A distraught Maranaw bakwit, her disheveled hair not covered by a kombong or veil (deemed a sin in Islam), was caught on TV saying something to the effect that the deaths of Omarkhayyam Maute and Isnilon Hapilon amounted to poetic justice. Other Maranaw aired the wish that the two men would rot in Jahannam (hell).
These expressions of rage summed up the collective feelings of the residents of Marawi City. The killing of the two men would not sate the residents’ wrath and cry for vengeance.
The overriding instinct of the warrior Maranaw, descendants of Datu Amai Pakpak who died shaheed fighting two wars against Spanish conquistadores, is to avenge the destruction of their beloved city. The overpowering urge is to declare rido on the whole Maute clan (in rido, vengeance extends to distant relatives of warring families). But how should vengeance be exacted?
The tragedy has resulted in the clustering of the Maranaw into three separate groups of professionals, topnotch lawyers, religious and cultural leaders, bonded by the common desire to avenge and seek retribution for the pillage of Marawi. The first is a shadowy group identified as the “third force.” It claims no affiliation with and no sympathy for either the rebels or the government forces, and is motivated by the sole purpose of promoting the interest of Marawi. Its members profess willingness to put their lives on the line, including jihad, boasting of sufficient arms to pursue their goal. Their anonymity is their weakness.
The second group is the Bangsa Maranaw Congress, which held a conference in Iligan City on Sept. 30 chaired by lawyer Firdausi Abbas to discuss strategies in addressing the Marawi tragedy. It is said to have issued a resolution to bring the case of Marawi to the International Court of Justice, to seek justice and compensation, but its chair has allegedly come out with a disclaimer. It made for good PR copy and has indeed caught the imagination of the Maranaw, but it’s a long shot — literally “shooting for the moon” — given the international and domestic laws on state immunity from suit.
The third group, which was formed before the Marawi siege started in May, has campaigned for the resurgence of the moribund Maranaw nationalism vis-à-vis other tribes. Its members call themselves Ranao Federal State Movement (RFSM), in anticipation of the Charter change being pursued aggressively by the government. With lawyer Bayan Balt, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Lanao Sur-Marawi Chapter as lead convener, the RFSM held its first consultative assembly also in Iligan on the same day as the Bangsa Maranaw Congress. (I was invited as one of the speakers but had to beg off.) One of the topics discussed was the war in Marawi.
Perhaps the best way to avenge Marawi is to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, by engaging Maute’s Dawlah Islamiyyah preachers and telling them to their faces that their ideology is errant. The Maranaw should, in no uncertain terms and at every turn, denounce as fake the kind of Islam they profess — in homes, schools or madaris, mosques, and forums. They should do exactly the opposite of what the jihadists are preaching, like hatred and death to Christians, by waging a countercampaign of love toward Christians and embracing them as brothers and sisters in faith before Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim to Muslims), the father of the Islam and Christian religions. Let’s not give them the satisfaction of seeing their teaching gaining traction among the Maranaw.
The government, through the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos, should mobilize its imam-supported program by fielding preachers to deradicalize Maute recruits and wage a counterpropaganda campaign.
We could avenge Marawi by helping in the arrest and prosecution of those persons who had a hand in the siege of the city but are now masquerading as supporters of President Duterte to evade culpability.
And to the Maranaw: What do you think is the best way to avenge Marawi?
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Macabangkit B. Lanto (firstname.lastname@example.org), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow in New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government as congressman, ambassador, and undersecretary, among other positions.
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