. I am angry, because the reason behind of the rido could have been avoided if proper rule of law is in place.

As far as I can remember, a number of my relatives, on both sides of my family, suffered a lot of the evil effects of “rido” or clan feud. Men, women, and even children were killed as a direct retaliation in the name of honor or “maratabat.”

My cousin is a young datu who wanted to restore and maintain peace and order in his area. According to my uncle, his death was related to the cattle rustling in his community which ended up with series of deaths. As the datu, it was his responsibility to protect his own community. The protection also involves protecting the maratabat of his family and his people.

In our community, a simple case of cattle rustling can already be interpreted as an attack on one’s honor, and if you do not defend your honor, people will not respect you. Then, that is the worst thing that could happen to you. Unfortunately, their way of settling the case that led to violence and death on the side of my cousin and on the side of the suspected group of individuals who stole their cattle.

The elders in our hometown and the Umpungan (council) settled the issue. The usual way to settle the rido was through “blood-money.” One family on the side of the suspected cattle rustlers refused to follow the decision of the elders and the Umpungan. They did not participate. But most of their family members and relatives accepted the blood-money as a way of settling the conflict. According to my cousins, the blood-money given by my cousin was used to buy guns and ammunitions and they were used to kill him.

I ask myself, now what? A relative was ambushed and killed. If the elders and the Umpungan who settled the rido ensuring peace and order between clans were violated by one family, whom right from the start refused to recognize the settlement, and even used the settlement as a leverage to retaliate?

I ask myself further, what do we do? Do we need to count body bags as “points” or scores that determines who wins in this conflict? Or we transcend and find the true meaning of justice?

Honestly, I do not know the answer. I grew up with this kind of environment. An eye for an eye… valuing one’s maratabat over and above anyone else… and a clan is measured by the number of guns and ammo that they can accumulate.

What is “rido?”

According to academic studies, clan wars, locally known as rido, are one of the conflict issues that are happening in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Rido is an act of mutual killing between families of clans who are in conflict.

According to one study, rido may seem like it is a custom that is deeply embedded in religious and moral beliefs. However, current literature suggests that there is a strong social dimension to it and that it is a social norm. It can be inferred based on literature that people see that families or clans retaliate in the form of violence when they get offended and that the members support the family or clan in its pursuit of justice.

In a study by Kathleen Solis (Unicef Philippines) of Advances in Social Norms Training at the University of Philadelphia, “Social pressure exists, which reinforces behaviors that support rido. People think that others think that they should retaliate when they get offended and that if they are members of a family or clan, they think that others think that they should support the family.”

She added, “Social sanctions also exist such as that of being perceived as weak and coward if one refuses to retaliate and that of being perceived as an outcast if one refuses to support the family or clan. These expectations are embedded in a bigger web of complex factors that support the behavior such as people’s concepts of honor and dignity, family ties, kinship, and peace.” This explains partly the situation why the rido happened.

Solis’ study is one of the many literatures about rido. The study describes what happened to my cousin and my family for several decades. I do hope that someday we can settle conflict in a non violent way. I hope that the on-going peace process in within Bangsamoro address the issue of poverty, rido, and violence in our communities.

Studies on rido can help our people understand further that this problem has to stop. Massive information dissemination are also needed to further educate and empower our youth to stop rido. Our elders must also respect the rule of law. Blood money alone cannot and will never solve the problem. Often times, blood-money exacerbates the problem. Just like what happened in with my cousin.

Again, the rido of my cousin started with a simple case of cattle rustling.