Building Alliance for Peace: Strengthening the Inter-Barangay Alliance for Community Peace, Disputes (Rido) and Land Conflict Resolution
Conflicts in Mindanao are often rooted in competing claims over the land. Often the disputes escalate into violent and bloody family feuds or rido which then end up in several slayings. Realizing that there could be a better way of resolving conflicts, the Punong Barangays or village leaders of six barangays in Midsayap decided to form an alliance for peace. They named their alliance NATULARAN MU, which was formed out of the first syllables or letters of the names of the six barangays—i.e. Nabalawag, Tugal, Lower Glad, Rangaban, Nes, and Mudseng. These riverside barangays vowed to transform their areas into sanctuaries of peace.
The six adjacent barangays of NATULARAN MU are populated by Christians and Muslims in varying proportions. The main objective of the program is to establish a conflict resolution mechanism for the six barangays. The alliance also serves as a mediator between the individual barangays and the municipal government. Through this mechanism, community peace and order issues are discussed, threshed out and deliberated at the inter-barangay alliance level. When the issue cannot be resolved by the alliance, it is referred to the municipal local government which then calls on the appropriate government agency.
The alliance garnered the support of various stakeholders such as the local government unit, the non-government organizations, national government agencies, people’s organizations, civil society organizations and even foreign funding entities. A series of seminar-workshops on the culture of peace was conducted to better equip the barangay leaders in their quest for empowered partnership and peaceful co-existence.
The Peace Council of the alliance traces its origin to the forging of the Kasunduang Pangkapayapaan or peace alliance on December 12, 2005 in Barangay Nes. On March 1, 2007, the barangays declared their renewed commitment of pursuing the Kasunduang Pangkapayapaan. Thus, even when the year-long technical assistance provided by the Integral Development Services, Philippines (IDS Phil) and the German Technical Cooperation ended in March 2007, the alliance continued to pursue their mission of resolving disputes in their areas. The program that emerged was dubbed, “Strengthening the Inter- Barangay Alliance for Community Peace, Disputes (Rido) and Land Conflict Settlement Resolution.”
The NATULARAN MU Peace Council meets every last Sunday of the month. There was an agreement among the punong barangays that a fee of P200 per month would be contributed to pay for administrative expenses as the council does not have a regular budgetary allocation from the barangays. But in practice, the contribution is more voluntary in nature. The host punong barangay in a meeting, dialogue or peace consultation usually takes the lead in shelling out funds for the snacks and transportation of the participants.
The alliance is more of a loose coalition rather than a formal organization, thus there are no receipt issuances for its business transactions. The disbursement of funds does not yet undergo proper accounting. Nevertheless, the Peace Council has been able to make do and adapt to the situation. This owes much to the dedication of the barangay officials who spend extratime and effort and even money from their own pockets to pursue peace and conflict resolution activities beyond their individual barangays.
At this point, the barangays are working out how to allocate funds from their Internal Revenue Allotment for the alliance. As yet, there are no barangay resolutions that support the activities of the peace alliance or the peace council. But the members are pushing hard for official barangay, municipal and even provincial recognition of the inter-barangay peace alliance and the peace council.
Peace consultations, dialogues, hearings, meetings, actual visits and negotiations involve all six Punong Barangays of NATULARAN MU and even all the stakeholders in some cases. Government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Sangguniang Bayan of Midsayap (SB) are also invited to participate from time to time.
The six adjacent barangays agreed that whatever affects one barangay should involve all the rest in resolving the issue. Thus, Barangay Lower Glad and Nes often serve as evacuation areas when either manmade or natural calamities impact on the other barangays. The collective effort is manifest in all their peace and order undertakings. When a Kanduli or celebratory gathering is held to culminate a particular event, all the different barangays would contribute a share.
Most of the dispute cases handled by the NATULARAN MU Peace Council are often conflicts over land. The NATULARAN MU officers function as a sort of cofacilitator’s group rather than as judges. One case that the Peace Council was able to fully resolve involved a 24-hectare land in barangay Mudseng that was being claimed by the Tomas family from Poblacion 6 and the Gumaga family of Rangaban. The DENR served as convenor of the Inter-Agency Task Force in 2007. The area was eventually divided among the two warring parties.
One ongoing case involves 19 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) who were issued Certificates of Land Transfer (CLT) and 40 occupants of a 24-hectare land. Of the CLT beneficiaries, only one is an actual occupant. The peace council held a series of dialogues between the ARBs and the occupants and both parties agreed that the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer and the DENR will conduct another survey and mapping of the area to resolve the conflict. While the resurvey is being conducted, the Natralan Mu would prevent any conflict arising between the ARBs and the actual occupants. In the other land conflict cases handled by the NATULARAN MU, the resolution was to maintain the status quo until further notice.
In a dispute between two warring families, the NATULARAN MU Peace Council talked to the families independently and facilitated negotiations until both parties agreed to resolve the problem in the presence of the mayor and the police. Both families have since resumed working on their farms.
When members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines confiscated the firearms issued to the barangay tanods of Tugal, the NATULARAN MU council requested the 6th Infantry Division to investigate the matter. The firearms were returned and a military officer was relieved of his command.
With these achievements, it appears that the Peace Alliance has made great strides towards really making their areas into real sanctuaries of peace.
Today, more people have become appreciative of the role played by the NATULARAN MU in their communities and in their lives. During individual barangay people’s assemblies, time is allotted for the reporting and deliberation of the activities of the NATULARAN MU Peace Council, which now plays various roles—as facilitator, mediator, referee, guide, enabler, peace and order enforcer and even an endorser of projects!
To help institutionalize NATULARAN MU, the IDS Phil submitted a proposal to sustain the capability building of the Peace Council. Today, peace reigns in the NATULARAN MU. The situation in the region remains volatile, but the future looks promising as each of the dialogue and peaceful negotiations.