By: Datu Mohammad Sinsuat Lidasan
Like any other governments, the political establishment, (The Sultanates) of the Muslims in the South of Philippines maintain an army. This armed forces managed to maintain peace and stability in their territories and repelled foreign invasion for more than 400 years and preserved their way of life. But gradually declined in the American Commonwealth era.
In later years, this army merely became a militia, nevertheless; it provided security to the people and still does police work in the territories of the datus such as running after bandits, cattle rustlers, kidanappers and other criminals operating in their respective communities even if the government police force was already established. The bearing of arms was reserved only to the datus and their militia.
However, times changed when the secessionist war between the muslims and the government of the Philippines began in the 70’s. The ordinary folk had the chance to bear arms and there arise commanders who became like the datus. They also command an army. The proliferation of loose firearms was so high that instead of providing peace it resulted to disorder. Many commanders became warlords in their area of responsibility. We often hear clashes between the militias and the rebels , rebel commanders going against a fellow rebel commander. Evacuess (locals call it bakwet) became synonymous with “civilian” muslim, just like DH (Domestic Helper) to Filipino.
Authority and responsibility of the datus were challenged by the commanders, settlling of rido (clan wars) and other domestic security problem were often times done by the rebel commanders instead of the datus. Today, the militia whom the government calls as private armies became the guardians of status quo of the datus .
LOOKING BACK, SAD AS IT MAY SEEM THERE WAS PEACE SOMEHOW IN THE PAST, AND IT WAS MAINTAINED BY THE MILITIA OF THE DATUS.